To say this year has been roller-coaster ride for veteran offshore racing throttleman Steve Curtis is an understatement. As 2013 closed, Curtis began collaborating with Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats founder Mike Fiore on the Bristol, R.I., boat company’s line of custom high-performance catamarans. In late August, he set a 244-mph speed record with his racing partner Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani in Al Adaa’am 96, a 50-foot turbine-powered Mystic Powerboats catamaran during Central Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks Shootout. A few days later, he lost his friend Fiore, who died in the hospital while being treated for injuries sustained in a crash during the same event. A couple of months later, the news that Curtis was involved in forming the new Offshore Powerboat Grand Prix series was enough to get him and the entire Spirit of Qatar team banned by Super Boat International from its Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla. Next up for Curtis, the interim president of OPGP: The Qatar Cup in February.
What do you see happening in offshore racing in 2015?
“I think it’s going to be stellar year for it. We purposely waited for the SBI series to come out with its schedule so we wouldn’t conflict with it. They’re putting on a Fourth of July race and so is OPGP—that’s when the Sarasota (Fla.) race is so we couldn’t help it—but that’s the only conflict. We don’t intend to conflict with any other racing series’ dates in any way. I think having more races for racers to choose from opens up the sport. It’s great news that we have the CBS sports deal—it’s going to be terrific for powerboat racing in general. We’re going to be able to bring over some big teams from Europe. That’s going to be a great thing. It’s all positive stuff.
Curtis (second from right) said he is looking forward to “pushing the levers forward” with his team next year.
“By the end of the year, we intend to release our schedule and the rules we will be running. Of course, the APBA (American Power Boat Association) needs to put their stamp of approval on the rules, but hopefully we’ll have both announcements by the end of the year. As for the Qatar Cup, to be honest we knew the first year was going to be a tough year. But with the teams from America, New Zealand, Australia and Turkey it looks like we’re going to have just over 50 boats. We may be adding two more U.S. teams—Peppers and a new Super Cat Light from Jay Muller—if we can arrange the shipping dates. But for a first year of an event like this, it looks great. We have a three-year agreement with (shipping logistics company) GAC Pindar, and we already have teams that want to come for the Qatar Cup in 2016. The first year is a stepping-stone year. And the UIM (Union Internationale Motonautique) people are really excited about it.
“I am looking forward to getting back into a raceboat with Sheikh Hassan and doing what I love, pushing the levers forward. We’re slowly putting together a board for OPGP so I can step down (as interim president)—there are going to be some really interesting people on that board—and Jason Miller is doing a good job and getting a grip on running a circuit. And hopefully, early in the year, Sheikh Hassan and I will be going for the world propeller-driven speed record on the Salton Sea. We are talking to the ABPA about that. It could be a big part of my focus in the first part of the year, and we’re all pretty excited about it.”