Of all the races on the annual Offshore Powerboat Association schedule, the Lake Hopatcong Grand Prix is the most intimate and in some ways the most beloved. The small and typically calm body of water in New Jersey is ideal for Bracket-class racing, especially in the Bracket 700 ranks where the single outboard engine-powered boats are small and the competition is spirited. Last weekend’s Hopatcong event, for example, attracted 12 Bracket 700 teams with The Punisher, Goofin’ Around and Hamma Sticks finishing first through third.
The Punisher team bested 11 Bracket 700-class teams to take the checkered flag last weekend at the Lake Hopatcong Grand Prix in New Jersey. Photos by Tim Sharkey copyright Sharkey Images.
Yet the event is not limited to Bracket 700-class racers—far from it, in fact. This time around, the 30-boat OPA fleet included five teams competed in the Bracket 600 ranks and three ran for top honors in Bracket 400. A trio of teams even turned out in the Stock V category.
This year’s event also featured action from classes including Jersey Speed Skiffs and Garveys from the Jersey Shore Boat Racing organization.
As it happens, the Lake Hopatcong Grand Prix is in the backyard of Jay Muller, the renowned longtime throttleman of the Super Cat-class WHM Motorsports team. Muller’s sons, Chase and Jax, cut their teeth on the lake in the Bracket 700 class and gradually have been entering Super Cat in their father’s 40-foot Motion cat dubbed Wicked.
Having worked their way up in the Bracket 700 ranks, Chase and Jax Muller have entered the Super Cat class.
For those reasons and more, Muller puts his heart and soul into helping organize the Lake Hopatcong event.
“Jay and the entire Muller family and volunteers knocked it out of the park with this year’s race,” said photographer Tim Sharkey, who captured last weekend’s action and even brought his own new, home-built Bullet 130 SV sportboat for the Friday fun run and demos on Saturday and Sunday. “They brought in a live band each night and made purchasing food easy and drink easy with meal tickets. And Jay did a great job of attracting sponsors.
Some 30 teams mixed it up last weekend on the waters of Lake Hopatcong.
“The security Jay had walking the docks all night was phenomenal, “he continued. “I spoke with the security guy after spotting him multiple times up and down the docks with a flashlight. He told me he checks for loose lines and fenders, as well as keeping an eye on the place overall.”
For Muller, such welcome touches are just part of the Lake Hopatcong program. And as usual, he credited others for the event’s success.
Classes from the Jersey Shore Boat Racing organization provided additional entertainment for the fans.
“The OPA staff did a fantastic job and the Lake Forest Yacht Club is a great venue where you can see the whole course as well as meet the teams and have fun ,food and drinks,” he said. “And I want to send a special thanks to all the sponsors and everyone who attended.”
A veteran Bracket 400-class offshore racer, Johnny Saris provided perhaps the best explanation of the event’s appeal in the Offshore Powerboat Racing community.
Johnny Saris claimed victory in two Bracket classes last weekend.
“It’s just a really fun, low-stress place to be,” said Saris, who also ran in the Bracket 600 ranks this weekend and earned two checkered flags. “Everybody is friendly and helpful. You can watch the whole race from the beach. Everything is walking distance.
“If Point Pleasant Beach is ‘Daytona’ for its history and Michigan City is Laguna Seca for the level of its facility, then Lake Hopatcong is your local dirt track. It is a down-home track in the best way possible.”
Photographer Tim Sharkey ran his Bullet SV 130 in demonstrations during the weekend. Photo courtesy/copyright Jenni Lee/OPA Safety and Rescue.
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