As an offshore powerboat racing breed, turbine engine-powered catamarans never took off. No reasonable fan with even marginal recall will disagree. Limited appeal, costs and complexities of ownership and more kept turbine raceboats mostly an oddity. A strong turnout at any given race was two boats.
Entertaining while it lasted, the turbine engine-powered Miss GEICO Mystic catamaran has been gone for almost 12 years. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
But even running solo, a turbine engine-equipped cat such as the 50-foot Miss GEICO cat, which began its life as Dave Callan’s Longlite boat, shrieking its way down a straightaway at 180-plus mph was just plain fun to watch.
The “turbine raceboat era,” such as it was, officially ended when the Miss GEICO Mystic burned to the waterline during practice for the then-named Suncoast Grand Prix, now the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix, in early July 2011. (The Aqua-Mania MTI and My Way Mystic catamarans, the last remaining turbine raceboats, no longer compete.) According to former Miss GEICO driver Marc Granet, a high-pressure fitting on one of the gear boxes failed and caused a mist of oil to revert back into the exhaust system and started the fire.
In 2011, the era of turbine engine-powered raceboats officially ended when Miss GEICO was destroyed in a fire.
“The broken fitting spewed oil onto a 1,000 degree coupling igniting a jet fuel and oil fire that was nearly impossible to put out,” Granet recalled. “She was actually on fire under the water as it sank. That was a very tough day for our team.
“I remember saying to (Miss GEICO crew chief) Gary Stray as we were running 170 mph, ‘We have smoke in the cockpit,’” he continued. “And Gary said, ‘Mate, you’re on fire. Get out of the boat.’”
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