Thank heaven for DoublEdge Motorsports team owner Ryan Beckley and FJ Propeller team owner Gary Ballough. Without them, there wouldn’t have been a Super Boat International Stock class this season. And that would have been a shame.
Think I’m exaggerating? Beckley and Ballough have shared the racecourse with another Stock-class competitor—Scott Porta of the Papa’s Pilar Rum team—just one time this year. And that was four races ago at the SBI season-opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla.
What happened to this stalwart outboard-powered catamaran class—one of the few that year-in and year-out has produced four- to six-boat fleets—in 2016? Real life, to put a fine point on it. No one makes a living racing offshore powerboats. Competitors are obligated to show up only by their own passion for the sport.
Porta, who retired after the 2015 SBI Worlds in Key West, Fla., retired once more after this year’s Cocoa Beach race. (Don’t fault Porta—he certainly didn’t invent multi-time retirements in offshore racing.) Defending Stock-class world champions Kyler Talbot and Jay Muller have a new 32-foot Doug Wright Talbot Excavating catamaran, but work obligations reportedly have kept Talbot out of the cockpit so far this year. Smart Marine’s Chris Schoenbohm has been working on his 32-foot Phoenix catamaran project, which he planned to have ready for the upcoming SBI National Championships in Clearwater, Fla. (At present, the boat is not registered.) As for The Hulk team of Rob Nunziato and Dan Lawrence, they’ve been absent since competing in the first and last Qatar Cup in early 2015.
That’s left Ballough and Beckley to go it alone almost all season. To their credit they’ve put on a show for their sponsors and fans. And that makes sense as the two Stock-class competitors have been going at it longer—they’ve forgotten more teams that have come and gone than most folks can remember—than anyone in the class. But as Beckley readily admits, his 30-foot Skater is completely outmatched by Ballough’s 32-foot Doug Wright.
“It’s been a challenge for sure this season with just Gary and me out there,” said Beckley, who will compete at the upcoming National championships flying the sponsor color of Turtle Cove Marina, Cooters Restaurant and Bar, the Enchanted Inn and Quality Boats of Tampa Bay. “It’s always more fun to race with more people and have other competitors out there. It’s better to have boats that run similar speeds in the same realm.”
That said, Beckley is anything but pessimistic heading into the SBI Nationals and Worlds. Despite that just his Turtle Cove Marina team—he’ll run with Tanner Lewis—and Ballough’s FJ Propeller outfit are registered for the Nationals, he expects at least two more teams to show up for the race, and more still to compete at the following Worlds.
“Scott Porta is going to make it to Clearwater,” said Beckley. “And Lee Austin is going to show up in his Joyland boat. That’s good for us, because to win the national championship we need to finish ahead of a couple of other boats and have Gary behind us.”
While far from a huge fleet, a four-boat Stock-class contest would give Beckley and Ballough twice as much competition as they’ve had in the past three races. And Beckley, who has been racing since 1993 and has competed in the Key West Worlds 16 times, will gladly take it.
“I love racing against Gary, but it will be good to have more boats in our class on the course,” he said. “I’m encouraged by the teams I’ve been told are coming to Clearwater. And of course, there could be a couple more teams in Key West. Everyone turns out for Key West.”
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.