Forget the two-plus years of drama that led up to today’s offshore racing action in Key West, Fla., the first of three days of competition produced by locally based Race World Offshore. None of it means all that much when propellers meet the water, and while all of the background stuff is intriguing and titillating what matters most—at least for fans and competitors—happens on the racecourse.
By that measure, Race World Offshore produced mixed results with its four contests today.
With a win today, WHM Motorsports has a good start on another Supercat-class title in Key West (click image to enlarge). All photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
The competition started just after 10 a.m. with a combination of seven canopied and open-cockpit V-bottoms running in multiple classes. On a roll since running the Class 4 table in the inaugural American Power Boat Association Championship Series earlier this season, the Simmons Marine team of throttleman Jason Zolecki and driver Jim Simmons left the two other open-cockpit boats in the mist. As for the winning canopied V-bottoms, Sheriff Lobo ran to an uncontested victory in the Super Vee Extreme class as did Wix Filters/The Developer in Class 3, though the Wix team completed just one lap before breaking down.
With the 10-boat Super Stock class raceboats hitting the water in the second race, the action improved substantially. The CR Racing cockpit duo of Casey Boaz and Rob Unnerstall grabbed the lead on the first lap in its 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran. During the next five laps, the team extended its lead over FJ Propeller and Performance Boat Center/Auto Alert to almost 20 seconds. After getting off to a slow start, Shadow Pirate’s Nick Scafidi was gaining ground on Performance Boat Center’s Myrick Coil and Rusty Williams.
But the race was red-flagged after the fifth lap. The LPC team, which ran under the WIA sponsorship insurance banner this season prior to Key West, and Team Allen Lawn Care and Landscaping went into the Mallory Square side by side, kited and blew over.
“They were so close together that they may have affected the air flow in their tunnels,” said Myrick Coil, the throttleman for Performance Boat Center’s Super Stock-class 32-foot Doug Wright.
Bill Allen, who shared the cockpit of the 32-foot Doug Wright Team Allen catamaran with throttleman Larry Pinegar, confirmed Coil’s thinking.
“Running so closely took the air out of the bottom and we both went over backward,” he said. “Our top hatch blew off so we were completely filled with water from the get-go.”
“They looked like a couple of Unlimited hydroplanes,” said Larry Bleil, the president and founder of Race World Offshore. “They went straight up in the air together and pirouetted.”
CR Racing ran away with today’s accident-abbreviated Super Stock-class race.
Loren Peters and Mike Wright of LPC, Allen and Larry Pinegar of Team Allen escaped without life-threating injuries though all but Allen were taken to a local hospital for evaluation and treatment. But with rescue personnel on scene, two overturned boats to haul off the course and pieces of the boats in the water, RWO officials opted to call the race, which with five laps finished officially qualified as “complete.”
The CR Racing team pulled to the center of the course with a first-place finish followed by FJ Propeller—the strongest showing of the season for owner/throttleman Gary Ballough’s new 32-foot Victory raceboat—and Performance Boat Center/Auto Alert.
“We’re beginning to get a handle on it,” said Ballough, who shared the cockpit today with driver Loren Libel. “We’re inching forward. Our day is coming.”
The Extreme-class Team CRC, Huski Chocolate and Freedom outfits started the next race. Within two laps, Mike DeFrees and Jeff Harris in Team CRC—a 42-foot MTI catamaran—were more than two minutes ahead of Huski Chocolate and Freedom and on their way to lapping both boats. DeFrees and Harris did lap the Freedom Fountain Powerboats V-bottom, but didn’t get the opportunity to do likewise with Huski, as the 52-foot MTI pulled off the course with a mechanical issue.
Check out the slideshow above for more images from the first day of the Race World Offshore Key West Championships.
Saving the best show for last, the Supercat class ran in the final contest of the day. In 2018, the WHM Motorsports team of driver/owner Bill Mauff and throttle Jay Muller earned a world title in its class under the Super Boat International umbrella. Asked before the race if the role of defending class champion created additional pressure for the team, Muller laughed.
“Not at all,” he said. “We love racing in Key West.”
That love plus the right setup translated to victory for Mauff and Muller, who bested six other teams to take the Supercat-class win. Though they stretched out their lead to more than eight seconds at one point in the contest to the runner-up Broadco team of Chuck Broaddus and Chris Hanley, Performance Boat Center’s Myrick Coil and John Tomlinson stayed within three seconds of Broaddus and Hanley for much of the race. In turn, M-Con’s Tyler Miller and Tyson Garvin stayed within three seconds of Broaddus and Hanley. And that was how they placed when the checkered flag flew.
“We had a very good setup and just wanted to stay consistent,” Muller said. “June and Leah did a great job with lap times and the guys did a great job with the boat. And the Sterling Performance power was awesome.”
While they finished a distant fifth and sixth ahead of Pro Floors Racing, which exited the race early with an ignition problem after a hose-down, the Supercat-class rookie-season SV Racing and CJ Graydel teams did complete the race. Throttleman Vinnie Diorio, who shares the cockpit of the 39-foot SV Racing Outerlimits catamaran with driver Simon Prevost, was quick to credit M-Con team owners Tyler and Lindsey Miller for their participation in this week’s races. When the SV Racing team decided to save their new 750-hp Factory Billet Power engines for their 2020 season, the Millers stepped up to loan them a set of Kasse Racing mills.
“We cannot begin to thank Tyler and Lindsey enough,” Diorio said. “Their generosity and spirit of camaraderie are unbelievable. They’re just great people.”