In reality, there are now two American Power Boat Association offshore racing seasons in the United States. The first takes six months, May through October to be precise, happens at venues from Cocoa Beach, Fla., to Michigan City, Ind., and crowns national champions. The second, which began today in Key West, Fla., takes a week and crowns American Power Boat Association—and this year Union Internationale Motonautique—world champions.
After a frustrating regular season, the Stock V-class LSB Hurricane of Awesomeness pairing of Brit Lilly and Kevin Smith finally saw success today in Key West. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Both were cancelled in 2020 thanks to the pandemic, which left offshore racers and their fans dealing with serious withdrawals all year. And if the 2021 APBA Offshore National Championship Series eased some of their pain, this week’s three-race, APBA/UIM Offshore World Championships are well on their way to relieving whatever’s left of it.
“The buildup and anticipation are through the roof for our entire team,” said Tyler Miller, the owner and throttleman of the 2021 Supercat national champion M CON team, expressing a common sentiment among the 46 teams in Key West this week. “A year away from Key West coupled with an amazing group of Supercat teams is setting the stage for some great racing.”
Easing fans back into their Key West groove, the first race of the day’s four races featured the Bracket classes. That those speed-limited categories will compete for APBA world titles a little more than a week from now in Englewood Beach, Fla., definitely took on a toll on the Bracket-class turnout. But that didn’t stop the Bracket 100 Cigarette Justice League team from running uncontested to victory, while the Bracket 300 class saw Team Woody Racing best Rollin Dirty Offshore. The GNS Motorsports team earned the Bracket 400 class checkered flag over Simmons Racing, which withdrew with a mechanical issue after the first lap. Southern Arbor Services took first place in the Bracket 600 ranks ahead of Gerard Marine.
“We thought we had no boat in our class but they ended up putting a 28-foot P1 boat in there with us and we ran our boat to its limits,” Maldonado said. “We just have to do the same thing on Friday and Sunday.”
During regular season, the LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness cockpit duo of driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Kevin Smith couldn’t seem to catch a break in the Stock V-class raceboat Lilly built himself in his Arnold, Md. That was enough to prompt Lilly to joke that if their fortunes didn’t change by the end of this weekend the 29-footer would be fuel for a “bonfire.”
That conflagration is on hold—at least for now—as the LSB team led from start to finish in today’s five-lap, five-boat Stock V contest. The Relentless team chased hard and kept it close early, but Lilly and Smith eventually stretched their lead to more than 30 seconds and took the checkered flag, followed by Relentless and Shocker.
Reminded of Lilly’s feigned boat-burning promise, Smith laughed. “We’re a couple of smiling dudes now,” he said.
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater struck Marker 17 Marine from behind in Mod V race, but no one was injured in the mishap.
If rubbing truly is racing, the Mod V-class contest delivered a whole lot of it early with Nick Imprescia and Ian Morgan in Visit St. Pete/Clearwater running up the back of Brian Forehand and Vinnie Diorio in Marker 17 Marine, which had grabbed an early lead, on the first lap, in turn No. 1. That opened the door for the father-and-son pairing of Steve and Stephen Kildahl in Boatfloater.com to take the lead and extend it for the rest of the race. Finishing behind the Kildahl boys was the Sheriff Lobo team in second and Octane in third.
‘’There was obviously some bumping and banging going on in turn one, but we finally got around Sheriff Lobo and then Brian and Vinnie broke,” said Stephen Kildahl. “It was a good start to the week for us—we just have to keep it going on Friday.”
Boatfloater.com avoided a turn No. 1 mishap on its way to taking the checkered flag in the Modified V class.
The fourth race of the day, the Super Stock-class battle turned into a trifecta for Lake of the Ozarks-based teams as Performance Boat Center, Jackhammer and LPC finished first, second and third. Performance Boat Center’s Myrick Coil and Rusty Williams led the pack from start to finish, and at one point established a commanding 30-second lead over its nearest competitor.
Early in the race, Coil and Williams were locked in a dogfight with 2021 Super Stock national champions Shaun Torrente and Eric Belisle in CMR Roofing, another 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran. The battle ended up abruptly when CMR appeared to catch the edge of its outside sponson in the Mallory Square turn and rolled. Neither Torrente nor Belisle were injured, but their day was done.
A trio Lake of the Ozarks-based teams claimed the Super Stock-class podium today.
“We had a decent start—that Cigarette 515 paceboat just takes off so we were able to leave it wide open from the green flag to the first turn,” Coil said. “We had the right setup for about 80 percent of the course. The other 20 percent was hairy. It was blowing really hard, it felt like we were going to swap ends a few times.”
Early in the contest, Jackhammer moved into second place and never let it go. But it wasn’t a matter of simply holding a line and position through the course for team owner/driver Reese Langheim and driver Ricky Maldonado.
“Our engines kept going into Guardian mode so we had to stop and restart them,” Langheim said. “It was a great battle and we had a great time running against Performance Boat Center.”
Fresh from repairs after its Roar Offshore Fort Myers Beach rollover last month, LPC team owner and throttleman Loren Peters had a new driver in Sean Conner. They gelled immediately.
Enjoy more images from today’s action in the slideshow above.
“We just had a blast out there,” Peters said. “Sean did a great job for the first time in the boat with me. We still have some work to do. I hope we are going to do better Friday and Sunday.”
Added Conner, “To be on the podium in our first race, I couldn’t ask for anything more. I think we ran like an hour yesterday, and to come out here and podium? It was great.”
The final race of the day saw the M CON team quickly run away from the six-boat Supercat-class pack. Joined by driver Myrick Coil, fresh off a Super Stock-class victory less an hour earlier, Tyler Miller throttled the Skater Powerboats 438 catamaran powered by Sterling Performance engines to a 35-second lead over Lorne Leibel and John Tomlinson in Canada Homes, which created roughly the same gap over John Emmons and Jimmy McIntyre in Chariots of Fire. And that was how they finished.
M CON’s Tyler Miller and Myrick Coil dominated the Supercat class today.
Miller was quick to credit his crew and his driver.
“Myrick drove his ass off today and we couldn’t be more happy,” he said. “And the boat was set up about as good as you can get on the first day of Key West. The boat just lit it up. It was pretty calm, pretty flat out there.
“The win on Wednesday is great but we have two more days of racing ahead of us,” he added. “The team did an awesome job of getting us set up and ready to go.”
The Supercat fleet shared the course with the new Huski Chocolate/Huski Wear team of throttleman Steve Curtis and driver Carlos de Quesada and the Lucas Oil/E3 team of throttleman Nigel Hook and Jay Johnson in the Extreme class. But on the first lap, the Extreme catamarans ran surprisingly far beyond the pillow for the first turn. The checkered flag flew with Huski taking first place and Lucas Oil/E3 finishing second.
“We were getting a little pushed over so I just kept going straight for a bit,” Curtis said, then chuckled. “So we took it easy and didn’t do anything crazy. We have two more days so you have to keep everything together.”
The action resumes Friday with four more races—starting at 11 a.m.—in the same order.
Offshore powerboat racing’s second season is just getting started.
The new Sweden-based Huski team prevailed over Lucas Oil/E3 in today’s Extreme class contest.