Though in its weakest moments offshore powerboat racing can resemble a boat parade, that never is by design. Offshore racers are inherently competitive and none want to finish behind the other. But when a fleet gets stretched on a four- to five-mile course, the resulting optic is parade-like.
Yet between the first and second races today on the 4.58-mile course in the Race World Offshore Key West Championships, there was in fact a real boat parade thanks to participants in the Florida Powerboat Club’s Key West Poker Run. Thanks to a collaborative effort not seen before in Key West between an offshore racing producer and the Florida Powerboat Club, a 30-vessel fleet of poker run boats paraded through Key West Harbor. That spectacle filled the two-and-a-half hour gap between the first contest of the morning, which was highlighted by the Simmons Marine team winning its eighth consecutive Class 4 race this season, and the Super Stock-class battle that followed.
Anything but a parade, the Super Stock race saw eight teams—down two boats from Wednesday’s contest with the LPC and Team Allen Lawn Care and Landscaping dual blow-over—take the green flag. Gary Ballough and Lorne Leibel got a great start in FJ Propeller, Ballough’s 32-foot Victory catamaran and led for the first seven laps with CoCo’s Monkey, a 32-foot Wicked Powerboats cat built and throttled by Todd Defilipps hard on its transom. Taking a nearshore line in the straightaway leading into the Mallory Square turn, CoCo’s Monkey gained ground on FJ Propeller, only to give it up on the straightaway leading into turn No. 1.
Performance Boat Center/Auto Alert eventually made its way into third place, while Nick Scafidi in Shadow Pirate—after a nearshore start alongside CR Racing—began working its way through the pack.
But Jackhammer, another 32-foot Victory cat, kited and flipped on the straightaway in front of the Outer Mole on the third lap, and that meant a restart for the final laps of the race. (Neither Jackhammer owner/driver Reese Langheim or throttleman Ricky Maldonado sustained life-threatening injuries, though Maldonado went to the hospital with an arm injury.) Concerned about fuel levels for teams after an extensive milling period while safety crews moved Jackhammer of the course, Race World Offshore officials opted to add just two more laps for a five-lap race rather than go with the full, originally planned 7.5-lap contest.
A restart gave the CR Racing team the clean water they needed to claim their second first-place victory of the week.
Casey Boaz and Rob Unnerstall, the CR Racing team duo that took first place in Wednesday’s race, rocketed to the front on the restart and never had to look back. Scafidi continued to get faster and slid into second place, while Myrick Coil and Rusty Williams finished third in the Performance Boat Center Doug Wright.
“We got caught up in the crappy water on the first start, but got cleaner water on the restart,” said Unnerstall.
Though Unnerstall and Boaz feel confident heading into Sunday’s double-points race, they are expecting completely different water conditions for that contest. Plus, it’s a 10.5-lap, 50-mile contest.
“Conditions are predicted to be a lot different,” Boaz said. “There are supposed to be four-foot seas so we are going to have to prepare and set up differently.”
To enjoy more action from today’s Key West races check out the slideshow above.
Though the Team CRC MTI catamaran and the Freedom Fountain V-bottom started the third race of the day, the contest quickly became a one-boat parade. The Fountain pulled off the course before the second lap, leaving Mike DeFrees and Jeff Harris to run the 42-foot Team CRC cat solo as Huski Chocolate, another MTI, did not start. To their credit, DeFrees and Harris put on a high-speed show for the fans, but today’s Extreme-class contest turned out to be even more of a snoozer than Wednesday’s contest.
The Supercat-class contest that followed, however, was anything but dull or uncompetitive. Following up on their second-place finish on Wednesday, Broadco driver Chuck Broaddus and throttleman Chris Hanley grabbed an early lead in their MTI catamaran over MTI stablemate Pro Floors Racing and the WHM Motorsports Skater and never let it go. Midway through the race, Broadco established an 11-plus-second lead over Pro Floors and a 17-second lead over WHM, and never changed significantly.
For Broaddus and Hanley, today was for all intents and purposes a repeat of the team’s 2014 Key West Wednesday and Friday races, where—with Grant Bruggemann throttling—Broadco finished second and first. Even the water and wind conditions, according to Broaddus, were similar.
“We had the right setup—we went with a big wheel because knew WHM also was going to run a big wheel,” he said. “The crew did a great job. We got a fairly decent start and took an inside line when we rounded turn one. By the time we got to turn two we started passing everybody.
“We ran faster than I have ever run in Key West,” he continued. “We were seeing unbelievable speeds coming out of turn one and we were just cranking through the harbor. The boat cornered perfectly, we didn’t take any flyers and the communication between Chris and I was excellent. There’s no easier race to run then when you have the right setup and the lead—and you can choose the right lines. It was perfect.”