Retired offshore racing great Pat Patel took the author for a memorable ride yesterday during the Atlantic City Powerboat Rally. All photos courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images.
The need for speed. Face it, we all have it or we wouldn’t visit a website called speedonthewater.com.
But the physical demands of offshore performance boating—the pounding, thrashing and required concentration resulting from even the calmest day on the water take a cumulative toll over the years. Comes a time, we make concessions to age.
For those who struggle with the idea of “slowing down,” there is a certain solace when a guy like Pat Patel shows up for an event such as the 19th Annual New Jersey Performance Powerboat Club’s Atlantic City Boat Rally in a Chris Craft 33 Corsair, which is exactly what happened yesterday. If you don’t recognize his name, the 55-year old trial attorney from Toms River, N.J., is a two-time inductee into the American Power Boat Association’s Hall of Champions with three World and three National Championships two his credit, in addition to over 100 checkered flags in a career that spanned A-Class, Modified, and Super Cat racing.
So, when a guy who has lived a fast life doing fast things shows up in a boat that’s not necessarily considered fast, people take notice.
Granted, Patel’s 33-footer is powered by twin 525-hp engines, but with a 12-1/2-foot beam, a dry weight of more than 13,000 pounds and a top speed in the 50-mph range—impressive for a boat boasting those specs— it’s not fast. But it sure was a comfortable ride during yesterday’s run, which attracted vessels from pure go-fast catamarans to performance center consoles to runabouts.
Patel and his wife, Laden, bought the Chris Craft as a tender for their 105-foot yacht, Stray Kat, which is moored in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. And while the couple also has a 75-mph, 38-foot Renegade, that boat is for sale as they are looking to purchase a 50- or 60-foot Riva cruiser.
Patel admits that people are surprised by his choice of rides.
“You can’t race forever—everybody’s got to calm down eventually,” he said. “But on this boat, I don’t get beat up. There is a lot less back and knee pain, not to mention the pocket pain when a motor blows up.
“I like the classic look of this boat,” said Laden “It is a smooth ride—even in the very rough water, nothing gets wet. I don’t like to get beat up in a boat. We have his car collection to go fast in.”
The slower pace and simply enjoying time no the water suits the Patels just fine these days. But that didn’t stop Pat from reminiscing about offshore competition as we made our way from Toms River to Atlantic City yesterday.
“I think about the old days of pure, 100-percent racing,” he said, and pointed to a boat running parallel to ours. “I’d love to cut that guy’s wake and chop his bow like we did with all of those Mercury boats back in the old days.”
Patel laughed hard at that one—it was a dig intended for me as I used to work in marketing for Mercury Racing.
Patel, who credits Reggie Fountain with teaching him everything he knows about boats, water conditions and driving skills, said he has a favorite memory he goes to on the water:
“Biloxi Mississippi World Championships,” he said. “Johnny Tomlinson and I are entering the first turn at 161 miles-per-hour. On one side is Billy Mauf and the other side Matt Alcone, dead even going into the turn.”
Patel slid forward to the edge of his helm seat and leaned forward a bit.
For some of the action from yesterday’s Atlantic City Powerboat Rally, check out the slideshow above.
“We take the turn three abreast at 161,” he continued. “And due to the professionalism and skill of these teams, we came out of the turn three abreast at 140 miles-per-hour. It was the scariest and most exhilarating thing ever.”
Would Patel ever consider racing again? “Never,” he said. “I’m done.”
Patel paused for a moment then spoke again. “Maybe if Johnny Tomlinson or Joey Impresia wanted me to race with them,” he said. “Maybe I’m not done after all.”
Editor’s Note: Tony Esposito (above left with Pat Patel) is a frequent contributor to speedonthewater.com. The Atlantic City Grand Prix weekend continues today with rides for veterans from the Combat Wounded Veterans of America organization and their families.
Related Story: NJPPC Seeking Boats and Drivers for Veteran Rides