While yesterday’s Super Boat International season-opener technically happened off Englewood Beach, Fla., its inaugural Charlotte Harbor Grand Prix attracted a solid 30-boat field to the new venue, which drew rave reviews among the competitors. Considering that last year’s SBI season-opener in Biloxi, Miss., pulled in just 12 boats, it’s fair to say that the 2014 SBI offshore racing season is off to a good start with what was for all intents and purposes a “flat-water” event.
Stihl bested a five-boat fleet to take the Superboat-class win in yesterday’s SBI Charlotte Harbor season-opener. Photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Of particular note was the fleet size in several SBI classes. The largest of these was Superboat Stock—with six entries—in which owner/driver Robert Nunziato and throttleman Dan Lawrence prevailed running The Hulk/Redline Oil, their 32-foot, outboard-engine-powered Doug Wright catamaran took the win. Nunziato and Lawrence led the field from start to finish.
“It was a really cool event—we couldn’t have been happier with the new venue, the race promoter and how well organized it was, especially for a first-time event,” said Lawrence. “We could walk from the dry pits to the wet pits. We tried three different props in testing on Saturday, and our crew chief just walked them over to us.
“SBI has really stepped up this season,” he added. “We actually have a Stock-class tech guy (inspector) and we think that’s great.”
Equally impressed with the new venue was driver/owner J.R Noble of Stihl, who teamed up with his new throttleman Mark Kowalski to take the Superboat-class win in their 38-foot Skater cat. For Noble and Kowalski, it was the first time they had manned the cockpit together.
“We joked that the only seat time we had together was in the car between the airport and the race site, said Noble. “It was like we had been racing together for 10 years—it got better and better as the race went on. When you do your first race together, you don’t necessarily come in with expectations of winning, so we were a little surprised everything went as well as it did.
“The spectator turnout was great,” he added. “There was a big spectator fleet off the course, and a lot of spectators on the beach.”
For the Superboat Unlimited class-team of owner/driver Tor Staubo and throttleman John Tomlinson, it was the first time they had shared the cockpit of Gasse, their 48-foot Marine Technology, Inc., cat since SBI Sarasota, Fla., event more than a year ago. But that didn’t stop them from besting defending Unlimited-class world champion Miss GEICO (gone before the fast lap was complete with a drive shaft failure), CMS and Lucas Oil/SilverHook, the only V-bottom in the class.
“CMS got to the first turn ahead of us at the start so we had to back off,” said Tomlinson. “They had a seven- to eleven-second lead on us—we could get closer to them by end of the straights but they would pull away coming out of the turns. Near the end of the race, they started stumbling coming out of the turns. I radioed the crew and said, ‘Watch this, CMI is running out of gas.’ And that’s exactly what happened—they were starving for fuel—and we passed them.”
That the Superboat Unlimited, Superboat and Superboat Stock classes all started together made for plenty of action on the course throughout the race. “We passing boats—and getting passed,” said Noble.
Tomlinson agreed. “It was pretty wild,” he said “We lapped a lot boats during the race.”
Picking up where they left off, the Superboat Vee-class defending world champion Snowy Mountain Brewery Outerlimits team prevailed over four other V-bottoms, most notably the tenacious and hard-charging Sun Print 29-foot Extreme, in the Port Charlotte event.
Next up on the SBI schedule is the Cocoa Beach, Fla., race May 16-18
SBI Port Charlotte Grand Prix Results
3. Lucas Oil/SilverHook
3. Cleveland Construction
1. Snowy Mountain Brewery
2. Sun Print
1. The Hulk/Redline Oil
2 Top Starz Energy Drink
3. Porta Products
Manufacturer Production 3
1. Black Pearl
2. 2nd Amendment
.3 The Developer
Manufacturer Production 4
2. In Tone/Crazy Chicken
3. Two Cruel