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SBI Key West Worlds Day 3: Saving The Best For Last—And First

Thanks to longtime debates over spec power and a steady longtime decline in racer interest, Super Boat International’s Superboat Stock class has taken a beating in recent years. But today’s Stock-class contest—the first race of the day—of the SBI Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla., proved that with the right teams in the field, the class is as exciting as any under the SBI umbrella. And with a trio of 32-foot twin outboard engine-powered Doug Wright catamarans—Shadow PirateFJ Propeller and CR Racing—the right teams definitely were present.

keywest17 day3 geico

MIss GEICO passed Wake Effects and never looked back en route to a 2017 SBI Unlimited-class world championship. All photos by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix

Highlights of the race included three different leaders and multiple lead changes. But depending on your perspective, the Stock-class event’s finest moment was either Shadow Pirate recovering from a hard spin in turn No. 3 and coming back to claim first or FJ Propeller stealing second place from CR Racing at the finish line.

The final results had Shadow Pirate finishing the three-race week a couple of points and change ahead of its competitors and claiming the 2017 Stock-class world championship.

“We are on top of the world,” said an overly excited Nick Scafidi, who shared the cockpit with his son and driver, Austin, on Sunday after Austin teamed up with throttleman Scott Porta on Friday because Nick had the flu. “We were propped tall today and our top speed on the back straightaway was great. We were hitting 109 mph out there even though it was a little rough. It was a satisfying win to be able to come back like we did. Our competitor, FJ Propeller throttleman Gary Ballough, who has more seat time than all of us combined, was a complete gentleman after the race. He came up to me, shook my hand and said, ‘You’re an animal man.’

“Because of the boat’s bottom design we can turn it pretty sharp, we can also air it out because there’s nothing violent about the Doug Wright’s landing,” he added. “When we spun out we came into the turn and the bow dug in a little. FJ Propeller was right there so we tried to get out of Gary’s way—it wouldn’t be fair for us to ruin his day—and we lost control. Fortunately we got back on it and started to gain ground pretty quick. The kid definitely had the turns figured out today. I really love racing with him.”

Sunday’s race was the Scafidis’ 18th race together and they enjoyed every minute of it. Another father-and-son team—Allen Lawn Care and Landscaping’s Bill and Andrei Allen—completed the three-race sweep in the Manufacturer Production P4 class to claim the world championship in its 30-foot Phantom.

“It was a little bumpy today but we were right where we needed to be with the setup,” said Bill Allen, who has enjoyed racing alongside his 19-year-old son for the second year in a row. “The competition was tight with Reinforcer—those guys are good. Our spotters did a great job for us today and we worked really well together.”

Check out the slideshow above for more images of today’s SBI Key West Offshore World Championships.

Andrei said it’s fun racing with his dad as his teammate. He also said they are likely moving to a different class for 2018, either Superboat Vee or Superboat Stock.

“Sometimes we don’t say much to each other and other times we really have to communicate, especially when the bigger classes pass by,” Andrei said. “We had a great season and are looking forward to progressing in the sport. We’ve met some of the best people through offshore racing. It’s like a big family and everyone pitches in to help each other.”

In the Manufacturer Production P3 class, the Second Amendment USA team of Karl Steger and Neil Wobbe earned the world championship in the winner-take-all race ahead of The Developer. The win was Wobbe’s ninth world championship in the 36-foot Spectre catamaran.

“This win was a little more special than some of the others because we also won the triple crown as division, national and world champions,” Wobbe said. “For some reason that triple crown has evaded us for several years. The conditions weren’t as bad as we thought they were going to be out there but we still had to be aware and make sure we finished the race. A winner-take-all race on Sunday is always fun. Now we have to get ready for the OPA championships in Englewood (Fla.) next week.”

Heading into the second race of the day with two first-place results this week, the LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness/ cockpit duo of driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Ron Umlandt was the team to beat in the Superboat Vee class. But that didn’t mean anything to the father-and-son team of Steve and Stephen Kildahl in Boatfloater.com, who grabbed an early lead and, despite several hard challenges from LSB/ on the leg between the first and second turns, was able to hold on—until in the later laps Boatfloater.com almost side by side with LSB—spun out in turn No. 1. The two Extreme V-bottoms collided but both regrouped and went right back to racing.

Lilly and Umlandt grabbed the lead and never let it go, going three for three this week and claiming their second SBI world—and national—championship in as many years.

“That was some really good racing,” said Lilly. “We picked the right props and were able to run maximum rpm. We were still able to run 90 mph in the rough stuff.

“This is a dream come true, and it was a real team effort with our families and crew,” he continued. “Our engine builder, Joey Griffin, flew down here and we rebuilt the drive on our boat with the parts from another drive—I can promise, our throttleman isn’t easy on them.”

Running unopposed in the Superboat Extreme class as they did in the first two races of the week, the AMH Construction/Instigator team of driver Aaron Hope and throttleman Anthony Smith lapped the Superboat Vee-class fleet a few times on its way to another world title.

“That win was for Joe Sgro,” said the clearly emotion-wrought AMH Construction/Instigator team owner Peter Meyer, a longtime friend of the fellow Extreme-class racer and Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats principal who died in a boating accident on Thursday.

To call the current Superboat-class Miss GEICO team a British invasion wouldn’t be entirely incorrect, other than that the outfit’s longtime crew chief Gary Stray, throttleman Steve Curtis, driver James Sheppard and program consultant Ian Hawkins, while all Brits, aren’t invaders. But don’t let their charming English accents fool you, they’re wickedly competitive as they proved with a strong first-place finish in Friday’s contest after finishing a disappointing fifth on Wednesday.

CRC/Sunlight Supply had a remote chance—if they won and Miss GEICO and Wake Effects finished way down in the order—of claiming a world title today. But for all intents and purposes the Unlimited-class contest was a two-boat race for the championship.

The 48-foot Wake Effects MTI catamaran piloting pair of driver Rusty Rahm and throttleman Jeff Harris grabbed an early lead, but Curtis and Sheppard chased them down and grabbed the lead roughly midway through the race. Almost immediately after the 47-foot Miss GEICO catamaran pulled ahead, Wake Effects slowed dramatically with a mechanical issue. Rahm and Harris ran for several laps at low speed, but eventually pulled off the course.

“I feel relieved, most of all,” Stray said. “We had some struggles over the past two years and we worked and worked to get things right. You know, even when you go out and lose races you put as much work into them as the ones you win. We felt like we’ve really turned a corner on our engine package and Steve and James ran a flawless race today. We had a plan going into it. We know our competitors are squeezing their engines so we said, ‘Let’s stay on their hip, maybe be two or three seconds behind, and see if they break.’ That was the game plan, and that’s how it panned out.

“In moments when you are trying to make all this stuff work and it’s not happening, you start to doubt yourself a little bit,” he added. “I knew we had such a fantastic team and that we just had to try to keep everybody’s chins up. It’s easy to win, and hard to lose—that’s where you see what a real team is. Today was the fruit of our labor, and it was phenomenal.”

The final race of the day, which saw six Superboat-class teams start, didn’t produce drama in the same way the Superboat Stock- and Superboat Vee-classes did. But it did allow the Performance Boat Center/Jimmy John’s team to showcase its dominance of the field. Performance Boat Center throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Myrick Coil led from start to finish in the Sterling Performance Engines-powered Skater 388 catamaran. Fellow Sterling power/Skater cat stable-mates WHM Motorsports and STIHL gave chase, but the Performance Boat Center team proved too much to overcome.

For Tomlinson and Coil, claiming their second consecutive world title came down to patience and course/conditions management.

“We knew we had to beat WHM to win the championship,” Tomlinson said. “He got a good run into turn No. 1 at the start, but between turn No. 1 and turn No. 2 we were able to keep the boat in the water better and take over the racecourse. It was getting rougher and rougher starting around lap eight so we tightened it up. But I could see our gap ahead of WHM was changing, so we had to run it hard again.

“It got bumpier and bumpier going in the harbor and we had to manage that and try not to make any mistakes,” he continued. “But WHM definitely was coming on, and it would have been interesting to see what happened if they’d had a few more laps.”

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