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OPA Worlds Update: One Fine Friday

The view of Orange Beach from the Geico Cigarette.

Spent the day on the Geico/AMF paceboat, a 38-foot-long Cigarette Top Gun (Lip-Ship version, of course) watching the first round of the Offshore Powerboat Association 2010 World Championships in Orange Beach, Ala. And as jaded as I’ve probably become in 15-plus years of covering go-fast boat races, poker runs and so on, I have to say that this was one fine day on the water. Here are my highlights:

Best Race: Super V Light, and it’s not even arguable. The five-boat fleet kept it really close in smooth, fast conditions from the start, but Typhoon ended up first over Time Bandit. Still, Time Bandit was right there at the end, and the rest of the Super V Light fleet wasn’t far behind. Big props to the Octane team, by the way, which woke up with mechanical issues that threatened to send it home and still managed to finish.

Most Dominant Performance: OK, I have two. The first is Amsoil in Super Cat Light, which opened a can of you-know-what on Infinity—like Amsoil a Skater 368 with twin Mercury Racing 525EFI engines—driven and throttled by a pair of good-natured Norwegians (who, in the interest of full disclosure, bought the entire Amsoil team and me dinner last night). By the fifth lap, Amsoil had a 30-second lead on the Infinity.

Driver Marc Granet on the deck of MIss Geico idling back to the docks.

Second up? The Miss Geico 50-foot Mystic doing it’s best not to repeatedly lap the entire fleet. Yes, the cat is turbine-powered. Yes, it’s clearly in a class of its own and has no competition. Guess what? It still takes a ton of skill to run and Scotty Begovich and Marc Granet do it consistently well and know how to put on a show. And did I mention that they are unfailingly professional and courteous to every fan who approaches them at the docks? Bravo, gentlemen.

Best Celebrity Moment: Once again, I have two (in order of sequence), which has to be at least somewhat unusual for Orange Beach. Last night, Travis Loftland, the driver of Time Bandit, poured me a beer during the OPA party at Happy Harbor. Loftland is—or was, if you follow the papers—a deckhand on the Discovery Channel television show “Deadliest Catch.” The Hillstrand brothers, who were his captains on the show, which I’ve watched relentlessly since Day 1, sponsor the race boat.

Second celebrity moment: On the pace boat for the second race today with OPA official Ron Polli, boat driver extraordinaire Steve Kenney, a Geico representative and me was Tico Torres, the drummer for Bon Jovi for 23 years. (The band is performing a free concert tonight in nearby Gulf Shores.) What a cool, unpretentious guy—and being from Los Angeles I feel fully qualified to judge coolness and pretense.

Surrounded by new friends after a ride on Geico Cigarette is Tico Flories (center) of Bon Jovi.

None of the final chapters in the 2010 OPA Worlds is written, as there are two more races on Sunday and the results are determined by what happened today and what will happen then. Tomorrow, there’s a poker run and I’m looking forward to bumping into Giselle. Hey, a guy can dream and I’m relatively sure that Tom Brady has work outside of Orange Beach this weekend.

Stay tuned.