From crew chief Gary Stray to throttleman Steve Curtis, no one involved with the Riviera Beach, Fla.-headquartered Miss GEICO offshore racing team wanted to sit on the sidelines this season. The same goes for the team’s behind-the-scenes acting partners Scott Colton, Scott Begovich and Gary Goodell. Everyone involved in the Miss GEICO program is passionate about the sport. And thanks to a wreck during a race in Sarasota, Fla., last year, which left them using a back-up Victory catamaran for the rest of the season, they all felt they had something to prove this year.
Back on the water for the first time since July 2019, Miss GEICO aced its first test session today. Photos by Coleman McGowan copyright Miss GEICO/speedonthewater.com
But that wasn’t to be. With COVID-19 pandemic safety guidelines and restrictions bearing down on them, all six races in the 2020 American Power Boat Association Offshore Championship Series produced by the Offshore Powerboat Association and Powerboat P1 were cancelled. So, too, we’re all three races—including the weeklong Key West Championships—under the Race World Offshore umbrella. All that remain are three events, two in September and one in November, on the Offshore Powerboat Association roster.
The good news, at least for the Miss GEICO team? Stray and company had more time than they expected to rebuild their 47-foot Victory cat, which sustained significant damage in the Sarasota roll-over. And they didn’t waste a second of it.
“The boat has been completely rebuilt with a new deck, re-rigged,” said Stray. “It’s pretty impressive to see that two weeks ago today the boat was still being clear coated. Within 14 days, we have got the boat sanded, polished, fully rigged and tested, which is an impressive feat. The guys who have worked on the boat—Micah, Patrick, Robbie, Ali, Rudy and Ed—have done an absolutely fantastic job.”
All of the work was handled in house at the Miss GEICO facility. That, too, impressed Stray, who worked for the Dubai-based Victory team before moving stateside to join MTI in the early 2000s and eventually finding his current position with the Miss GEICO team.
“Generally, if another team has an accident in an MTI, Skater or Mystic, they send their boats back to those factories to fix them, but we didn’t have the luxury,” he said. “We managed to cut the deck off of the old boat, build a mold, construct a new deck, re-rig the boat, and make modifications to it.
Check out the slideshow above to enjoy more images from today’s test session.
“To be able to test the boat within 14 days of still painting it is a very rewarding thing that comes down to the professionalism and hard work of the guys here,” he continued. “We worked for five weeks straight without a day off until yesterday, which takes a lot of dedication. It’s hard for the guys to keep pushing without much sleep and no days off.”
Today, the rebuilt 47-footer hit the water for the first time since last July. Curtis was joined in the cockpit by team member Patrick Cleaveland.
“The initial tests were building up the engine RPM and making sure the slip factors were down—that the propellers weren’t just spinning in the air,” said Curtis. “It all felt really good—the balance felt good on the boat because that’s moved a little bit.
“The first stage of the aerodynamic package felt good—the boat attitude was very nice and trimmable,” he continued. “We’re going to have to do a little rudder change because that felt a little too dominant, but apart from that we were super happy with it.
Added Stray, “The boat ran fantastic. It hit all of the numbers we expected speed- and -acceleration-wise. The pressures, temperatures and everything on the engines was absolutely perfect. There are a few small bits to sort out, but generally it was a really successful first test. And we’re good to go again.”
“Said Curtis, “The first stage of the aerodynamic package felt good—the boat attitude was very nice and trimmable.”