Records are, of course, made to be broken. But by reaching 244 mph during the 2014 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, Steve Curtis and driver Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani set a record in Al Adaa’am 96, a 50-foot Mystic Powerboats catamaran powered by twin 3,000-hp turbine engines that is unlikely to fall in the near or distant future on the liquid-mile course. By any measure, it was an incredible achievement.
Just two years ago, Steve Curtis and Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani ran their way into the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout record book in this 50-foot Mystic Powerboats catamaran. Photo courtesy/copyright Jay Nichols/Naples Image.
With the opening round of competition at the Central Missouri event just six days away, we thought it would be a great time to catch up with Curtis, who’s currently in England prepping a 46-foot aluminum Cougar V-bottom—a 30-year-old boat built by the company his father founded—powered by twin Mercury Racing 1350 engines for offshore endurance racing in Europe next year, and revisit the record-setting run with one of two men who experienced it firsthand.
The day didn’t start well for the team.
“Our parachute system, which was designed to keep us from blowing over, accidentally deployed at 80 to 90 mph, but we still got up to 210 mph before I could get us slowed down,” said Curtis. “Then, after than run, Mike Fiore had his accident. We were all waiting. We didn’t know what we were going to do. But then we heard he was OK. We were happy about that and decided to go. We had a job to do. We had to focus.
“For the second run, I still had the boat trimmed down quite a bit because I was worried about blowing over,” he continued. “I knew where I wanted to be trim-wise by end of the run. We were porpoising quite a bit until about halfway through the run. We could see that little side wind near the end of the course so I whacked it and the boat settled down, although I could feel a little bit of rudder movement. I am convinced that if we had gone back with all things we did to the boat after that run we could easily run 250 mph. But that’s not going to happen, at least anytime soon.”
Curtis said that although the sensation of speed was significant, the feeling of acceleration was even more memorable.
“It was massive,” he said. “Once we got over 120 mph, the boat took off. The whole thing lasted 23 or 24 seconds—that’s four quarter-miles in 23 or 24 seconds, or one every six seconds or so. A 10-second quarter mile is fast.
“But you know, the boat was amazingly stable,” he continued. “We had done a lot of bottom work and we had special set of Hering propellers. If you look at our runs on video, you can see how flat we ran. That was our plan—to run flat and keep pushing. We didn’t have to use much trim. We did a lot of work to make it not just a very fast boat, but a very controllable boat. If the bow started to come up, I had this feature, a three-foot wing at the front of the tunnel, that I could drop down. And it would work quite quickly as a brake. But fortunately we didn’t have to use it.”