Offshore Powerboat Association (OPA) proudly traces its racing roots back to the glory days of the legendary Benihana Offshore Grand Prix some 40 years ago at Point Pleasant, a time when powerboats ran a course that stretched 200 miles from Fire Island, N.Y., to Seaside Heights, N.J.
Fast forward today. With Ed “Smitty” Smith at the helm, Augie “The Godfather” Pensa (Jersey Boyz Crew), NJOPRA and Twisted Sisters, the Brick-based 2013 organization boasts streamlined courses and an eight race series spanning northeast and central venues.
Last week, I talked with Smitty about some “new turns” OPA plans to navigate along their already tried-and-true course this year. Those strategies were introduced this past February during their Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet at the Oyster Creek Inn in Galloway Township: they will be initiated on the upcoming first stop of the OPA series this weekend.
“The Awards in February gets everybody pumped up early for the [upcoming]season,” he explained. “The National Champs from the previous year are crowned, as well as special awards presented.”
One of two perpetual awards, the Godfather Cup (designed and established by former racer Augie Pensa) went to John Woolley and Josh Wall of Lightning Jacks for demonstrating goodwill, camaraderie, professionalism and sportsmanship throughout the year, while the Stuggots Cup was awarded to the team that scored the highest number of points regardless of class: Ray Contreras and Anthony Smith of PhoenixParts.com.
Anthony Smith stepped into the record books for his stellar 2012 achievement and rocked the offshore world in an unprecedented performance: he won 3 National Championship titles in 3 separate classes in 1 season. At this year’s banquet, Anthony was presented the Remarkable Achievement Award by the Jersey Boyz Crew.
As OPA gears up for its season-opener May 10 -12 at the Lake Hopatcong Grand Prix, fans and competitors take on one of those new turns thanks to racer and producer Jay Muller, who brings the circuit to his hometown. Lake Forest Yacht Club steps in as center stage for dry/wet pits, crane and boat ramp with Race Village opening Friday and Saturday from 9 AM – 4 PM. On Sunday, Lake Hopatcong features an exciting 2.8 mile course with lots of turns to deliver the action ringside during three rounds of racing.
The line-up boasts a fleet of top-ranked teams running including a revised Extreme Class for 36-50’ cats and a new Entry Level Class.
“We’ve changed the Extreme Class and limited the speeds to 135 mph,” Smitty stated. “With this change, we were able to let more [boats]run in this class.”
The newly structured Class 7 is comprised of vee bottoms ranging from 17-22’ powered by a single outboard not exceeding 300 hp to reach a 60 mph top speed.
“On this weekend’s course, expect to see Jay Muller and Chuck Broaddus in their 40’ MTI Broadco Property Restoration [the old Speed Racer], along with Ray Contreras and Anthony Smith aboard PhoenixParts.com,” Smitty continued. “Vee Lite comes up very strong this year…look for ten boats. Cleveland Construction and Lightning Jacks will make up some of the 25-30 bracketed teams competing, while Maxed Out Motorsports, Team Joker and Wazz Up II are slated to race Class 6.”
Among the missing in action will be Miss GEICO, still undergoing its mega revision. A disappointed Scott Begovich said, “I really wanted to make this race because New Jersey is my home.”
The OPA tour heads to East Tawas, Mich., for the Heritage Coast Offshore Grand Prix (June 14-16) and then makes a new turn to bring powerboat racing back to Atlantic City, N.J., for the Atlantic City Offshore Grand Prix (June 21-23). Race Chairman Dave Patnaude has “changed up the course to make it spectator friendly” with a six mile liquid track.
OPA delivers high-powered racing to central region fans with back-to-back Michigan sites—the St. Clair River Classic Offshore Powerboat Race (July 26-28) and International Offshore Powerboat Race in Port Huron/Sarnia, Ontario, Canada (August 9-11), then heads back east to Long Beach, N.Y., for War at the Shore—Sock ‘em Sandy (August 23-25) and Maryland hosts the OPA National Championships at the Solomons Offshore Grand Prix (September 13-15). And with the latest schedule news, the tour makes an economically feasible move for the OPA World Championship to nearby Ocean City, Maryland (October 18-20).
Bobbye Miller Kenyon’s high performance articles have appeared in Hot Boat Magazine, along with fast-paced marine industry news in her Hot Sheet Column from 1997 – 2008. Her company, Offshore Public Relations, is a multi-faceted firm that has represented marine industry leaders and champions of the offshore racing arena. A native Miamian, she enjoys boating off the Florida Keys waters of Key Largo to Islamorada and the lakes of the Kentucky countryside.