Offshore racing: Barcardi Silver earns top honors at Fort Myers Beach race
By ANDY KENT
FORT MYERS BEACH — There wasn't much drama to be had Sunday afternoon on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But that didn't seem to matter to the sizeable crowd that turned out for the Super Boat International Fort Myers Beach Offshore Grand Prix.
Sunny skies and the inimitable sound of powerful motors throttling up on the 6.5-mile loop course seemed all that was necessary to satisfy anybody watching.
Both those standing on the shore and as part of a spectator fleet of boats offshore estimated at close to 1,000 witnessed Bacardi Silver win the overall race and Superboat Unlimited Class. The 46-foot Skater driven by Steve Wallace with W. David Scott on throttles finished in one hour, four minutes at an average speed of 103.11 miles per hour.
The closest race came in the Superboat Vee Class, where Muscle, driven by Sarasota emergency room physician Bruce Kruglick, edged Shock Wave, driven by Rich Troppoli of Toms River, N.J. The margin of victory was just 57 seconds (1:11.02 to 1:11.59), with Muscle averaging 93.34 mph to Shock Wave's 92.10. Muscle is the reigning SBI world and national champion in its classification.
But the smallest field in the nine-year history of the event did take a quite a bit of excitement out of the competition. A mere 19 boats made it to the starting line in front of the Diamond Head Beach Resort — less than half of the number expected to compete — and five of the nine classifications wound up with only one entry. Bacardi Silver fell into that category when Pier 57 Fountain had to pull out before ever reaching the milling area.
"That was real, real unfortunate. We've got some really serious boats that compete in this class and it was disappointing," said Scott out of Edwardsville, Ill. "A lot of the boats in our class still are trying to get their boats ready, and Pier 57, we loaned them some parts to try to help them get their boat fixed but it didn't work out."
The drastic reduction in competing boats forced race officials with SBI to change the start format from two separate races to one 12:30 p.m. staggered start (the nine bigger and faster boats went off first, followed one minute later by the smaller boats).
Local event organizer Dean Clausen said 12 boats that raced Saturday in Marathon (an APBA race) and were expected to compete Sunday were among those lost to the field. He said a few had engine problems or other malfunctions that forced them to pull out, and the others arrived too late for the drivers safety meeting, making them ineligible to race.
I'm disappointed but what are you going to do?" Clausen said.
"I'd rather race with many more boats. The more boats the more fun it is, and it's a shame but they're working on it," said Sarasota's Denis Bilodeau, throttleman for Pitman Photo, which won the Divisional 5 Class.
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Daniel Hughes characterized the event as "the best Grand Prix we've had I think. Between the air show and the races I thought it was terrific."
Hughes said he really liked the concept of having the air show one day and the races the next day. He said it makes for a really good combination. He witnessed the weather shorten the second day of races last year, and thought the switch to a one-day format was better.
"I don't think whether there are 19 or 29 boats makes a lot of difference," Hughes said. "The people are here to see the boats and see the races and have a good time, and that's what they're doing."
Clausen said he plans on putting together a better event next year and hopes to be able to promote a larger field of boats once again. This was the second race on the SBI circuit for 2003, with seven more to go.
SBI Fort Myers Beach Offshore Grand Prix
Distance: 17 laps (110.5 miles)
Superboat Unlimited (class, driver, hometown, avg. speed/mph): 1. Bacardi Silver, Steve Wallace, Lake of the Ozark, Mo., 103.11;
Superboat Vee: 1. Muscle, Bruce Kruglick, Sarasota, 93.34, 2. Shock Wave, Rich Troppoli, Toms River, N.J., 92.10, 3. Firewater, Bob Oliver, King of Prussia, Pa., 90.53, 4. The Switch, Curt Watkins, Ft. Lauderdale, 89.38 (16 laps) 5. Instigator, Joe Sero, Bellmore, N.Y., 95.18 (7 laps);
Superboat Vee Unlimited: 1. Don't Blink, Douglas Sutherland, Sarasota, 45.20 (3 laps);
Superboat Limited: 1. Rumor Has It, Robert Nunziato, Boca Raton, 88.64 (2 laps);
Super Stock: 1. Berry Cuda, Wes Enlow, Sunrise Beach, Mo., 84.76 (12 laps) 2. SeaTow, Gary Ballough, Boca Raton, 83.92 (12 laps); 3. Oceans 234, Alex Cantalupo, Deerfield Beach, 84.39 (11 laps), 4. Deep V Catamarans, Steve Quick, Chicago, Ill., 84.00 (7 laps);
Manufacturer 2: 1. Fountain, Reggie Fountain III, Greenville, N.C., 84.01 (11 laps);
Manufacturer 1: Xtreme Racing, Scott O'Connor, Melbourne, 65.47 (7 laps);
Divisional 3: 1. Wazzup, Edward Smith, Brick, N.J., 80.49 (7 laps) 2. Outlaw, Kevin Erem, Elizabeth, N.J., 80.18 (7 laps);
Divisional 5: 1. Pitman Photo, Edward Tamberino, Englewood, 67.69 (7 laps); 2. Carraba's Team Blythe, Todd Blythe, Doylestown, Pa., 54.31 (7 laps) 3. Potts Sports Cafe, Ken Kasten, Sanibel Island, 65.79 (6 laps).