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Commentary: Why Last Weekend Rocked on the Water

Joe Cibellis and Joe Sgro piloted this 43-foot Outerlimits to a new around-Long-Island record.

Joe Cibellis and Joe Sgro piloted this 43-foot Outerlimits to a new around-Long-Island record. Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey, Sharkey Images

Reporting good news about the high-performance powerboat world is easy. Finding it these days, however, is not. A go-fast boat is the last—and I do mean the last—thing anyone needs. And in the toughest economy since the Great Depression, that makes it the first thing to go. Exactly what “go” means, from owners simply selling their boats to letting them sit for the season, tends to vary. But the result is the same—nothing happening—and that’s bad news for the high-performance boating world.

So excuse me if I’m a little pumped up about last weekend. Because a lot happened in our world in just a few days. And all of it was very, very good.

Team Amsoil was one of 35 boats that raced in front of large spectator crowds during the Solomons Offshore Gran Prix.

Team Amsoil was one of 35 boats that raced in front of large spectator crowds during the Solomons Offshore Gran Prix. Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey, Sharkey Images

Take the Don Aronow Memorial Race Around Long Island, an event that didn’t even look like it was going to happen before last Saturday. It was off and on more times than a Kardashian engagement, but in the end they pulled it off with six boats and a record-setting effort by Joe Cibellis and Joe Sgro in a 43-foot Outerlimits V-bottom with twin 725-hp Ilmor engines. That two guys from the New Jersey/New York area won the event made the victory that much sweeter.

Set for the same weekend was the Solomons Offshore Grand Prix offshore race, and that did not bode well for either event. And yet the Maryland race, thanks in large part to organizer/promoter Mike Yowaiski and the Offshore Powerboat Association faithful, drew 35 boats and some of the largest spectators galleries of the season. (If you think 35 boats is a small fleet, you haven’t been following offshore racing this season.)

Chris Fertig and company got turned back by wild seas during the attempt to break the New York to Bermuda record, but will give it another run when timing and conditons allow.

Chris Fertig and company got turned back by wild seas during their attempt to break the New York to Bermuda record, but will give it another run when timing and conditons allow.

And then there was Chris Fertig, Nick Buis and Mike Anderson in Fertig’s 37-foot Statement center console trying to break the nonstop New York to Bermuda record. OK, so that was last week not last weekend. And, OK again, they got turned around by 10- to 12-foot seas early in the run. (That is, after all, why they call it a marine “forecast.”) It was a cool effort. Based on the planning that went into it and the passion of the people involved, I wouldn’t bet against them breaking the record when the time comes.

Here’s the thing: The people in all these events actually did something last weekend. None of what they did will turn around the go-fast boat world, much less the high-performance boat industry, but their actions are slivers of good news in a world that is starving for it.

There were much bigger events, most of them poker runs, this year. They involved a lot more people and captured a lot more attention. And the Key West Worlds—and likely the biggest poker run of the year to the famed venue—are yet to come. Duly noted and appreciated. But last weekend (and OK, I’m counting the middle of last week), three separate efforts captured our imagination (yes, even the offshore racing) and sparked our interest. And that, my friends, is good news.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to photographer Tim Sharkey who covered two of these events—and would have been at all three if he could have cloned himself.

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