Timing, as they say, is everything. In early 2018, Superboat-class offshore racer Jake Noble decided to exit the sport. And he had a one-year-old canopied Skater Powerboats 388 catamaran to sell.
Aaron Hope, who’d recently earned a Super Boat International Extreme-Class World Title in Peter Meyer’s famed Instigator Fountain V-bottom, was looking for a Superboat-class boat to buy and campaign this season in SBI and Offshore Powerboat competition.
While Hope had plenty of V-bottom racing experience, he had next to none in a canopied catamaran, much less SBI’s premiere class, which mostly is populated by well-funded teams with some of the top driving and throttling talent in the sport.
So Hope and throttleman Anthony Smith and their all-volunteer crew of Kenny Adams, John Mengler and Wayne Caurson approached the 2018 season as the rookie team they were. Winning wasn’t a priority. Learning was. At least in OPA competition, that meant running solo this year in the Super Cat class.
But Hope, who owns AMH Construction in Orlando, Fla., and Smith, the son of OPA head Ed “Smitty” Smith and an accomplished racer in his own right, didn’t care. Their season was about figuring how to work together in the cockpit. They were in no hurry.
“It’s been a big learning season,” said Hope. “We ran a lot of races this year, but not really to ‘compete.’ We were out there to gain some experience, test some things out and get comfortable with each other. I think our last race at the SBI Nationals in Clearwater (Fla.) was a testimony to all the work our team has put in. Anthony and I have really started meshing in the boat.”
Though a mechanical problem took them out of the Clearwater contest on lap No. 11, the AMH Motorsports team finished third overall behind WHM Motorsports and Performance Boat Center. Yes, two boats crashed and another two didn’t start, but that didn’t diminish the team’s most solid performance to date.
“We are going against the best of the best in offshore racing—Billy Mauff and John Tomlinson have like 60 years of experience between them, so if you win race against those guys you’ve really done something. But that was our best race so far. We were doing really well in the turns. Unfortunately, we lost a piston and started falling back.
“One of the things you learn is these boats are unpowered,” he continued. “If you don’t keep the wheel perfectly straight on the straightaways you scrub so much speed. To get that extra two to four miles mph I takes to win is really, really difficult.”
The team’s goals for the upcoming SBI and OPB are safety, first and foremost, and at least one podium finish.
“We would absolutely love a podium finish,” said Hope. “Our team is so dedicated and has put in thousands of hours of hard work this season—for free. We pay their airfare and travel expenses for race, but none crew members gets paid a salary. They do it for the love of the sport. We have a really good team and we couldn’t do it without 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.