Robert “J.R.” Noble, owner and driver of the successful 388 Skater STIHL Offshore Race Team, has commissioned Peter Hledin of Skater Powerboats to build a new 388 raceboat, according to a press release from the team. The catamaran is currently in the mold at Douglas Marine/Skater in Douglas, Mich., and is expected to be finished soon and ready for rigging and painting this spring. According to the release, Noble’s immediate focus is to get his current US-1 Skater ready for the beginning of the 2015 Super Boat International racing season.
Caught here during the 2014 SBI Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla., the “older” STIHL raceboat is being replaced by a new one for the 2015 season. Photo courtesy/copyright Erick Bryner/Firedrill Productions
Noble’s team experienced a nearly catasphophic failure in the Key West World Championships this past November when his starboard drive sheered from the transom bracket and the 2014 SBI Superboat National Champion started taking on water. A mechanical problem killed his chances for a second world title, but confirmed his strategy for the 2015 racing season. The race boat was kept afloat, safely towed to the team’s trailer and transported to Skater where it sits today.
“I sat down with Peter (Hledin) and made the decision in Key West to build a new raceboat—I started thinking about it at the 2014 Miami International Boat Show when I met with different manufacturers and started throwing around the idea of a new boat,” said Noble in the release. “I wanted to wait until Key West and see how Billy’s (Mauff, the owner of the new WHM Motorsports cat) Skater performed. It looked really good and I knew it was time.”
To view images of STIHL in action during the 2014 SBI Key West Worlds, check out the slide show above. Photos courtesy STIHL Offshore Racing team. Final photo (air shot) courtesy/copyright Jeff Helmkamp.
The newly commissioned boat will be 38 feet long, which Noble says may be a risk as Mauff’s raceboat is 40 feet long and many of the other new boats coming out are even longer. He appreciates the success he’s had with the current boat, but plans to make some changes on the new 388 design in hope they will be the right moves and will complement his racing success.
“I like taking risks,” Noble said. “We are planning on some minor design modifications to the new boat and we are confident these modifications will prove beneficial to the STIHL team.”
Noble is working to get his current raceboat ready for the first SBI offshore race this May in Cocoa Beach, Fla. The team’s plan is to run the current US-1 raceboat until the new 388 has been tested and is ready to race. He plans on selling the current US-1, however it will not be sold until the new boat is on the racecourse.
“We are not going to jeopardize our 2015 race season,” he said. “We have every intention on defending our 2014 National Championship.”
The team boasts three SBI National Championship titles and one SBI World Championship, along with many victories since they began competing in July of 2011 in Sarasota, Fla. Since it’s debut, which happened to be the first win for the STIHL team 388 Skater, the team has enjoyed much success and a large following of race fans.
The plans for the new paint scheme are in the works but the graphics will have a “Made In America” look and feel, according to the release, which coincides with STIHL, Inc’s marketing strategy that pays homage to the majority of STIHL products being manufactured at the Virginia Beach, Va., facility.
“We know how recognizable our current boat is with race fans, so we are gong to do our best to give them the same experience with the new boat,” Noble said. “We are confident fans will embrace the new boat and paint scheme with the same enthusiasm and support we currently enjoy. We are looking forward to another great year.”