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Commentary: On Board with Speedonthewater.com

Rich Luhrs airborne in an English Milesmaster hull with a T2 outboard in 1974. Photo courtesy of Darren and Rich Luhrs,

Rich Luhrs airborne in an English Milesmaster hull with a T2 outboard in 1974. Photo courtesy of Darren and Rich Luhrs.

Well , here goes nuttin’ ! First, I would like to thank Matt Trulio of speedonthewater.com for taking a chance on “another writer still wrapped up in his truth.” There are lots of acknowledged “experts” in the field of powerboating and, surely, he has his pick. I guess everyone is entitled to one mistake in this lifetime.

Matt asked me to write a series articles for this site and I  jumped at the chance. Years ago, the leading performance boating writer in history, Hank Weiand Bowman, was killed at a race I entered. I read everything he wrote while growing up and always wanted to follow in his footsteps. My efforts here are dedicated to his memory and I hope to make him proud.

By way of introduction, I came by my performance boating credentials honestly. In fact I was quite fortunate to have grown up in, and with, the sport as we know it today. I began racing outlaw hydros as a kid in the late ‘50s and graduated to Outboard Performance Class (OPC) marathon racing when I was only 17 years old. I was lucky enough to enter events like the Hudson River and Around Long Island Marathons, before expanding my racing geography to include the Orange Bowl Regatta in Miami and regional and national events throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Aided by factory engineering budgets, the sport evolved incredibly over a 10-year span and I had a view of it all from the cockpit. Early on I met a kindred spirit, an aeronautical engineer named George Linder who loved to tinker with boats, and introduced him to organized boat racing. This began a near 50-year partnership with George rising to the top of performance boat design, and the two of us (with a lot of help), making some really neat stuff.

Merging OPC and Offshore technology, George first created the Challenger 21’ and later we collaborated on the 30’ Shadow Cat. Later we teamed up with an amazing craftsman named Ken Adams and launched a line of custom one-off Offshore racing cats from 32 to 48 feet. Following the tragic death of racer Marc Lavin in one of our hulls, I dropped out of boat building and focused on safety, writing a monthly boat racers’ column, and a TV announcing gig that stretched over 20-plus years.

Rich Luhrs (left) interviews Bill Frenz.

Rich Luhrs (left) interviews performance-boating event promoter Bill Frenz.

All of these fortuitous ingredients gave me access to some of the most intriguing people in the world. I have met, and in many cases befriended, politicians, sports heroes, royalty, world-class criminals, movie stars, billionaires, boat and engine builders, every form of PR agent imaginable, and , most importantly, the greatest boat racers in history. Some were absolute jerks, but many lived up to or, in some cases, exceeded their lofty reputations. I am proud to have known most of them regardless of their fame or infamy.

In the past few years I have teamed with Dave Patnaude, president of the New Jersey Performance Powerboat Club and (apparently) the World’s most popular man, and my son, Darren (holder of the World’s Handicapped Throttleman record of 131 mph he said proudly) to bring one of the world’s largest collections of boat racing videos to market. Oh yeah…I also created an ornery, fictional web character to make a few important points and bring a historical perspective to performance boating websites…. His name is T2x.

I look forward to writing about this and that and promise you that no button-downed, marketing sensitive, politically correct, hero- worshipping baloney will come from my keyboard. The sport we love is facing unimaginable pressures from the economy, government regulation, ignorance and, in some cases, bad judgment. At its core, high-performance boating has always been about passion, humor, competitive drive, intense creativity, eye- popping talent, thrilling experiences, camaraderie and magic. I would love to see it return to those roots and will make every effort to put a spotlight on the products and personalities who made it what it is, and can be.