In any given year, the Key West Offshore World Championships give teams a chance to prove themselves during three days of racing in the sport’s most iconic venue. And some 40 to 50 teams will be going at it again during this year’s Race World Offshore event, which is scheduled for November 7-14.
After a year off, the Key West Offshore World Championships will return next month. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix. (Above image from the 2019 Race World Offshore Key West World Championships.)
But there’s more riding on this year’s Key West Worlds than titles and trophies. Thanks to the pandemic, this will be Race World Offshore’s second—rather than third—time producing the event. The Key West-based organization’s effort in 2019 was solid and promising, but whatever momentum Race World Offshore head Larry Bleil and his crew gained that year was mostly lost—or at least forgotten—last year when the pandemic forced them to cancel.
So Race World Offshore itself has plenty to prove.
Once the sport’s premiere class, Supercat struggled to attract more than two teams per race this season. Here again, the effects of the pandemic (international travel restrictions, domestic race team economic issues and more) contributed to the decline, but in a promising regular-season finish the class did attract four teams to the last race of the American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series in Fort Myers Beach, Fla.
M CON has been the most consistent team this year in the Supercat class.
Still, the entire Supercat class has something to prove in Key West next month. For the past 10 years, the class has averaged six teams at the event. Can it field that kind of respectable fleet this time around?
So far, the answer looks to be yes. Tyler Miller, the owner/throttleman of the Kansas-based 2021 Supercat National Champion M CON team, said he’s expecting six teams—Canada Homes, Chariots of Fire, Graydel, SV Racing, WHM Motorsports and of course his own—to compete in Key West this year.
“Key West is such a dynamic race and battle of attrition in Supercat that it truly is anyone’s race on any given day,” said Miller. “Three or four years ago on Sunday, I watched out my port window as two rookies—Aaron Hope and Anthony Smith in AMH—were battling with veterans Billy Mauff and Jay Muller in WHM Motorsports for the title and thought, ‘Man this truly is anyone’s race to win.’ That’s what makes Key West so special.”
The same holds true this year, he explained.
“Johnny Tomlinson and Lorne Liebel in Canada Homes are probably the cockpit duo with the most races under their belts at Key West with Billy (Mauff) out and Brit (Lilly) now sharing cockpit of WHM with Jay Muller, he said. “Jay will bring it all and leave nothing on the table—he’s as fierce as they come. And we all know Brit can drive any boat he’s behind the wheel of anytime and anywhere. He’s legit.
Look for six Supercat teams—including Chariots of Fire and SV Racing—to compete in Key West.
“John Emmons and Jimmy McIntyre are coming along great in Chariots Of Fire, and after we battled it out with them in Fort Myers Beach I told them they are not rookies anymore—they are fast,” Miller continued. “Chris Grant and Billy Moore (in Graydel) are great competitors and have shown that when the water gets a little bumpy they run out front like they did in Englewood Beach in 2019, where they led a majority of the race. Vinnie Diorio and Simon Prevost have figured out their (Mercury Racing) 860 engines and have that SV Racing boat dialed in. Look out for what they bring to the table.”
Whatever the SV Racing duo does deliver next month, an elephant-in-the-room-size question remains: If they prevail in Key West, will they depart with a Supercat world title? By class vote, the team was allowed—after being banished (again by class vote) for its move to out-of-spec power—to compete in the Supercat ranks in the Fort Myers Beach regular-season finale.
At the writing, there is no definitive answer. But the SV Racing team will be in the Supercat mix.
No such ambiguity exists in the Super Stock-class class, which according to class representative Ryan Beckley will see 11 to 14 teams in Key West, but there’s still plenty of intra-class drama. The 2021 national Super Stock-class title came down to the final race of the season in a winner-take-all battle between Shaun Torrente and Eric Belisle in CMR Roofing and Construction and the Performance Boat Center cockpit pairing of Myrick Coil and Rusty Williams—with CMR taking the win and the title.
After a close battle for national supremacy that came down to the last race of the season, CMR Roofing and Construction and Performance Boat Center will be at it again in Key West next month.
“I’m hoping to help Eric win another title this year, but this time in a venue where he’s only watched people race before,” said Torrente, who added that he’s been lobbying Race World Offshore’s Larry Bleil to have a qualifying round in the morning before Wednesday’s to establish a starting-lane order. “Otherwise, the starts are a s-show,” the two-time F1 H2O tunnel-boat world champion added. “Having a world championship settled in one week of three races isn’t my preference, but it is what it is. We’re looking forward to it.”
Coil and Williams naturally have other plans.
“We hope to have a little something that can put us up in the top of the pack heading into the Sunday race,” said Coil. “Nothing top secret—just moving stuff around and hoping for the best.”
Of course, both teams will have to get through a deep field that includes 2018 and 2019 world champion CR Racing, the always-in-the-mix Team Allen Lawncare and Landscaping, FJ Propeller, Jackhammer and several other competitive teams to claim a world title. Adding to the Super Stock fun this year are FB Marine Group managing partner Randy Sweers, a veteran offshore racer, and teammate Bryan Marquardt, who will debut their new 32-foot Doug Wright raceboat in Key West.
The Super Stock-class fleet could have as many as 14 boats in Key West.
Editor’s Note: Look for the inside story of the Mod and Stock V classes competing in Key West next week on speedonthewater.com.