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Offshore Racing’s Most Affordable Imports Are In A Class Of Their Own

A native of New York now living in North Carolina, Rich Luhrs has a history in smaller performance boats including 21-foot Shadows and Challengers. He’s also a fan of outboards, having owned and raced a Switzer Wing among other go-fast hulls powered by clamp-on motors.

Luhrs also happens to be the chairman of the American Power Boat Association’s Offshore Racing Commission and is a commissioner for the Union Internationale Motonautique.

Like its catamaran-based 3c counterpart, the 3x V-bottom offshore racing class is popular overseas—and coming stateside.

“When I started as chairman of ABPA Offshore, I realized that the bridge between the two (organizations) had been severed for about 10 years,” he said. “I became interested in some of the offshore classes overseas that are popular.

“I fell in love with the Class 3c and started an effort to bring it over here,” he added.

Class 3c is made up of single-outboard-powered catamarans with enclosed cockpits. Overseas most of the designs have the driver and throttleman in-line under the canopy. In this country, well-known throttleman Errol Lanier, who raced with Bob Kaiser and his 38-foot Cougars in Open class, and his son are building a boat for the 3c class. Luhrs said another manufacturer in the Midwest is putting together one as well. So is a potential team in the Florida Keys. The class was provisionally added at the regional level last year.

“It generated all this building and we’re hoping to see some of those boats this year,” said Luhrs.

In addition to 3c, there is also 3x, which consists of open-cockpit, outboard-powered V-bottoms with a minimum length of 22 feet and a maximum horsepower of 200.

“I figured while I’m doing that, why not throw in a starter V-bottom class?” Luhrs asked.

A couple of weeks ago, the APBA approved Class 3x.

“The next thing I knew the internet exploded and guys said they would swap their 300 for a 200,” said Luhrs. “I’m getting multiple phone calls about the UIM 3x.”

Speedonthewater.com attempted to reach Offshore Powerboat Association president Ed “Smitty” Smith via phone and text for comment but didn’t connect.

Overseas, there are boats as long as 26 feet racing in 3x, but they’re much narrower than the 22-foot Velocity and 21-foot Superboats, Shadows and Challengers racing in Bracket Class 700 in the U.S. Derek Dawson’s Punisher that raced at the OPA’s world championships in Englewood, Fla., was a custom-built boat made specifically to run in Bracket 700.

“I’m watching all this happen and I’m hearing from the (Bracket 700) guys how frustrated they are running at 60 mph,” said Luhrs.

For clarity, the Bracket 700 class has a speed limit of 60 mph. If the boat exceeds that number for a long-enough duration, the team is penalized. Class 3x would not have a bracket, so theoretically, a boat running in that class could race at a faster speed than a Bracket 700 boat even though many boats in that class have 300-hp outboards on the transom or bracket.

In 2021, competitors in Bracket 700 ranks agreed to let 300-hp outboards into the class and now boats with Mercury Racing’s new 300R have been dominating the class. Some of the top boats in the class also have a hydraulic transom bracket and Mercury Racing K-planes. A quick google search reveals the price of about $25,000 to $30,000 for a 300R. A single-engine Porta bracket, which some competitors in the class have, retails for around $4,000 and 280S K-planes have a price of about $4,000 on the Teague Custom Marine and Hardin Marine websites. 

Luhrs was quick to explain that the goal for Class 3x is not for someone to go out and build a super-light boat out of expensive, exotic materials and dominate.

“This is an opportunity to go down to a 200 hp motor and actually race,” he said. “The intent is not to unleash the Kraken. If we find the speeds become too extreme, we’ll look at engine height and weight.”

In other words, if you want to spend a bunch of money, build a Bracket 700 boat and leave Class 3x to the racers on a budget.

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