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Unlimited Class Going Big For SBI Nationals

Heading into next weekend’s Super Boat International National Championships in Clearwater, Fla., six Superboat Unlimited-class teams are signed up to compete. If all registered teams make it to the Clearwater contest, it will be the largest Unlimited-class fleet to date in a season that has averaged a solid turnout of four boats per race. Only the Superboat class, SBI’s premiere category, with an average of 4.75 boats per race has had a better showing this year.

Here’s a quick look at the storylines shaping up for next weekend’s National Championships in SBI’s fastest and most powerful class:

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Cat Can Do/American Ethanol is one of six Unlimited class teams registered to compete in Clearwater. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

• With three first-place finishes in four races so far this season, the points-leading Wake Effects team has to be the odds-on the favorite heading into Clearwater. Behind the wheel in his rookie season, Rusty Rham has proved to be a quick study alongside veteran throttleman Jeff Harris in the team’s 48-foot MTI catamaran. It’s hard to see them failing to the take the 2016 Unlimited-class national title.

• Coming off a convincing win at the most recent SBI race in Mentor, Ohio, the Cat Can Do/American Ethanol team of throttleman Keith Holmes and driver Ed Smith are looking formidable in their 40-foot Skater cat with 1,700-hp Sterling Performance engines. You might even call them “the team to beat”—if not for defending Superboat Unlimited-class World Champions throttleman Randy Scism and driver Bob Bull in CMS, a 52-foot MTI catamaran powered by Mercury Racing 1650 engines. Schedule conflicts and commitments have kept the dynamic MTI duo off the SBI circuit since the second race of the season in Marathon, Fla. But they’re back and—based on past performance—always are a contender to take the checkered flag.

• Also off the course since Marathon, the Team CRC—Sunlight Supply pairing of throttleman Mike DeFrees and driver Gary Ballough are heading to Clearwater with their 48-foot MTI—the former Gasse raceboat—powered by Mercury Racing 1650 engines. The team comes into Clearwater with second- and third-place finishes in Cocoa Beach and Marathon.

For a quick look at the Unlimited-class teams registered for the 2016 SBI National Championships, check out the slideshow above. Photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix and Yvonne Aleman/Speedonthewater.com

• On the course in every race this season, throttleman Nigel Hook and driver Jay Johnson are in for the Clearwater contest in Lucas Oil/SilverHook, their 48-foot SilverHook—the only V-bottom in the class—powered by Mercury Racing 1550 engines. Hook has long maintained that his 48-foot mono-hull can be competitive with the catamarans in the right (i.e. moderately to severely rough) conditions, though such conditions are unlikely for Clearwater in early October. Still, stranger things have happened, as the saying goes, and no Unlimited-class team has shown—year in and year out—more dedication to the sport.

• The Miss GEICO team of throttleman Scott Begovich and driver Marc Granet are hoping for a reversal of some rather miserable fortune this season in their 44-foot Victory catamaran with 1,650-hp engines from its in-house engine program. The team finished and won two Offshore Powerboat Association races this season, as well as the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix, but broke down in two of three SBI races it entered. In the one race (Marathon) Miss GEICO struggled to finish, the team took fourth place ahead of Lucas Oil/SilverHook, which withdrew midway through the contest with a mechanical issue. But word out of the Miss GEICO camp is there is powerful cause for optimism in Clearwater.

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