What was supposed to be two days of championship competition during the final round of the Offshore Superboat Championships – Australia produced by the Australian Offshore Powerboat Club turned into an unforgettable accident on Saturday followed by a cancellation of Sunday’s racing due to unfavorable sea conditions.
The Judge team went over during the second lap of the Supercat Extreme contest on Saturday and crashed into the Maritimo Racing team causing the Maritimo boat to catch fire. All photos courtesy Reg Blunt/EMB Photographics
Not only was Saturday’s action on Hervey Bay in Queensland delayed just two laps into the race after the Supercat Outboard-class team The Hulk rolled, the action was abruptly ended a half a lap into the restart when The Judge hooked and crashed directly into the starboard hullside of Maritimo Racing resulting in The Judge, 43-foot Victory Team-built catamaran, flipping over and Maritimo bursting into flames almost immediately.
The good news is that none of the four Supercat Extreme-class racers involved in the crash, which was caught in an impressive sequence by Australian photographer Reg Blunt, were seriously injured. Bruised and battered for sure, but nothing more. On Sunday, Speedonthewater.com caught up with veteran Australian offshore racer Ross Willaton, who throttled the 36-foot Maritimo Racing-built catamaran owned by Maritimo CEO Bill Barry-Cotter alongside his son, Andrew Willaton.
Check out the slideshow above for a full sequence of the action captured by Australian photographer Reg Blunt.
“We’re doing OK—a little sore but happy that things didn’t end up worse,” Willaton said. “After the restart we were running close with The Judge, which is a bigger boat. We got to that turn in front of them and we thought we had them out of sight and kaboom all of the sudden we got t-boned and they were upside down. It happened so fast. We hadn’t even fallen off plane and we were still trying to shut it down and shut the fuel off when Andrew looked back and happened to see that the boat was on fire. The pickle forks of the No. 7 boat went right into the side of our boat and the starboard fuel tank. The tank was full because we were only in the first couple of laps of the race so the fuel was sloshing out all over the boat and spilling down into the water. The boat just blew up from there.
“Once we stopped, we tried to get out as quickly as we could,” the decorated offshore racer continued. “Andrew hopped out pretty quick and I tried to do the same but I couldn’t get out my side of the hatch, which is separated by a compression post, because of the flames so I had to make my way to his side and climb out. We immediately made our way to the bow, but because the fuel was so spread out and the wind was blowing the flames our way we had to jump in the water. We were trying to swim away but the wind was blowing the boat toward us so we weren’t out swimming it or the fire. Luckily one of the water police rubber duck boats came to the rescue and dragged Andrew and I far enough away where we could climb into the boat.”
GpHydro Livestreaming shared several images of the damaged boats on its Facebook page.
Willaton said he’s had a few boats catch fire during a race over the years but never one with as much intensity as this one. While he acknowledged the accident was “a racing incident” he thought it could have been avoided with a more experienced driver.
“Of course I’m not happy about the situation but the main thing is they got out and are OK as well,” Willaton said. “I hope to compete against them and the boat again.”
Rookie driver Matt Turner teamed with throttleman John Shand in The Judge for the team’s second event of the four-round season—the teammates also participated in the round two event in Bowen.
“Thanks everyone for your messages of concern,” the team posted on its Facebook page after the accident. “Matt and John are back at the pits somewhat battered but safe and sound. The boat is currently being towed back to the marina.”
Willaton, who is hoping to campaign the Maritimo boat in the United States again in the Supercat class in 2020, is hopeful that the cat can be rebuilt.
“That’s really up to the boss, but we build our own raceboats and have some seriously skilled people so there’s not much we can’t do,” Willaton said. “The good news is that most of the damage was to the deck and cockpit. We have extra deflectors, or crash bulkheads, on both sides of the cockpit and they did their job in this situation. A lot of the fiberglass was pushed in but the damage could have been way worse without the extra bulkheads.”
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