When it comes to “clubs” in the go-fast powerboating world, few if any are more exclusive than the unofficial one open only to members who have posted speeds of 190 mph or more in an open-cockpit boats during the annual Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Central Missouri. That elite group has just three members: John Tomlinson, who’s did it once in a 38-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran (197 mph) and once in a 36-foot Skater catamaran (195 mph); Greg Olson who accomplished it (192 mph) in a 33-foot Eliminator Boats catamaran; and Chip Romer who pulled it off (191 mph) in a 38-foot Skater catamaran.
Captured here during last month’s GLOC Performance Boat Challenge, Garth Tagge and Jim Melley will compete in the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout for the seventh time at the end of this month. Photo courtesy/copyright Jeff Helmkamp.
Using the same 36-Skater cat powered by twin 1,500-hp Smith Power engines (recently reworked and “super-tuned” by Carson Brummett) he ran to a remarkable 188 mph—good enough for second place—with driver Jim Melley at last month’s GLOC Performance Boat Challenge in Oklahoma, Garth Tagge is hoping to join that club during the Lake of the Ozarks event at the end of the month.
“Our goal is to break 190,” said Tagge, who owns and throttles the boat “When you go 188, what else do you shoot for?”
To give themselves a better chance at achieving their goal, Tagge and Melley are bringing a second set of propellers to the shootout. In addition to the Mercury CNC 16-1/2” x 37” 15-degree rake angle wheels tuned by Brett Anderson of BBLADE Professional Propellers, they’ll be taking a pair of forged Hering 16-1/2” x 39” 16-degree rake angle props they purchased from their “good friend” Vern Gilbert at West Coast Drive Service and had reworked by Mike Eggleston at Frank and Jimmie’s Propeller.
“It was our first time working with Mike and he took very good care of us,” said Tagge. “We did a little testing with them last weekend and we liked what we saw
“Running both propeller sets during the shootout would definitely be my goal,” he continued. “We know what the 37s will do—we learned that at GLOC. Obviously, we turn a little higher rpm with the 37s that we do with the 39s. It’s all going to be a function of weather and conditions.”
Though he did replace the MSD ignitions on his engines after the Oklahoma speed contest, Tagge has no plans for additional work on his catamaran’s powerplants. However, in a move toward greater reliability and mechanical simplicity, they did replace the cat’s Huber 1550 transmissions with crash boxes.
Tagge purchased his 36-footer in 2002. The upcoming shootout will be his seventh, and during the years the cat’s top speeds in the boat have risen from 152 mph to 178 mph. His approach to the shootout—and speed on the water in general—is simple. He and Melley start with handling, and then work on speed incremental speed increases.
“You make the boat handle first, then you add power,” Tagge explained. “You want to be safe. You want to come home. I have always focused on to improve the handling characteristics before the speed. When you are going 140 mph, the boat tracks on a different part of its hull than it does at 160, 170, 180 mph. It rides differently. It feels different. We are always analyzing what’s going on in the boat, and when you do that you create a library in your mind so you can analyze what happened and track back to aerodynamic or hydrodynamic reasons.
“People think you just turn up the power and run fast,” he added. “Well, not if you want to run safely. I want to come home for dinner. You start with handling.”