It all started with Jim Hauser, a Mercury Marine retiree and area resident, whose zest for powerboat racing still ran strong after all these years. A major player with the Old F-ts/Friends Forever (OFF) fraternity of former boat racing legends, Hauser organized several reunions in Jupiter, Florida. “We started this with a six pack of beer and a bag of potato chips and look what happened,” he said of OFF’s success the last three years.
Regretfully, Hauser crossed the ultimate finish line earlier this year unable to realize his dream of bringing an offshore race to Jupiter. However, the race was rescued by his good friend, Nick Scafidi and local racer Scott Begovich of Miss GEICO fame. “Scotty and I were sitting together at Jim’s service,” race organizer Scafidi said. “We said what are we going to do with the race? We agreed it had to go forward, so Scotty stepped in.” After months of planning and raising sponsorship dollars, the race got the green flag from the city in August and blasted into reality when the Offshore Powerboat Association (OPA) staged its World Championship October 18 – 21.
Strolling through the pits and checking out the boats was like a walk down memory lane as I ran into familiar faces not seen in too many years to count. I caught up with Augie “The Godfather” Pensa, former owner/throttleman of Jersey Boyz Offshore Racing and we talked about his role as VP within the OPA organization. “It’s a three part team…Smitty, me and Louie the Rigger. We don’t have any of this without our racers and our volunteers. We depend on a lot of people…they always come through. It’s like a family…yelling, screaming, but it gets done and our people go away laughing and having a good time. I do this for the racers.”
Their February Awards Banquet is a mega event honoring OPA racing members from the previous year while launching a new season. “Everybody knows the Jersey Boys make and produce the biggest, badest and heaviest trophies in racing,” Augie explained.
The Godfather’s Cup, a perpetual trophy Augie established “after a major life changing event” speaks volumes of his larger-than-life passion for racing, as well as being remembered by the racing community. “I think my biggest fear is that once I go, nobody will remember me,” he said. So I wanted to make this trophy.” The Italian-crafted 49 pound silver trophy boasts the famous Godfather silhouette (yes, Pensa’s face is superimposed in place of Brando’s) is presented to the team that demonstrates sportsmanship and kindness in offshore racing
Over an early breakfast, I listened in while OFF members like 1962 Miami-Nassau winner Jim Bakos, the legendary four-time World Champion Sammy James and his wife, Patty (she also tested the racing waters, competing in Production Class with an all-girl team), re-lived the glory days of offshore.
While 43 teams competed in a triple race format along a 5.5 mile liquid track during two days of racing, the unique mix of high-powered competition and emotional roller-coasters generated a long-to-be-remembered weekend of boat racing for competitors and fans alike.
First on Friday and second on Sunday, awarded Hugh Fuller and Rich Wyatt aboard
Cintron top honors, while Aqua Mania’s Gregg Rosen and Rick Merola placed second. Local favorites Marc Granet and Scott Begovich were third overall when engine gremlins struck Miss GEICO early in Sunday’s race.
Ray Contreras and Anthony Smith in Phoenixparts.com continued their winning streak to capture the World Champion title following a stellar season that earned the team a National Championship and Overall High Points to receive the Stugots Cup for the 2012 AMSOIL Offshore Powerboat Series.
The contest featuring father-son duo of Ed “Smitty” Smith and Anthony Smith in Wazzup vs. Louie Giancontieri and Eric Voher of Strictly Business was clinched by Wazzup. Sunday’s victory delivered an impressive list of stand-alone stats for Anthony’s racing resume: winning three National Championships and a pair of World Champion titles in a single season as he throttled Wazzup, Wazzup II and Phoenixparts.com to the top of the charts.
“Our sponsor called us up and wanted us to race here,” Steve Kildahl of BoatFloater.com told me. “We took a second Friday, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.” The Kildahl father-son team piloted the only boat in their six team class to finish and win Sunday’s race. “Awesome,” dad Steve said repeatedly of the first win in their new Phantom hull and the first World Championship for his son, Stephen, as a driver. “It was actually pretty emotional in the cockpit after the race,” Steve said. Stephen echoed those sentiments adding, “All the hard work we put into it really paid off.”
For a complete list of winners, visit powerboatpalmbeach.com and oparacing.org for their 2012 National & World Champions.
All photos by Dave Crago.
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.