Last weekend’s Lake of the Ozarks Shootout top-speed competition in Central Missouri saw a stunning accomplishment from one of the best-known father-and-son teams in high-performance powerboating competition. In what would be the final run of their Shootout career, Dennis Parvey, a 66-year-old dentist from Minnesota, and his 30-year-old son, Jason, laid down a 161-mph run in their 18-year-old, 43-foot full-cabin Black Thunder V-bottom powered by a couple supercharged 2,000-plus-hp engines. That was enough to tie them with Factory Billet, a 51-foot carbon-fiber-epoxy canopied V-bottom built in 2008 and powered by turbocharged engines of similar power output.
As usual, Dennis Parvey drove, throttled and trimmed the open-cockpit boat. Jason Parvey reprised his role of keeping his father company on the long idle to the Shootout course, watching the gauges and hanging on for dear life. After their final run on Sunday, they announced their retirement.
“Our last run was our last run,” said Dennis Parvey.
The senior Parvey has been competing in the event for 18 years. His son joined him in the cockpit in 2012.
“When you are competing at this level you’ve got to have two people in the boat,” said Jason Parvey. “You’ve got to help with getting the boat lined up, watching the flag person, watching the speed as you approach the course and then watching the gauges as you run through it.
“I am very fortunate to have had this experience,” he continued. “It’s definitely brought me a lot of opportunities, like being around the boating scene—those are the core people I’ve been around my whole life. My dad and I have a good relationship. He’s a very low-key person and I’m more social, but I’m extremely grateful for the experience. I know some people who haven’t talked to their parents in 20 years.
“Of course, kids will always argue with their parents and think they know better,” he added, then laughed.
While the Parveys are the best-known and accomplished father-and-son racing team in Lake of the Ozarks Shootout history—last year on the former one-mile course they reached an other-worldly 165 mph—60-year-old Jason Saris of Saris Racing Engines in New York and his son, 24-year-old son, Johnny, are the finest and most famous father-and-son team in offshore racing.
They started competing together in 2009, when Johnny Saris, who drives the boat with his father throttling and family friend Vern French joining them as navigator, was 16 years old. Since then, they have claimed four Offshore Powerboat Association World Championships and two OPA National Championships in their Class 4 32-foot Saris Racing Engines team V-bottom, which is powered by twin 650-hp engines from the Saris shop.
“Racing with my dad—it’s perfect,” said Johnny Saris. “We work on the boat together, we hang out together and we party together, and so far we haven’t killed each other, which is nice. Not only is he my dad, he’s been racing for 35 years, so I get to race with someone I trust.
“It was a mutual decision, racing with him,” he continued. “Watching him race was something I grew up with and always wanted to do. If I have a son of my own, I certainly wouldn’t push him into it but, yeah, racing with him would be nice, too. I guess eventually my dad is going to get old and I’m going to need to replace him.”
Jason Saris laughed at his son’s comment. For the veteran offshore racer and engine builder, sharing the cockpit with his son has given him an opportunity he sees as uncommon for the father of a fine young man with a life of his own.
“I have a lot of friends who have kids around the same age as Johnny, and when your kids get to that age you usually don’t have the activities to share with them that you once did,” said Jason Saris. “It’s not that they aren’t close to their kids, but they don’t have the same chances to spend time with them as they used to. How else would I get to spend time with my 24-year-old?
“When we get in the truck together and head for a race in, say, Atlantic City, those are five hours of quality time we have together,” he continued. “If we didn’t race together, we wouldn’t have that time. And it doesn’t get any better than that.”
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.