From the mass exodus of all but two Superboat-class teams to the some of the worst weather and sea conditions in the nine-year history of their event, the organizers of today’s Super Boat International Space Coast Grand Prix in Cocoa Beach, Fla., faced one challenge after the next. And yet, despite smaller crowds on the beach thanks to the rainy weekend, the show went on and provided plenty of wild rough-water action, starting with today’s first race—even with its abbreviated five-lap (reduced from the usual 11 laps) storm course in seas of five to seven feet with crests up to eight feet, according to the course marshal.
With its start delayed for more than 40 minutes thanks to the rough water, the first race featured the Superboat V, Superboat Stock and Manufacturer Production 3 classes. (With just two open-cockpit boats in the fleet, the Manufacturer Production 4 class opted out of the competition, as did the Second Amendment team, which runs an open-cockpit 36-foot Spectre catmaran in Manufacturer Production Class 3.) SBI Livestream broadcaster Mike Yowaiski said it would be “a race of survival” in the predominantly quartering seas frothed up by 15- to 20-mph winds, and his prediction proved accurate.
With their 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran trimmed conservatively throughout the race, FJ Propeller’s Gary Ballough and Jimmy Harrison led for all but the first half of the first lap and took first place. Ryan Beckley and Tanner Lewis survived to take second in Beckley’s Reliable Services-badged 30-foot Skater. To their credit, the Stock-class rookie team of Billy and Andrei Allen ran with the frontrunners early in the contest in their new 32-foot Doug Wright dubbed Team Allen Lawncare, but a mechanical issue cut their day short.
Superboat V-class defending national and world champions Brit Lilly and Ron Umlandt jumped out to an early lead in their 30-foot Extreme LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness V-bottom and looked as though they might lead wire to wire. But they slowed down dramatically midway through the contest—early reports had them breaking their propeller— and Sunprint Management, the 29-foot Extreme entry manned by Steve Miklos and Steve Fehrmann rocketed by them to claim first place, with Lilly and Umlandt hanging on to take second.
“That worked out for us,” said Miklos “The water was at least the 2015 (Cocoa Beach event) size or more. Once I see the data I’ll know for sure, but just looking at top speeds—I don’t think we went over 70 mph—I already know it was big out there.
“These rough-water races are attrition races,” he continued. “You have to set a pace where you’re comfortable and run. Sometimes it’s enough, sometimes it’s not. But this is a great way to start to a season and the whole crew—Frank at Scorpion Engines, the guys at Wilson Custom Marine and Hering Propellers—did such a great job on the boat.”
The Wix Filters team, which formerly ran as The Developer, of Scott Brown and Eddie Tamberino took the Manufacturer Production 3-class win in their 38-foot Fountain—and needed every inch of it in the rough conditions.
As anticipated, the delayed start of the first race created a delay (30 minutes) in the start of the second race, which saw the Superboat Unlimited, Superboat V and Superboat Extreme classes compete. In something of a last-minute move, the WHM Motorsports team of Billy Mauff and Jay Muller opted to compete in Mauff’s 40-foot Skater catamaran, which gave Randy Sweers and Glen Hibbard someone compete against in MGI Digital Tech-Konica Minolta, Sweers’ recently reliveried 40-foot MTI catamaran.
Running at times in the actual surf line thanks to a dropping tide that pushed the breakers farther offshore, the Miss GEICO and Wake Effects teams pushed the pace hard in their abbreviated eight-lap (from 16 laps) contest. The Wake Effects cockpit duo of Rusty Rahm and Jeff Harris grabbed—and stretched—the lead in the 48-foot MTI catamaran, but Steve Curtis and James Sheppard kept chasing in 47-foot Miss GEICO catamaran kept charging until a steering fluid issue, according to Curtis, knocked them out of the running.
That enabled to Rahm and Harris to back off a bit, though more than once they launched their 48-footer into the sky after Miss GEICO’s exit. In the end, Wake Effects cruised to victory with Igur Isik and Miles Jennings in Jesse’s World Zaborowski, originally based in Norway, finishing second. (Like Miss GEICO, the Lucas Oil SilverHook entry exited early with a mechanical problem.)
“It was very intense—we’ll need a lot of Ibuprofen in the morning,” said Rahm, who owns and drives the Wake Effects catamaran. “We came with our (Mercury Racing) 1650 engines and the smallest props we had. We did back off after Miss GEICO broke, but just a hair—there was only so much you could do.
“The fun part was we had a bet with the Miss GEICO guys,” he continued, then laughed. “Whoever finishes behind the other, us or them, has to donate $500 to the winner’s charity. I’m excited to get back into the pits to run that in (Miss GEICO team partner) Gary Goodell’s face, just a little bit.”
Added Wake Effects throttleman Jeff Harris, “It was really lumpy out there, like a washing machine with really big holes. We hunted around for a fast line running down the beach, but I don’t think there was one. But in the backstretch we ran really hard and that’s where we put distance on Miss GEICO. We didn’t get to test yesterday, but SBI did such a nice job just to make sure we had a race—we would have been happy to get in our four laps todays, but we were able to run all eight. And this MTI is such an amazing rough-water boat.”
For more action from the ninth annual Space Coast Grand Prix, check out the slideshow above.
Despite some hairy—and scary—nearshore air time in the first couple of laps, WHM Motorsports took a solid lead over MGI Digital Tech-Konica Minolta, which eventually dropped out midway through the race with an electrical system problem, and never let it go.
A veteran racer and multi-time world champion, Mauff said he competed in Cocoa Beach to support Sweers and his new backers. The WHM Motorsports team stores its equipment in nearby Titusville, and in fact the team just installed the drives on their 40-footer yesterday.
“I didn’t come here to race Randy, I came here to make sure his new sponsors were hooked in and happy,” Mauff said. “That was more important to me than anything else. This was a practice session for us, and now that everything in the boat is loose the crew can go back and tighten it all up and get ready for the (Offshore Powerboat Association-produced) Lake Race.”
Mauff paused to chuckled. “It’s really, really important that we beat Mark (Waddington, who co-owns Performance Boat Center and its defending Superboat-class world champion team of the same name) in his backyard, like we did last year,” he said.
Said WHM throttleman Muller, “It was probably fives to sevens out there and pretty mixed up. We were close (to shore) on the first straightaway then moved back outside. It was sloppy in there.”
Aaron Hope, who’ll join the Superboat class in the former STIHL Skater 388 catamaran later this season, and Anthony Smith ran uncontested to take the Superboat Extreme-class contest in Peter Meyer’s AMH Construction/Instigator Fountain V-bottom.
Editor’s Note: All results are unofficial pending SBI verification and technical inspections. For complete official results as they become available, visit the SBI website. Look for coverage of all SBI races on speedonthewater.com this season.
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