Given that Super Boat International offshore powerboat races this year averaged a combination of 14 to 15 catamarans and V-bottoms spread over as many as eight classes, it would be a stretch to call the 2013 SBI season a big success.
Still, there were a few bright spots this season—the retooled Superboat class, the Miss GEICO repower with Mercury Racing 1650 engines, and the new Qatar-backed turbine catamaran chief among them—that make for intriguing storylines heading into the SBI Key West Offshore World Championships.
Plus, the Key West Worlds typically attract the biggest fleet of any race in any given season, so it’s reasonable to expect a turnout of 40 to 50 boats when the races begin in the first week of November. It’s equally reasonable to expect 150-plus high-performance pleasure boats to head down for the races in the Florida Powerboat Club’s annual Key West Poker Run that happens in conjunction with the season-ending offshore races. So the place won’t be lacking for go-fast boat hardware.
Here are three of what likely will be the hottest battles.
Miss GEICO versus Al Adaa'am 96
In early spring, Miss GEICO, a 44-foot Victory catamaran, moved to Mercury Racing 1650 Race piston engines. In late summer, the Qatar team finished its turbine-powered 50-foot Mystic catamaran called Al Adaa'am 96.
Now, it doesn’t take a seasoned offshore racing fan to guess that piston and turbine boats run in different classes, but given that the Turbine class has been one of the least consistent classes—in terms of turnout—in the history of offshore racing, it really doesn’t matter. And to be fair, the turnout this year for the Superboat Unlimited class—the one Miss GEICO runs in—has been abysmal.
Miss GEICO’s driver Marc Granet and Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani, the driver of Al Adaa'am 96, have waged a good-natured war of words throughout the year. That rivalry will play out the racecourse, as one of the boats likely will be the “overall” winner of the Key West Worlds.
So who cares that Miss GEICO is down 300 hp to Al Adaa'am 96, and that it won’t be an “apples to apples” competition? This is offshore racing 2013 style, and we need to take what we can get.
Word from inside the Miss GEICO team is that they’ll have fresh horses, meaning brand-new Mercury Racing 1650s, in the cat in Key West.
The monkey in the wrench, so to speak, is Miss Mary Mac, a slippery, turbine-powered 48-foot Marine Technology, Inc., catamaran. If Miss Mary Mac shows up in Key West and runs hard in all three races, it could leave GEICO and Al Adaa’am in its wake.
Superboat Title Up For Grabs
Harshly criticized and loudly praised—depending on who was doing the talking—the Superboat class of catamarans was retooled just before the 2012 SBI Key West Offshore World Championships. But regardless of the various perspectives, with an average four-boat fleet per race, the Superboat class attracted more competition than any other SBI class in 2013.
So for those who like to see lots of competition in one class—meaning pretty much every real offshore racing fan—Superboat will be the one to watch in Key West this season.
Of the eight boats listed in the Superboat class, Stihl, WHM Motorsports, J.D. Byrider, Warpaint and The Spirit of Qatar have run the most races this season. Of those five boats, Stihl and WHM are the odds-on favorites for taking the world title in Key West and as they duked it out throughout 2013. But you cannot count out J.D. Byrider, which won in Michigan City, Ind., this year.
Fountain Versus Outerlimits in Superboat V
Back in the early to mid 2000s, the war of words between Reggie Fountain, the iconic founder of Fountain Powerboats, and Mike Fiore, the “young gun” founder of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats, was downright nuclear. Forget the mutual respect thing these guys have going now -- back in the day they couldn’t find enough bad things to say about one another. Fountain even ran an ad in Powerboat magazine accusing “a competitor”—wonder who that could be—of “sneaking out” of its kilo runs “under the cover of darkness.” Dramatic and, frankly, entertaining stuff.
With Reggie Fountain out of the boat business and Mike Fiore humbled by what it’s taken to stay in it during the past six years, the war of words is over—most likely for good. But the Fountain versus Outerlimits battle will heat up again this year on the racecourse in the Superboat Vee class, as Fountain Powerboats—with zero current affiliation to its namesake (got to keep the lawyers from having kittens)—has a new 30-footer called Absolutely Not that debuted at the SBI event in New York City this summer. Last year, Outerlimits introduced a new 30-footer of its own called Snowy Mountain Brewery, and the new boat dominated its class during the 2012 SBI Key West Worlds.
Of course, there are several other boats in the Superboat Vee class that could win—new boats are not immune to mechanical gremlins—but most of them are much older and significantly slower than the Outerlimits and the Fountain. As head-to-head battles go, this could be the one to watch during the 2013 Key West Worlds. And regardless of outcome, it will provide the Fountain faithful and the Outerlimits fans—on site and online—to jaw at one another.