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OPA Worlds Day 2: Well-Deserved Victories

During the middle of an interview about their history-making two offshore powerboat racing world championships in two different boats in the same day, Kevin Smith and Brit Lilly learned of another winner on Sunday afternoon. Veteran Super-Stock-class team owner Ryan Beckley won the race in challenging conditions.

“That’s the best news I’ve heard all day,” Lilly said.

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Two of the most popular teams in offshore powerboat racing including locally baced Cape Hazie Marina, conquered the elements to claim OPA world titles in their respective classes in Englewood, Fla. Photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

Added Art Lilly, Brit’s dad and a championship-winning throttleman in his own right, “That was damn cool. I like Ryan a lot.”

Billy Moore, who raced the 42’ MTI, CJ Grant, in Super Cat, said, “That was fantastic. He deserves it.”

Beckley, 44, lives in Sarasota, Fla., a little under an hour away from the site of the Offshore Powerboat Association’s 2019 world championships that were part of the Englewood Beach Waterfest in Englewood, Fla. He grew up in Key West, Fla., and has been racing offshore since 1993, starting out as a navigator in whatever boats would take him and working his way up as a driver and throttleman, primarily in the outboard-powered classes.

For the past 13 years, he has campaigned in the Stock and Super Stock class, which is made up of 30- to 32-foot catamarans powered by twin Mercury Racing 300XS outboards. His 2006 30-foot Skater boat may not be the fastest, but it’s one of the most consistent. In today’s 15- to 20-mph winds and 3- to 4-foot swells with 8-foot holes, he put his experience to use, running solidly in second place with driver Greg DiRenzo and keeping the 32-foot Doug Wright, Phase 05, with owner/driver Al Penta and throttleman Jay Muller, within striking distance.

“We were feeling out how hard everybody wanted to go,” Beckley said. “I told Greg, ‘We’re going to have to do things people wouldn’t want to do if we want to try to win.’”

When the race started, Phase 05 and Beckley, who was sponsored by Cape Haze Marina in Englewood Beach, ran close together. As the race wore on, Phase 05 pulled ahead slightly, but Beckley watched the single-engine V-bottoms in the SVX class and tucked in behind them on the roughest legs of the 4.1-mile course, letting them lead the way and knock the tops off the waves.

“With a half lap to go, Beckley caught and passed his good friend Muller to take the victory. Because the OPA had made today’s race worth double in points compared to yesterday, Beckley’s and DiRenzo’s combined first today and third place yesterday were worth more than Nick and Austin Scafidi’s combined first yesterday and third today in the 32-foot Doug Wright, Shadow Pirate, giving Beckley and DiRenzo the Super Stock world championship. After the race, Beckley said Scafidi bowed to him in respect.

Beckley won the title at the same event a couple of years ago, but said that this year’s victory was the most meaningful. “It really does mean a lot,” Beckley said. “I was crying when all the texts were coming in.”

If Beckley’s win was the most popular in the OPA pits, Lilly and Smith making history as the first in-cockpit partnership to win two championships in two boats in the same day was a close second. First the duo ran its 42-foot Fountain, Tug It/LSB, in the Vee Extreme class against throttleman Anthony Smith and driver Ed Smith (no relation) in the 39-foot Fountain, Knucklehead Instigator. In yesterday’s calmer conditions, the Smiths took the checkered flag, but Tug It/LSB ran well and could keep up with the faster, more aerodynamic shorter boat.

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The Tug It/LSB team is hoping for a revival of the Supe Vee class. 

From the start of today’s race, the conditions proved to be an equalizer as Knucklehead Instigator stood straight up in the rough water early in the race and dropped out soon after. Lilly and Smith couldn’t believe their luck because they were having engine issues of their own. Smith had lost communication with the monitoring system for his boat’s port engine. Once the team knew it had run enough distance to claim the title, Smith and Lilly decided to head in and preserve the equipment.

“We decided it was better to go get in the other boat,” Smith said. In the ProStock Vee class, the duo had dominated for most of the 2019 season, winning all but one race. Since they won yesterday, Lilly and Smith only needed to finish on the podium today to take their second championship.

Throughout the race, LSB Racing/Hurricane of Awesomeness kept the 30-foot Phantom, Nobody’s Business, within reach, but it was taking a toll on the 29-foot Extreme V-bottom. A deck hatch ripped off after the team stuffed partially into a wave. “You couldn’t help but stuff the boat all the time,” Smith said. “From the dogleg to turn 3 and 4, it was nasty.”

The team started talking about backing off to make sure it finished, but then Lilly and Smith noticed they were gaining on Nobody’s Business. “We started making up some ground and he said, ‘Take the turn however you want,’” Lilly said. “That’s when our badass came out.” LSB beat Nobody’s Business by a couple of feet at the finish to cap a dominant 2019 season.

“The guys in that Nobody’s Business boat, they did an awesome job,” Smith said.

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Saris Racing bested tough competition to claim the Class 4 title.

Reached at his home in Maryland, Art Lilly who had been watching the live stream, said, “It’s one of the proudest moments of my life. I’ve done a lot of racing, but I’ve never won two world championships in one day.”

Also winning back to back days was Brian Forehand in the 29-foot Outerlimits, Marker 17 Marine, which earned the team a world title. Second today went to Steve Miklos and Steve Furman in the 30-foot Extreme, Sun Print, followed by the 30-foot Phantom, Sheriff Lobo.

Because of the rougher conditions today, OPA officials grouped the boats in Class 4, 6 and 7 in the day’s first race with the faster boats in Class 4 starting first. Picking up where they left off yesterday, Jason and Johnny Saris and their 30-foot Cobra, Saris Racing, took the lead from the green flag and pounded their way through 11 laps on the course to take the world title.

“We run well in rough water,” Johnny Saris said. “The problem we had was that it was very confused. On the front straight, it would be a following, then quartering and head sea.”

He said everyone in Class 4 ran smart for the conditions. “We all ran really hard for about three laps and then everybody had settled into a rhythm,” Saris said. “Everybody was really smart. Stancombe gave us plenty of room. Simmons gave us plenty of room.”

Michael Stancombe might have had the toughest ride of the day as the throttleman for the 38-foot Fountain, Unleashed, which finished second in Class 4. He stood between the bolsters and throttled the boat while the owner of the boat, Shannon Penn, drove. Just getting to the race had been an uphill battle when the team blew one of its Mercury Racing HP525 EFIs testing on Wednesday. They rebuilt the motor and had it on the dyno at Innovation Marine on Friday before rolling into Englewood just in time for that evening’s driver’s meeting. After finishing on the podium yesterday Stancombe took a conservative approach today. “We knew it was going to be a battle of attrition today,” he said.

Another Class 4 team, Team Speedster, which was running a 32-foot Speedster, pulled out after the driver, Kyle Dieteven, was knocked out when the team hit hard after falling into a hole at the south end of the course. They continued for a lap or two, but throttleman Dan MacNamara decided to pull off to keep his crew safe.

In Class 6, Pete and Rich Smith picked up their third world title with a victory today in their 26-foot Joker, Smith Brothers CRC. They placed second yesterday and knew they had to keep Deception behind them to take the title. The math worked out when Liquid Addiction took second today with Deception taking third.

“We ran hard on the first lap,” Rich Smith said. “We were running 38 mph. The course got worse as the day went on and we didn’t want to bust up anything once we had a good lead.”

For a closer look at today’s action, check out the slideshow above.

The heroes of the day were the crews campaigning in 21- and 22-foot single outboard-powered boats in Class 7. The 22-foot Velocity Punisher took the victory today, followed by Evil Ways and Shadow Pirate. While the official results were not available as of this writing, it would appear that the win yesterday and third today should give the world championship in the class to Shadow Pirate.

After some breakouts yesterday, the Class 5 title will need to be decided by the officials. Today’s winners’ Rob and Vinnie Winoski in their 30-foot Phantom, Bronx Phantom, put on a dominant performance. The 30-foot Superboat, Shoreline Plumbing, ran second for much of the race.

In Class 3, OPA president Ed “Smitty” Smith took the throttles of his 38-foot Fountain, Wazzup Racing, with Boomer Smith driving against Louis Giaconteri’s 35-foot Fountain, Strictly Business, and the 35-foot Fountain #Living Life/Team Woody. The 30-foot Phantom powered by a Mercury Racing 565, jumped to the early lead, but fell out with mechanical issues. Wazzup took the win in dominating fashion, but not the world title since the boat didn’t run yesterday. #LivingLife/Team Woody should have accumulated enough points today to claim the championship.

In the final race of the day, the lap counts were cut in half when the competitors in the Unlimited and Super Cat classes took to the water. Miss GEICO fell out early with a vibration issue and Hugh Fuller and Rich Wyatt ran basically unopposed in the 50-foot Mystic, dfYoung, to the championship in Unlimited. The 40-foot Platinum, Scudera Cazzani, finished second.

In Super Cat, owner/driver Chris Grant and throttleman Billy Moore moved out to an early lead in the 42-foot MTI, CJ Grant, over Aaron Hope and Anthony Smith in the 38-foot Skater, AMH Construction, but as the race went on, CJ Grant’s ballast moved in the boat, and Moore couldn’t keep the bow down.

“Once it went away I just couldn’t get the boat to handle enough, so I couldn’t get the boat to maintain the speed,” Moore said. On the last lap, AMH got around CJ Grant for its second victory of the weekend and the world championship.

Basically speaking for all the competitors in the 75-boat fleet, Moore said, “It could be a lot worse. We could be swimming right now.”

Related story: OPA Worlds Day 1 —No Surprises