Technically speaking, this is still the off-season for domestic offshore racing. The first races of 2012 under the various sanctioning bodies don’t kick off until April. For most teams, it’s a time to tinker with the boat, send out “Hail Mary” sponsorship proposals, and tackle a few neglected indoor home improvement projects.
But that’s far from the case for Miss Geico Racing, which fields the impossible-to-miss neon-green turbine-powered 50-foot Mystic catamaran.
“We’re busier in the off-season than we are during the racing season,” says Marc Granet, the driver of the boat.
“I haven’t been home on a weekend since Christmas,” says Scott Begovich, the cat’s throttleman. “We’ve been knee deep in boat shows since January.”
Being swamped with business and professional obligations is, to borrow an expression from a semi-retired chief financial officer friend of mine, a high-class problem—especially in today’s economy, and even more so in the high-performance powerboat world. That fact isn’t lost on Granet or Begovich. They realize that appearances at boat shows and a host of other events such as trade shows and air shows come with the territory of being blessed with a high-profile, big-dollar sponsor.
But with Gary Stray, Scott Colton, and Gary Goodell, Granet and Begovich also are partners in another ongoing concern, AMF Rigging in Riviera Beach, Fla. At present, the shop, which is led by noted high-performance-boat rigger Stray (who ran Super Cat Rigging, which at one time did the majority of rigging for noted catamaran builder Marine Technology, Inc.), has three large-boat engine installation and rigging jobs in the works.
One of those projects, a 47-foot Apache—a classic V-bottom—is being set up with twin turbine engines and will have Trinidad as its home port. Another—and another classic—is a 46-foot aluminum Cougar V-bottom getting equipped with triple 710-hp V-10 engines from Ilmor Marine, and it will be used in the 2012 Cowes-Torquay endurance race off the coast of England. The third project in the works at AMF is a 51-footer being rigged with triple Yanmar diesel engines, though that hefty V-bottom will stay a lot closer to home in nearby Fort Lauderdale.
Beyond its show-appearance schedule, the Miss Geico Racing Team, which has the same ownership and is under the same roof as AMF Rigging, also has plenty of its own projects in the works. The Miss Geico crew dropped Five Axis Propellers last year and has been working with Hering Propellers ever since. Their shared goal goes beyond developing propellers—more than $120,000 worth of props have been ordered by the team from Hering for the 2012 season—to bringing what they learn to the consumer market.
“Creating a consumer version of the Miss Geico propellers is what this is all about,” says Granet. “We want to help Hering develop a line of propellers that theoretically will last three to five years in a high-horsepower application.”
More recently, in an effort to help improve safety standards across the various classes of boats in offshore racing, the team set up a program in which it offers free safety evaluations of any offshore raceboat brought by a team to the Miss Geico Shop in Riviera Beach.
“We will go through their boats inch by inch, and evaluate them as they are for safety,” says Granet. “We will tell them how much water pressure the windows on their canopy can handle, if their air system is adequate or if it needs to be replaced, if their escape hatches are set up correctly, everything you can think of. We will give them a list of things they should do, and a list of things they must do to field a safe boat on an offshore racecourse.”
As for improving the team’s own 50-foot raceboat, that work never stops—in fact it ramps up during the off-season.
“We’re going through a complete refit of everything to do with the air-intake system,” said Begovich. “We’re changing the boat’s CG (center of gravity) and it’s going to lose a little weight. We’re not just sitting idly by while nobody shows up. We’re going to be ready to rock and roll when the season begins.”
As for which boats will “show up” to challenge Miss Geico in 2012, which has run largely uncontested in the turbine class for several years, Begovich would not confirm or deny any of the rumors that this season could, in fact, see three to four solid entries in the turbine class. (The Miss Geico team is planning to enter 12 races this season.) Nor would he name the builder of the next Miss Geico, as the current catamaran, the former Longlite-sponsored Mystic, is more than seven years old.
“A new Miss Geico is on our radar,” said Begovich. “A prototype is already in the works. It’s something nobody has seen before.”
Yes, offshore racing is still in the off-season, but just barely, and the Miss Geico team has never slowed down.