When Tony Canale of Buford, Ga., upgraded the canopy on his 35-foot Fountain Powerboats raceboat following the 2015 offshore racing season, he didn’t envision putting it to the test less than a year later. But that’s exactly what happened last Sunday during the Super Boat International Brighthouse Clearwater National Championships in Clearwater, Fla.
Canale, a multi-time world champion offshore racer who owns Canale Marine, was racing alongside driver Gary Jones—the owner of BoatWorx Powerboat & Yacht Sales in Sarasota, Fla.—when the two lost control of the 35-foot V-bottom between turns three and four on the sixth lap and rolled the boat multiple times. The windshield was blown out, the emergency hatch smashed in and the roll cage shifted a couple of inches because the port side of the canopy was so badly crushed.
Despite the ferocity of the accident, Canale and Jones escaped with non-life-threatening injuries—although both stayed overnight in the hospital Sunday before being released. Canale is home in Georgia resting (as much he’s willing to) his fractured C2 vertebrae and all of the other bumps and bruises that came with wrecking the 35-foot Fountain powered by twin 650-hp Canale Marine engines and Arneson surface drives.
Jones, who had his spine operated on by fellow offshore racer Michael “Doc” Janssen in 2012, is nursing a moderate concussion and is expecting a full diagnosis on his injured shoulder after the concussion symptoms subside.
They’re both extremely thankful for the boat’s new high-strength chromoly roll cage, which Canale said is anchored to the stringers in six places. They also thanked the rescue teams for their efforts in the recovery process.
“I’ll be honest with you,” said Canale, owner of the VooDoo Offshore Racing team that competes in the Manufacturer Production 3 class. “I don’t know if we’d be here if we didn’t go through that boat and make the changes we did to it.
“That was definitely the hardest hit I’ve ever taken—I’m still a little dazed and confused from it,” he continued. “It seemed like everything was good coming out of turn three and all of the sudden the next thing I know is we’re looking at a paramedic boat. We think the drove broke and when that broke we flipped. It was pretty ugly.”
Canale, who was already in the process of building a new raceboat for 2017 said the accident forces the timing for the “new” boat to be complete by the SBI season-opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla., in May. He and Jones said the accident won’t keep them off the racecourse.
“I’ve spun a boat a few times with Billy Gleuck, but I’ve never rolled a boat like that before—I really don’t know what we hit, all I know is Tony and I were very fortunate,” Jones said. “I’m working from home currently, but the great team at BoatWorx hasn’t missed a beat when it comes to our No. 1 priority, taking care of our customers.
“One of the rescue divers told me later that the next time I see Tony I need to thank him for spending the money on the roll cage,” he continued. “The most disappointing part about it all is that I don’t know if I’ve ever seen or felt Tony’s boat running so well.”
Canale said the boat has already been stripped at his shop and that he’s expecting to cut the deck off and turn it into a pleasure boat.
“The hull is in good condition still—unfortunately I can’t say the same for the rest of the boat,” Canale added. “Considering the circumstances, we’re pretty lucky. It’s going to take some time to heal, but we’ll be fine.”
Canale also wanted to thank the close-knit offshore racing community for coming together to support him, Jones and the entire VooDoo Offshore Racing family.
“I’ve always treated this as a family sport—my family goes to every race and we have family on our crew,” he said. “So when something like this happens, it emphasizes the family side of the sport. Everyone asked what they could do to help—the outpouring from everyone in the SBI racing family over the last several days has been incredible.”
Former Powerboat editor Jason Johnson was an integral part of the magazine staff from 2005 through 2011, utilizing journalistic integrity and experience in and around performance boats to report on all aspects of the go-fast lifestyle. The award-winning writer resides in Southern California and is the executive editor and co-publisher of speedonthewater.com.