Breaking through several years of frustration and a mid-season cockpit crew change, the Unlimited-class Miss GEICO team claimed first place today during the Super Boat International Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla. Throttleman Steve Curtis and driver Jim Sheppard drove the new Miss GEICO catamaran, a 47-foot Victory hull leased by the team from Curtis’ Offshore Racing Services company, took the lead early from the defending Unlimited class champs driver/owner Rusty Rahm and Jeff Harris in Wake Effects and never gave it up.
Miss GEICO's Steve Curtis and James Sheppard earned the win in today's Superboat Unlimited class. All photos by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
“It’s really nice, really nice,” said Gary Stray, the Miss GEICO team’s longtime crew chief. “In the first race we underpropped the boat and I was really concerned with doing the same thing today. But Steve and I talked about it for an hour, and we were bang on today, really, with our prop choice. The engines ran flawlessly. Everything just clicked.”
More dramatic than Miss GEICO’s breakthrough win in the Unlimited ranks was a horrific wreck when CT Marine ran up the back of CMS, which took first place on Wednesday, as the CMS duo of throttleman Randy Scism and driver Bob Bull appeared to be heading into the wet pits at the end of the outer mole. The 52-foot CMS MTI catamaran became a launch ramp for the 44-foot Victory cat campaigned by driver Andy Strobert and throttleman Billy Moore. The CT Marine catamaran landed on its starboard-side transom and rolled upside-down. Strobert and Moore escaped uninjured through the underside hatch between the sponsons.
Today's dramatic crash between CT Marine and CMS took place right in front of the spectators on the outer mole. Photo by Sam Jirik
Protected by their canopy, Scism and Bull also were not seriously hurt in the incident.
As it did on Wednesday, the Superboat class proved to be the cream of the SBI class crop—and that’s saying something given today’s wild action. Once again, the WHM Motorsports team of driver Billy Mauff and throttleman Jay Muller grabbed an early lead in their 40-foot Skater catamaran. But it didn’t last long.
“They made a mistake between turn one and two, and we were able to get under them,” said driver Myrick Coil, who shares the cockpit of the Performance Boat Center/Jimmy John's Skater 388 catamaran with throttleman John Tomlinson. “It was bumpier than yesterday, but once you get the lead you can run a little tighter, make sure they’re not gaining on you but keep it safe. We were able to do that to take the win.
“That just goes to show you, you make one little mistake and you lose a position in this class,” he added.
Check out the slideshow above for more images of today's Super Boat International World Championships.
The first race of the day saw a tight Stock-class battle between a pair of 32-foot Doug Wright catamarans—2016 National Champion FJ Propeller and CR Racing. Though CR Racing driver Rob Unnerstall and throttleman Casey Boaz led from the start for most of the 6-3/4-lap contest on the 4-1/2-mile course, they never completely ditched FJ Propeller.
“We ran a great with FJ Propeller right behind us,” Boaz said. “And we had a great conversation with (FJ Propeller throttleman) Gary Ballough about it. They were watching and they would adjust their trim to catch up in the straights, but they couldn’t make up the distance in the turns."
For the rookie CR Racing team, which claimed victory at the SBI contest in Mentor, Ohio, taking first place today in Key West was something special. “We absolutely did not expect this,” Boaz said. “We’ve just been learning all season. Today was just awesome.”
For a second consecutive race this week, the LSB/Rev-X Oil team of driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Ron Umlandt demonstrated why they were able to claim the 2017 Superboat Vee-class national title in dominant fashion. While Wednesday’s contest was close with several competitors chasing the LSB/Rev-X Oil cockpit crew leading in their 32-foot Extreme, today Lilly and Umlandt maintained and extended a commanding lead throughout the race.
“I think had a little bit better setup than everyone else,” Lilly said. “On Wednesday, well, I can’t say it was skill—we had a little bit of luck. But we had a really good propeller today and my throttleman, he’s a badass.”
FInally, in the Manufacturer Production 3 speed-bracketed class, the Developer team of JP Larkin and Eddie Tamberino earned the victory in its 38-foot Fountain. In the Manufacturer Production P4 class, Team Allen Lawn & Landscaping's Andrei Allen and Bill Allen won the race just like they did on Wednesday.