Although boating season in most parts of the country is coming to an end, things are just getting started in Florida. This comes as great news for Sunshine State residents and, of course, the lucky folks who make the trek every year to Key West.
But less than a month ago, it was not looking very promising for any of the races slated to take place in three different locations in Florida. Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on the Florida Keys and throughout the entire state.
While Key West proper was spared a direct hit, we still have to travel through the more-damaged Keys to get there. The two other races in Clearwater and Englewood were also in question because of the damage done to those areas. In true offshore racing fashion Super Boat International and the Offshore Powerboat Association have worked at their respective race sites to make sure each both of those events will happen.
For the Clearwater, where SBI national champions will be crowned in all classes, there are a lot of teams with a title on the line. From there, the SBI competitors will move on to Key West where some teams will be looking to continue their success and some racing for redemption. Either way, the coming months are intriguing for offshore powerboat racing teams and their fans.
While all of the classes are going to have some epic battles for a National Championship title in Clearwater, two are separated by less than 100 points. Superboat Extreme has the closest battle between two iconic brands—Outerlimits and Fountanin—known for hard fought battles. The AMH Construction/Instigator Fountain team leads Outerlimits by a mere three points. At the start of the season the Outerlimits team struggled with handling issues but as the season has progressed Joe Sgro and Steve Curtis have been making significant improvements allowing them to close the gap on AMH Construction/Instigator.
Looking to repeat as the Superboat Extreme-class 2016 national and world champion, the AHM Construction/Instigator team will have to get past Outerlimits. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
In Superboat, SBI’s premiere class, WHM Motosports and Performance Boat Center/Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast are separated by 89 points. Mathematically it will come down to what boat finishes were and what boats separate the two. One thing can be said for these two boats and that is the amount of experience there is between the two. Billy Mauff and Jay Muller (WHM Motorsports) have been racing together for the years and won multiple world and national titles. They know in a situation like this that you have to stay calm and focused on the task at hand, but I am sure they are both thinking pretty heavily about it. And then in Performance Boat Center/Jimmy John’s you have driver Myrick Coil and throttleman John Tomlinson, who in their first year racing together won the national and world championship the pressure is on.
While it was their first season together, Coil and Tomlinson have known each other for quite some time and have piloted plenty of boats together. For both teams this season has been pretty much a mirror of last year with finishes. Performance Boat Center/Jimmy John’s started off the season strong winning the first two races. WMH Motorsports, on the other hand, has been the team making a late season charge allowing the title fight to be decided at the last regular race of the season.
Myrick Coil and John Tomlinson are looking to repeat as world champion’s in SBI’s Superboat class, the organization’s marquee category. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
The other class that could have a very interesting outcome would be Superboat Unlimited. For the National Championships, owner/driver Rusty Rahm and throttleman Jeff Harris in Wake Effects pretty much have the title wrapped up. However, there is a something brewing below the surface that could be waiting to pounce.
Miss GEICO has had some of the worst luck over the past few season. From mechanical issues, hull damage and the infortune incident that took place in St Clair, Mich., this team is due for some good luck. That luck may arrive in three different ways for the team boat, throttleman and driver.
The damage done to the original hull in Michigan lead the team to look in a different direction while they assess the damage. Enter Steven Curtis and Offshore Racing Services who purchased the Spirit of Qatar team equipment a few years back. As reported on speednthewater.com, the Miss GEICO team has leased a victory hull for the remainder of the regular season and world championship.
The boat was not the only significant change to the team. Driver Marc Granet and throttleman Scott Begovich have elected to sit out the remainder of the season in order to deal with the tragic loss of their friend and competitor Keith Holmes, whose life was taken during the accident in St Clair. Steve Curtis has taken over the throttles with James Sheppard driving.
Curtis knows the new boat very well because he raced it when it was campaigned with the Qatar team. Sheppard hails from England and is also a world champion who competed on the King of Shaves team and other successful campaigns.
So what does this mean for Miss GEICO? This might be the change they needed to turn that luck around. In Clearwater they will get their first look at the very close competitors Wake Effects and Team/CRC Sunlight Supply. They will study these teams and, of course, try and beat them, then take whatever they learn to Key West.
The new Miss GEICO cockpit crew will run the team’s replacement boat in Clearwater and Key West. Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images.
The final chapters of the 2017 SBI season story begin unfolding this Sunday. I’ll be there to bring help bring you all the action via SBI’s Livestream. And I can’t wait.
Editor’s Note: A frequent and longtime contributor to speedonthewater.com, veteran offshore racer Mike Yowaiski has been an announcer on the SBI Livestream this season.