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Great Lakes Grand Prix Essentials: The Turnaround Challenge

For offshore racers competing in the six-race American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series, the middle of the season takes some stamina. Last weekend’s St. Clair River Classic event in St. Clair, Mich., leads right into this weekend’s Great Lakes Grand Prix in Michigan City, Ind. While the proximity of venues, which are less than 300 miles apart, saves teams a lot of travel time, it also requires them to compete on back-to-back weekends.

As anyone in offshore racing can attest, back-to-back race weekends present their own set of challenges. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

That challenge is compounded if something unfortunate happens in the St. Clair contest, as it did with the Super Stock-class Team Allen Lawn Care and Landscaping outfit last weekend when the boat rolled at 100-plus mph, and repairs need to be made in time for the following weekend’s contest.

“There are lot of long hours and servicing of the boat to be done,” wrote driver Cody McDowell, who shares the cockpit of Team Allen’s 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran with owner/throttleman Bill Allen, on his Facebook page shortly after the mishap. “But we will be back next weekend in Michigan City.”

But even without a boat to repair, the hurdles of back-to-back weekend races are significant.

“If a team is fortunate enough to not have any technical or logistic issues from the first race, then the week between races becomes a little more lax—but there is still a sense of urgency,” said Tyler Miller, the owner and throttleman of the Supercat-class M CON team. “If a team is unfortunate and has technical, logistical or major issues from race No. 1 then it becomes all-hands-on-deck just in hopes to be ready for the next weekend’s race, which is never a good feeling. The day and night work to get ready causes major anxiety about the second race because of the unknowns—if you miss any of the issues or safety issues you are trying to repair.”

Captured here during the APBA series season-opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla., Team Allen Lawn Care and Landscaping exited St. Clair with work to do before this weekend’s event in Michigan City.

And because offshore racing isn’t anyone’s full-time job, Miler explained, back-to-back weekend races create professional and personal juggling acts for all teams.

“The caveat to all is that business and family has to continue on while trying to make the next race,” Miller said. “All we can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other while making sure our families and businesses are taken care of first, and if we are so lucky to get to the next race we are always truly grateful.”

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