With the goal of taking his father’s legendary offshore raceboat and converting it into a family friendly pleasure boat, John Clarke—the president of Jaguar Powerboats, the company his father Jack founded in the ’80s—is currently working on refitting his father’s first catamaran raceboat, Thriller. After a long hiatus in someone else’s care, Clarke recently purchased the 35-foot cat and went to work at the company’s High Point, N.C., facility overhauling the boat and preparing it to be repowered from its original sterndrive setup to twin outboard engines.
The team at Jaguar Powerboats is making excellent progress on the former Thriller raceboat.
According to Clarke, who grew up watching his father bring back trophy after trophy with the Thriller catamaran, which raced under several names, including Coors Light Silver Bullet, Spirit of America, Team Jaguar Marine, Ferrari and Toshiba, and won the U.S. Nationals in 1990 and a world championship in 1993, the refit includes resculpting the transom to accommodate twin supercharged Mercury Racing Verado 400R outboards.
“After 33 years, Thriller is as strong as ever,” Clarke stated in a press release. “If we put modern sterndrives on the boat, it would be extremely competitive and constantly in the winner’s circle. That’s a testament to my dad’s absolute commitment to safety, speed and quality construction methods and why I emulate his successful boatbuilding techniques to this day.”
Clarke added that Thriller began with wood and his father proved his unique tunnel hull design was fast and stable but limited by the material he chose. Using the boat to build a mold, he opted for a lighter and stronger AIREX composite construction. Reborn as a canopied sterndrive race boat, Thriller would go on to amass an esteemed record of success.
Jaguar Powerboats continues to use the same laminate schedule as Thriller on all of its builds, including models destined for recreational use. Vacuum-bagged core cell foam core and vinylester resin produce a hull that is incredibly strong and safe, yet lightweight.
The refit of Thriller also includes an open cockpit with seating for nine and a small cabin. As an homage to its competitive heritage, it’s going to get a retro raceboat paint scheme.
“Thriller was my childhood dream,” Clarke noted. “I was too young to run her back in the day, even under my father’s watchful eye, but I’m incredibly pleased to get her back home to put our Jaguar flare on her. She’ll become the family pleasure boat we’ll use every weekend.”
Clarke added that his team is currently working on its largest hull in the company lineup—a 55-foot-long, 12-foot-wide catamaran that is expected to make its debut in the fall at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (Oct. 28–Nov. 1). He also said that the revamped Thriller is going to be at the show at an offsite location for demo rides before heading on the Florida Powerboat Club’s Key West Poker Run the following week.
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