The countdown is on as the Offshore Powerboat Association (OPA) launches this weekend (April 28 – 29) with an international event produced by Roger Berkon slated for Bimini at Resorts World Bimini. As of press time, 20-30 boats are expected to compete. Can’t make it? You won’t miss all the action as the Resorts World Offshore Grand Prix is featured in an hour broadcast on NBC Sports Network set for a June-July airing.
The OPA eight race circuit moves stateside to Point Pleasant, New Jersey on May 19-21 as the tradition continues with the Point Pleasant Offshore Grand Prix. Veteran racer Peter Meyer explained the iconic site like this: “It’s a race that’s been going on since the 1970’s when it was first called the Hennessy, then Benihana Grand Prix. If you ever want to be a part of (offshore) history, then you gotta race there.” OPA wraps up its World Championship for the third consecutive year in Englewood, Florida on November 15-19.
In the meantime, the Super Boat International (SBI) fleet is revving up for six months of high-powered racing that takes contenders on a course that leads to a showdown in the U.S. Southernmost City when Key West plays host to the 37th annual World Championship November 5-12 . Look for offshore fans and racers alike converging on waterfront venues around the country as SBI opens its five race schedule returning to Cocoa Beach, Florida May 19-21 for the 8th annual Space Coast Super Boat Grand Prix.
I talked with some of the sport’s top contenders regarding their plans for the 2017 season. It’s an impressive group whose credentials include record-setting speed runs, National and World Championship titles and they all share this common denominator: a passion for racing boats that continues to fuel their speed gene.
Mike Fosse and Billy Glueck are joining forces to campaign a second Stihl sponsored boat in Superboat Vee Class: a 30’ Phantom outfitted with “highly guarded” Fountain racing engines as Fosse described. “We’re running the entire SBI circuit and possibly Sarasota.”
Key West delivered a second year of disappointment for Steve and Stephen Kildahl as the father/son team begins their eleventh season. “Mechanical failures did what they did to us,” Steve told me. “But the engine ran flawless, so we’re going with the same Innovation power this year.” Son, Stephen (driver of the 30’ Extreme emblazoned BoatFloater.com) says that “over the off-season, we have been working with some new propellers from Hydromotive to improve our acceleration times exiting the turns.”
As for that pre-race checklist, Steve said, “We plan to start testing within the next two weeks for Cocoa Beach: the first of an eight-race schedule including all the SBI events, our hometown race in Sarasota on July 2nd (conducted by P1 SuperStock USA, which boasts a five race series) and three OPA races.” While the forecast for competition in Superboat Vee Class is expected to be extremely tough, Stephen summed it up: “Key West provided the tightest racing our class has ever seen…it’s a good preview of what is to come for this season.”
Nick Scafidi makes a mega move up in class ranks, throttling a new 32’ Doug Wright catamaran powered by twin Mercury 300 XS engines, in Superboat Stock alongside his son, Austin. However, Nick’s plan of action for two upcoming events takes a different turn. “I’ll be running with Scott Porta in his 32’ Wright catamaran (the 2015 National Champion Papa’s Pilar) under Nick’s Creative Marine banner this weekend in Bimini…we’ll team up again for Cocoa Beach to stay in the SBI points chase. I plan to debut the new boat at the Sarasota race with Austin.”
Ace throttleman John Tomlinson continues on his winning track after clinching National and World Champion titles in Superboat Class last year alongside Myrick Coil in Performance Boat Center. The game plan for their 38’ Skater outfitted with twin Sterling 750 hp engines calls for running the “full SBI schedule, along with the Lake Race and Sarasota,” Tomlinson said. He sized up his fast lane competition like this: “I think it will be more difficult this year. As the season progressed last year, the boats became more evenly matched, so I expect it to be even more competitive.”
Bobbye Miller Kenyon is an award-winning journalist whose high performance articles appeared in Hot Boat Magazine, along with fast-paced marine industry news in her Hot Sheet Column, from 1997-2008 and Powerboat Magazine from 2009-2012. She received a special award from the State of Kentucky in 2014 as she was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel by Governor Steven L. Beshear for her writing efforts that showcased the diverse boating locales throughout the Bluegrass State. Her company, Offshore Public Relations, is a multi-faceted firm that has represented marine industry leaders and champions in 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.