With a brand new Doug Wright Designs 32-foot catamaran being set up for next month’s American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series season opener and an extensive list of dedicated supporters, the defending Super Stock national champion STR team announced some exciting changes for 2022, including a new owner/driver and new sponsorship agreements.
The STR team is moving full-steam ahead to gets its new 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran ready for the Super Stock-class season-opening race in Cocoa Beach, Fla., in May. Photos courtesy Shaun Torrente, Coleman McGowan and David Landro
According to STR team manager Shaun Torrente, the team’s primary sponsor for the 2021 season—CMR Construction and Roofing—recently committed to a multi-year deal. Torrente also recently inked an agreement with Raymarine to be the team’s associate presenting sponsor during the race season and its primary sponsor for the late-August Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Central Missouri.
“We are extremely grateful for all of the support we receive,” said Torrente, a Florida native who owns and operates Shaun Torrente Racing, a manufacturer of high-performance marine outboard brackets and other hardware. “It was huge for us to have a primary sponsor like CMR last season. It was nice that they had faith in us and that the partnership worked out wonderfully. Their support is what allowed all the dominos to fall into place last year. I get along great with Steve (Soule, CMR’s CEO, below inset) and Chuck (Spicer, CMR’s director of motorsports). They get ‘it’ and they add to the atmosphere with their overall enthusiasm and employee participation at the races.”
Shaun Torrente, left, and Sean Conner are teaming up this season in Super Stock competition.
While he’s going to miss racing with one of his best friends, fellow Floridian Eric Belisle, who sold the team’s national championship-winning 32-foot Doug Wright to veteran racer Tanner Lewis earlier this year with plans to enjoy more pleasure boating in his MTI 390X cat, Torrente said he is eager to share the cockpit with California-based offshore racing enthusiast and Salt Weapon president Sean Conner, who specializes in the acquisition and representation of high-end yachts nationwide.
“I am thrilled to partner up with Sean—he’s very hungry and he’s been through the struggle so it’s going to be cool for him to have an opportunity to win every time he gets in the boat,” added Torrente, who won the 2018 and 2019 F1H2O world championship as well as the 2018 XCAT world championship as part of Team Abu Dhabi. “We had a great time together during the Joey Gratton memorial run over New Year’s and decided to try racing together. We’re under the gun to get the boat done before Cocoa Beach, but we have a goal and are confident we will get there even if we have to work around the clock.”
Torrente said the team picked up Conner’s 32-footer from Doug Wright in Melbourne, Fla., on Monday and have been working on it all week with the hopes of having it on the water for testing in less than two weeks. The boat’s canopy, he added, has some additional safety features over the team’s previous one, including upgraded safety crash boxes and masking over the windows.
“We learned some things in the rigging process that we’re improving on this time around,” said Torrente, who expressed an exuberating tone about being able to rig the boat with the new class-approved Mercury Racing 300R engines. “One thing we’re doing is designing each dash to be modular and then we’re going to build a back-up dash so we can pull out the old one if we happen to wreck it during a race. That could end up saving us a lot of time. The best thing about having the modern Mercury power is that we only have to keep sets of four different parts on the truck.”
Conner, who was a crew member for the Miss GEICO Offshore Racing team from 2006-2008 and left the sport for close to a decade to run his family’s recycling business, said he’s always wanted to come back and race his own boat. In 2021, after getting the chance to compete in a few races alongside veteran racer Gary Ballough in Ballough’s Super Stock-class 32-foot Victory catamaran, Conner joined Loren Peters in the LPC team’s Doug Wright for the Key West Offshore World Championships and the team finished fourth overall after winning the second of three races.
“I’m very excited to be in the boat with Shaun and to be able to pull from his knowledge and experience,” said Conner, who will handle driving responsibilities in the boat. “He and I both go at this with the same mental aspect. We’re not there to have fun; we’re there to win a race and we’re going to remain focused on what we’re doing with the equipment, the team members and the overall preparation.
“I had a quick conversation with Shaun in Key West last year and then we ended up catching up in Dubai during the XCAT races,” he added. “From that we had dinner together and made an agreement to spend a week together over New Year’s, getting to know each other and figuring out if we wanted to race together. That was all it took.”
Ryan Beckley and the team at Kinectic Animation in Bradenton, Fla., are handling the graphics for the new 32-foot Doug Wright.
Along with STR X-Act, CMR, Raymarine and Salt Weapon, Dewald Propellers—Dave Dewald and Torrente are practically family—Marine Trading Post and Electronics Unlimited are the team’s associate sponsors. The Raymarine deal is particularly intriguing to Torrente because of the technology that it brings to the boat from the networked cameras with color night-vision FLIR technology to the new line of Axiom multi-function displays.
“I met Shaun Torrente through a mutual friend—Ron Muller of Electronics Unlimited—not long after Ron and I had been talking about ways for Raymarine to drive growth within the offshore powerboat and performance center console markets,” said Jamie Dery, vice president of the Americas for Raymarine and a longtime performance boat enthusiast. “Ron informed me that he had a friend building a new raceboat who might be the perfect person to get involved with from a sponsorship and product standpoint. When I told him I was interested, he introduced me to Shaun at the Miami International Boat Show. I spent about an hour with him and he was infectious. He has such a passion for the sport; I felt like I’d known him for 10 years.”
Dery said he’s hopeful that Torrente’s knowledge of the business and what people want and need will be key to Raymarine’s product development.
“We’re going to outfit the raceboat and the team’s chase boat so we expect Shaun and the rest of the team to provide honest feedback,” Dery explained, adding that he doesn’t have any particular expectations for the partnership besides maximizing his time at the races and possibly gaining a little market share in the industry. “The good news about our company is we can make changes quickly to adapt the product. I know that Shaun can be critical, but he’s also incredibly fair. He communicates well and comes across as a person we can build the brand around.”
The STR team’s former Doug Wright catamaran will be competing in Super Stock this season.
Raymarine product is going to be installed in a new Hayaari Marine H30Z center console that is going to be powered by twin Mercury Racing 300R engines and serve as the team’s support boat. That boat isn’t expected to be ready for the season-opening race in Cocoa Beach, Fla.
Conner, who hopes to finish atop the points standings like Torrente and Belisle did in 2021, said, “I’m ready to start testing and I can’t wait to be in the mix with this many boats at this level of competition—Super Stock is such a large and extremely competitive class.”
Belisle, who plans to support Conner and Torrente at a few races this season, explained that offshore racing was fun but that it took up a lot of his free time.
“I had an awesome time being in the boat with Shaun,” said Belisle, who raced a full 2021 season following the COVID-abbreviated 2020 season. “He is in incredible. He’s a true professional and a perfectionist. To go racing, there’s a lot more to it than being in the boat at the race. That’s a small fraction of what it takes to run a full season and I just couldn’t continue to make such a huge commitment. I’m grateful that Shaun gave me the opportunity and made it such an amazing experience. And I’m looking forward to seeing how Tanner does in our old boat—this year should be fun to watch. I plan to be one of STR’s biggest cheerleaders right there with Shaun and Sean’s families.”
Torrente, right, enjoyed a successful 2021 season with teammate Eric Belisle.
Likely right there with the crew and the family members at each race will be the “world famous” Chuck Spicer of CMR.
“Here’s what you need to know: Last year we connected with Shaun and we went from sponsoring him to signing a multi-year deal with him,” Spicer said. “That’s how confident we are with his ability. He’s a great brand ambassador, not only in the boat but outside of it as well. Of course our goal is to help the team win, but our goals within offshore racing as a whole are to increase brand awareness, network from a business to business standpoint and recruit new employees. So far we’ve realized the races can be a great recruiting tool for the company.”
Editor’s note: Look for an update from the STR team prior to Thunder on Cocoa Beach, the APBA Offshore National Championship Series season-opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla. (May 19-22).
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