Between a naked swimmer forcing a late-contest race cancellation and a dust-up over craning in a pair of extra safety boats provided by Cleveland Construction team owner Mark Small, yesterday’s Super Boat International National Championships in Clearwater, Fla., may go down as the most unusual day of racing in the event’s 10-year history. And among all the extracurricular theatrics, there were even a few good battles on the racecourse.
WHM Motorsports took top honors yesterday in SBI’s Superboat class. Photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Take the Superboat Vee-class race, the first contest of the day on the flat-water oval course. For much of the race, veteran offshore racer Brian Forehand and his rookie teammate Vinnie Diorio in the Marker 17 Marine Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats V-bottom led defending 2017 national and world champions Brit Lilly and Ron Umlandt in their LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness/Rev-X Oil Extreme V-bottom. Near the end of the race, the two boats bumped and Marker 17 Marine either fell off plane with engine problems or got passed by LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness, depending on the members of each team you ask. Lilly and Umlandt went on to take the checkered flag and their third consecutive national title.
“What a long battle,” Lilly said. “We have been working on our setup, especially improving the boat’s CG, and we were able to get it done. We’re national and Florida state champions again. I just can’t believe it.
“We’re going to keeping working as we head to Key West,” he added, then laughed. “Maybe if we can find some more speed we won’t have to work so hard.”
The SBI Nationals kicked off with a duel between the LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness and Marker 17 Marine Superboat Vee-class teams.
In the Production 3 class, which ran concurrently in the first race of the day with the Superboat Vee group, The Developer/WIX Filters 38-foot Fountain took the victory after jumping out to an early lead and never letting up. In Production 4, JRJ Construction/Team Woody started the race with the lead, but the Two Cruel team stayed close in its 30-foot Phantom and ended up passing the 28-foot canopied LaveyCraft to take the checkered flag. The Developer team earned the P3 national championship, while Team Woody took home the P4 title.
In the always-competitive Superboat Stock class, CR Racing teammates Casey Boaz and Rob Unnerstall enjoyed their time in Clearwater and picked up the victory after jumping out to an early lead.
CR Racing finished in first place in Clearwater but FJ Propeller took the Superboat Stock-class national championship.
“We had a fun weekend—Clearwater is a nice venue,” Boaz said. “We didn’t do anything special for Sunday’s race. We just went out there and ran like we always do. When the boat is running good and we pick the right propeller, the boat is very fast. At one point it seemed like Shadow Pirate was going to catch us, but we were able to keep them behind us. It was a little rough out there, but not too bad.”
Following the Stock-class race, it appeared that the FJ Propeller team earned enough points to claim the national championship. With Jimmie Harrison on the wheel and Jay Price filling in for the team’s normal throttleman—Gary Ballough, who was racing one of the Victory Team boats in the Unlimited class on Sunday—the FJ Propeller Doug Wright ran a solid race to
“Jimmie was elated with the championship,” Ballough said. “He had a great time racing with Jay, too. Jay Price is a great friend and competitor. He is so approachable and brings so much experience to the table that I knew he and Jimmie would be fine in the boat together. We don’t have much to do to the boat before Key West, but we’ll be ready to mix it up there this year. Jimmie really wants to the No. 1.”
Although the Superboat class ended up being one team short when Cleveland Construction withdrew on Sunday morning after two safety boats it had hired out to the Fast Response crew weren’t allowed to be craned into the water, the race lived up to the expectations with teams swapping places in some tight competition. A crash between M-Con and Pro Floors Racing NZ-1 left Pro Floors MTI upside down (the cockpit crew of Wayne Valder and Chris Hanley was OK), and a wire-to-wire victory by the WHM Motorsports Skater Powerboats catamaran driven by owner Billy Mauff and throttled by Jay Muller.
Mauff and Muller won the national championships with the first-place finish.
“We spanked them pretty good today—I needed that, I almost forgot how to dominate like that,” said an ecstatic Mauff, who is looking forward to the world championships in November in Key West, Fla. “Now we can party in the lovely town of Clearwater—ain’t nothing better than the Sandpearl Resort. We tested Saturday and had a couple of headaches so I wasn’t too confident heading into Sunday, but we came out strong and everything went well. It was a good feeling since the last time I won here was in 2008. The racing in Clearwater hasn’t been good to Billy Mauff—the alcohol has been, but not the boat racing.”
Mauff pointed out that it’s not always about winning.
“I’ve always said that boat racing is about having fun,” Mauff added. “When the fun meter goes away, the guy writing the checks goes away. For 40 years, my fun meter has been pegged. It has went away from time to time, but I’ve had a great run and I feel like ‘The Plumber’ still has a lot of fun ahead.”
The defending Superboat-class national and world champion Performance Boat Center team of throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Myrick Coil never was a factor.
“We started on the outside since we won the previous race and they invert the next race start,” said Tomlinson, who also throttled the Victory team boat in the Superboat Unlimited class. “So after holding lanes in the first turn we came out fourth and had to work our way through, which is hard to do, and once we got into second WHM was gone.”
Miss GEICO ran away from the Superboat Unlimited-class pack and exited Clearwater with a national championship.
Saving the weirdest moment of the day for last, the Superboat Unlimited-class race saw the Miss GEICO cockpit crew of throttleman Steve Curtis and driver James Sheppard grab the lead early and extend it substantially. By the time they had completed lap No. 8, the team had a 42-second lead and Curtis had backed down the boat to 75 to 80 percent throttle, according to Miss GEICO team manager Gary Stray.
There would be no ninth lap, at least officially. Reportedly hopping off a nearby sailboat, a naked swimmer strayed onto the course (he was later taken into custody by local law enforcement officials) and forced the rest of the race to be cancelled.
“That was a first for me,” said Stray, who paused to chuckle. “I have been racing for 30 years, and that definitely was a first.
For more action from yesterday’s SBI races check out the slideshow above.
“I think the race was pretty much done and dusted at that point, though,” he added. “We were adding five to six seconds per lap at that point. Once we back off like that, the worry for me goes down—I have telemetry so I’m watching what happens at all times during every race. They threw the checkered flag on lap nine and race control started yelling for us all to shut it down immediately just as we were lapping the Victory boat.”
Look for official 2018 National Championship results as they become available on the SBI website.