Shortly after Garth Tagge and Jim Melley were killed last Saturday in a horrific wreck during a top-speed shootout in Maryland, ambitious shootout competitor Ron Szolack—who had earlier in the week announced plans to run his 36-foot Skater catamaran to 220 mph—announced he was backing off. A respected and well-liked member of the high-performance powerboating community, Szolack made his announcement on this website.
While Szolack was just getting his 2017 shootout plans rolling, Win Farnsworth, Kenny Mungle and Jason Parvey are three of its best-established, marquee players. All three are rethinking their participation in top-speed shootouts after the loss of Tagge and Melley, two veteran competitors who approached the sport methodically and increased their top speeds during several years of competition.
Farnsworth, who runs Low Altitude, a 50-foot Mystic Powerboats catamaran powered by twin 1,800-hp turbine engines, said he’s done.
“To me, it’s just not worth it,” he said. “Every time something happens, my mom calls me and she’s crying. She spends days crying. Everyone wants more and more speed, and we just can’t keep up with it. The only way to stop it is to get out of it. I’m not adult enough to (compete in shootouts) and hold back.
“I’m not getting out of high-performance boating,” he continued. “I just need to find another avenue to enjoy it and entertain people. I don’t need to be going 200 mph. Maybe I’ll get a 48-foot MTI catamaran and 42-foot Hydrasport center console, paint them to match and keep the (Low Altitude/Team Farnsworth) vibe going.”
Mungle, who in the 32-foot Gone Again Skater cat with 1,550-hp Sterling engines is pushing the envelope more than most, is on the fence about his future in shootout competition.
“Honestly, I need to think about it some,” he said. “My wife came to me yesterday and said, ‘What if I ask you not to do this anymore?’ I said, ‘I have to think about that,’ but I know I have to respect her wishes. She didn’t ask me not to do it, but she did say, ‘What if?’ Those were my buddies (Tagge and Melley) who died. It makes you think about what you’re really doing this for. As Win (Farnsworth) says, ‘Is an eight-dollar trophy really worth it?’
“I need more time to think about it, where we go from here,” he added. “I don’t know what I’m going to do at this point.”
Parvey, who ran in a 43-foot Black Thunder V-bottom to a jaw-dropping 165 mph with his father, Dennis, handling the driving and throttling duties during this year’s Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Central Missouri, hasn’t decided what he and his father will do next year. But they’re leaning away from competing again.
“We’re just kind of taking in the events of last weekend,” he said. “My father and I have talked about it a little bit. It’s not in stone yet, but even before last we weekend we had several people tell us we should probably stop where we are. The unfortunate thing is we really feel we have a lot left in the boat. But if you make a change and the boat doesn’t like it at 170 mph, you’re in a world of hurt. I haven’t really discussed it at length with my dad yet, but if it were up to me I’d be content with where we are.
“I didn’t meet Garth and Jim until this summer, and we got to hang out with them,” he added. “This has definitely dealt a big blow to shootouts as we know them.”
Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the former editor of Sportboat magazine.