OK, now that last weekend’s Super Boat International offshore race in Marathon, Fla., is behind us and not one Unlimited-class boat finished the race—making the two-boat Unlimited-class “battle” at the SBI season-opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla., look like a gem—can we please stop saying the Unlimited class is “looking good” or “has great potential” for 2015? I keep hearing this stuff, and reading it online from fans and it leaves me shaking my head. For while I appreciate the enthusiasm behind the sentiment, it doesn’t come close to squaring with reality.
Here’s the thing: If offshore racing history has proven anything, it’s that you cannot predict regular-season turnouts in the sport’s pinnacle class by what happens during the SBI World Championships in Key West, Fla. Let’s face it, everyone comes out for the Key West Worlds, because, first, it’s a great event in a great venue and a whole lot of fun and, second, because you can win a “world championship” there in just three races. What you did in the regular season means nothing—even SBI’s regular-season race minimum tends be relaxed, if that’s the right word, before the finals.
And you know what? I am completely good with that. This sport that I have covered since the late 1990s is what it is, and if the racers are fine with the “go big or go home” scene of Key West, why should it bother me? (Again, for the record, it doesn’t.)
But predicting what will happen during the upcoming season based on what happened in Key West, much as we all might hope it will carry over, is a history-proven, profoundly bad call. Not quite as bad, but still not worth banking on, is what Unlimited-class race teams say they plan on doing during the regular season. (Famed offshore racer Jerry Gilbreath correctly called the off-season “the silly season” for good reason.)
That doesn’t make Unlimited-class racers liars—it makes them human beings with expensive, temperamental machines in a sport that provides no return on investment beyond the joy of offshore racing. There’s no one to blame here. Whatever blame there may be rests with the class itself. As noted, campaigning an Unlimited-class team is egregiously expensive. CMS team owner Bob Bull’s commitment to it is impressive, as is the commitment of the Miss GEICO outfit.
But Randy Kent, who runs the Marine Concepts Unlimited-class catamaran, will be the first to tell you that the class is, economically speaking, over his head. As for Envy’s Chris Cox, the guy literally has spent millions on his team—but they’re his millions and he lives in New York, which is a hike to Florida, the undisputed home of the sport. So if Cox has personal or professional commitments that keep him off the racecourse in what his millions have produced—once again, they’re his millions.
So here’s my prediction for the 2015 Unlimited-class regular season, with the acknowledged benefit of two races already completed: An average of two teams will compete per race. I’m so confident in that forecast that I’ll bet you—and there are a lot more of your than there are of me—the frosty beverage of your choice during the SBI Worlds in Key West where, once again, we’ll see the biggest Unlimited-class fleet of the year.
Which, come the regular season in 2016, will mean absolutely nothing.
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.