It doesn’t get much media attention, it isn’t very “fast” and the boats in the fleet aren’t close to new, but when it comes to large fields and close offshore racing action this year, Class 6 (technically called “Class 600” but generally referred to by its single-digit moniker) of the Offshore Powerboat Association is pretty much untouchable this year. Consider this: At four out of the five races so far in 2014—with another one coming next weekend— there have been eight or more Class 6 entries. The only race site that did not score more than eight entries was at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, but even still they had two Class 6 boats there. With 11 boats, the heftiest Class 6 fleet so far this year showed up for the OPA event in Port Huron, Mich., earlier this season.
Big fleets, close action and diverse teams and boats—OPA’s Class 6 has it all. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bunch of big catamarans running north of 100 mph. Then again, the sight of 11 of raceboats going into a turn at 70 mph and trying to hold their lanes is as exciting as offshore racing gets.
To back up a little, Class 6 was created by OPA to get more entry-level racers into the sport. The OPA folks kept the model simple by limiting top speed to 70 mph and boat length to 26 feet. Those two basic guidelines/restrictions enable just about anyone with a boat that meets to specs to come racing at, relative to other classes, an affordable level. And the Class 6 formula has proven successful.
Yet strong boat counts and the deck-to deck-racing are not even close to the most exciting dynamic of the 2014 Class 6 season. With only two races left, the top five boats are separated by just 30 points. The next race could be the deciding factor for these five teams as Detroit is double points event. To say that everyone has a chance at a National Championship is an understatement. If 11 boats show up in Detroit and Solomons (the Maryland site of the OPA National and World Championships) the 2014 Class 6 title will go down to the wire.
Beyond the action, the diversity of raceboats and the people who run them make Class 6 even more compelling. For example the team currently in first place, Boom Skaka Laka (Country Auto Service), is made up of a father and his two sons racing a SwitzerCraft. You can count on this team to be at every race site, which helped them accumulate their points’ lead.
Currently one point of out of first place, the second-place team, Early Detection Racing not only races for a great cause but also is still working the kinks out with a brand new Ilmor Marine engine package. Once those issues are resolved, the Reindl One Design “Bat Boat” will be a fierce competitor—and don’t forget the boat pulls double duty in Class 5. Currently in third place, you have one of the most unassuming teams in all of boat racing, the father-and-son duo in Knot Guilty based out of Maryland. If you saw these guys at the mall you’d never guess that on any given week they could win an offshore powerboat race, which is exactly what they did earlier this year at the OPA event in Atlantic City, N.J.
Rounding out the top five—actually they are tied for fourth place right now—are two boats that were built side by side. The teams of Maxed Out and Smith Brothers both run identical 26-foot Joker Powerboat V-bottoms. Maxed Out has a new driver onboard but that has not slowed them. Out of three races they have entered, they’ve landed on the podium twice, which gives them a fighting chance at the title. The Smith Brothers, on the other hand, have had to come from behind after mechanical issues slowed them in Atlantic City. But since then they have been making up ground at every race. Repeat Offender and Sale n Buy are the two other boats that are within striking distance of this top group. Both teams have shown that they can be fierce competitors and should be taken lightly.
Like the rest of the Class 6 competitors, I’m headed to Detroit this weekend—I’ll be covering the event as well as racing in Class 6, which will give me an “up-close” view of the action. As I said earlier, it’s far from the fastest or most glamorous class in OPA, but it could be the most fun to watch. And it’s certainly a blast to be part of.
Editor’s Note: Mike Yowaiski is a frequent contributor to speedonthewater.com. Look for a wrap of this coming weekend’s OPA Detroit event on Monday, Sept. 8.