Tuesday, April 28, 2009

You Don't Always Have to be Fast to be Cool...

A few weeks ago, Rich Lazzara from Lazzara Yachts was kind enough to feed us a few photos from the Palm Beach Boat Show. While checking out his site, I came across this incredible project they recently put together--a floating Sales Showcase that really has to be seen to be believed. Dubbed by the boating industry press as the "Belle of The Ball" at her introduction during the Ft. Lauderdale Show in late 2008, the vessel was built on a custom-made 90' x 40' barge platform. Lazzara's goal was really to "raise the level of the presentation" at boat show displays, and the whole thing came together in about 120 days. As far as raising the level of presentation, I think the photos here demonstrate that they succeeded in a remarkable fashion.

One of the first things Rich's group determined was that a used steel barge was not the quick solution they had hoped for as far as a floating platform; the available sizes and other considerations quickly ruled them out. They needed a custom, fiberglass barge--but it was clear that the cost of just building a custom 90' x 40' mold would be prohibitive - and would add up to more than the cost of the fiberglass barge itself. The solution? Use the construction building as the mold! [see below] Simply brilliant.

Of course, that was only one of the challenges they faced. Under extremely tight deadlines, they managed to complete this unbelievable project, which Rich explains:
"There was still 100,000 pounds of steel that needed to be welded and placed upon the barge to support the structure. Then there was thousand of pounds of 1.5″ think glass (Hurricane resistant to 150mph) that would be applied to the steel frame. Systems to make the barge self sustainable, like two 55kw generators, a waste treatment center, spuds (anchoring system) and ballast tanks for leveling. In addition the barge would need to have features to educate and entertain people. So to that end we have 22 TVs, 14 computer workstations,1000 watt stereo system, 8 Apple TVs, 6 touchscreen computer kiosks, a 17′ waterfall with LCD behind it, a 10′ x 20′ water wall, 25 tons of AC, 5 refrigerators, 2 ovens, and washer/dryer."

After construction, the showcase was towed 300 miles from Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale at a speed of about 5 knots. As you can imagine, the wind can sometimes play havoc when it comes to maneuvering the thing around. Yet--who wouldn't like to have something like this to tie up to at the end of the day? If you ever get a chance to visiting some of the Florida boat shows, you'll probably be able to check this thing out up close.

Thanks to Rich and his business for providing us with such an inspirational example of work. It's a real testament to how you can really make something happen if you can just envision it, and if you also have dedicated and skilled people to make it become reality. At the same time, I learned that the general idea of "building on a barge" was not totally new. I was looking through one of my old books on boat maintenance and marine-related articles, published by Motor Boating in 1952, and came across the plan for this barge-based floating "yacht club" [below] that was pretty neat.

Very slick for its time. I guess that it's true when they say that sometimes, eventually "everything old is new again." If you want to see and read more about Lazzara Yachts and this Sales Showcase, check out Rich's in-depth blog story, here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Desert Storm Update: Rockin' on Havasu

Offshore Powerboaters from all over the country took their shot at being named King of the Desert in the 2009 Desert Storm Poker Run Shootout on Saturday on Lake Havasu. When it was all over, Greg Olson's 33-foot Daytona Eliminator “Fatal Attraction,” took top honors with a speed of 174 mph, a new shootout record. Like every Desert Storm event, thousands of offshore fans took to the streets of Lake Havasu City to check out the boats on display during the Thursday night Street party.

PHOTO CREDITS: All story photos by SeriousOffshore.com member - Tank

One highlight of the event was seeing the amazing 44-foot-long, 14-foot-wide double-decker pontoon boat sponsored by The Naked Pirate Beach Bar at the Pirate Cove Resort. Built in less than a month, the boat's decks, uprights and finishing touches were completed in just six days, said Pirate Cove Sales Director Rob Smith. It's a Tiki-themed masterpiece, and led the parade of performance boats through the channel for the Desert Storm Event.

After its Desert Storm debut, the boat will be used strictly for promotional purposes by the new Pirate Cove Resort, which is located about two miles north of Topock Gorge off Park Moabi Road on the California side of the Colorado River. The boat will make regular weekend runs through Bridgewater Channel to advertise the resort.

Over 170 boats registered for the weekend event, coming from 18 different states and Canada, and 37 were pre-registered to take part in the shootout. ”I’m really pleased with that number," said promoter Jim Nichols with Lake Racer LLC. "I didn’t expect 150, but these are boat owners that work hard and when it comes time to play, they like to play hard.”

Thousands of spectators either lined the shores to watch or boarded their own boats filling Thompson Bay in order to get a closer look. We'd like to thank Seriousoffshore.com member Tank for posting some great photos of the happenings on the lake; these are just a few - to see more, head over to www.seriousoffshore.com and sign up!

Friday, April 24, 2009

EYE TECH: Sunglasses for Performance Boating

Go into any outdoor, sporting goods, or even the corner gas station, and chances are you will see all kinds of sunglasses arranged on the counters and on display racks. Although sunglasses are usually sold like fashion accessories, with a big focus on style, they are much more important than that - and even could be said to perform as a medical device. Why? That's because sunglasses are essentially designed to protect your eyes from possible damage as a result of over exposure to the harmful rays of the sun, as well as other sources of intense light. When you're out on the water, a quality pair of sunglasses will make a big difference...not only in the long-term health of your eyes, but in overall vision and safety.

So - how do you select a pair of sunglasses that will suit your needs? There are some basic ways that sunglasses help protect your eyes, so keeping these facts in mind will help ensure that you've made the right choice.

First, Polarizing sunglasses provide you with basic protection from sun glare. Polarizing sunglasses are especially popular with boaters, because the water reflects back a great deal of sun, which makes it hard to see and tires the eyes out. The glare can be distracting and dangerous, since it can make some objects (logs in the water, rocks and even other boats) hard to see.

Secondly, a good pair of sunglasses protect your retinas from light that is too intense, and which, over time, causes the iris to become less effective--almost "shutting down." This is why the body has a natural reaction to "squint" when exposed to light that is too bright. This can be hard on your retinas, and can even lead to permanent damage.

Third, a quality pair of sunglasses protect your corneas from the sun's ultraviolet rays. Over exposure to the sun's Ultraviolet rays can lead to a number of serious eye conditions and diseases, so always look for a sticker or tag that guarantees a good degree of UV protection.

Last of all, depending on how they are tinted, some sunglasses will filter out or enhance certain specific frequencies of light. Sunglasses which do this can enhance the contrast between the lights, shades and colors--and sometimes make objects easier to see, or appear sharper to the human eye.

So there's more to picking out the right pair of sunglasses than just good looks. While a great looking pair of sunglasses like some Oakleys, or the billet-type examples pictured here - Grix (top) and and Gatorz (bottom) - can cost a couple of hundred bucks, you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for solid protection. Another thing you might want to invest in is a lanyard, to keep the glasses around your neck. Last year, at the dock, I had taken off a pair of sunglasses and momentarily hooked them into the front "v" of my shirt. Of course, as soon as I bent over to untie a line, they fell right out and into the water. They did not cost a lot, and I didn't feel like jumping in to recover them, but that was the first and last time that happened. The next pair were attached to a lanyard.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

JBS Racing Hits Some Hard Luck in Miami

Just a brief update on the JBS Racing Team, whose video we featured a couple weeks back. Apparently they ran into some bad luck at the Super Boats International (SBI) Miami race last weekend. According to owner Jeff Stevenson:
"We had reports of a small delamination that never got worse until the last lap, and not a few seconds later experienced heavy vibrations and an explosion of water through the driver's side of the boat ending our race. Nobody was injured."

Thankfully speeds at the time were well below the near-200mph seen on the video. For those who are unfamiliar, delamination is a process where the various construction layers of the boat begin to separate. In most cases, it does not result in a catastrophic failure, but at the high speeds and high stresses involved in offshore racing, more serious damage--likethat seen here--is not out of the question. According to official team reports, both driver and throttleman were aware of the initial damage and had made a calculated decision to try and complete the race. As the damage increased during the course of the race and eventually appeared on the "running surface" of the boat, a more serious breach occured, which began to fill the boat with water. A calm shut-down and quick recovery made it possible to get the boat out of the water and up on a crane. Joh Cosker at Mystic Powerboats (the manufacturer) has made an in-depth study of what happened and is recommending some upgrades and design revisions to make the boats safer and more advanced, including some safety shields on the rigging holes in the structure.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Shore Dreams for Kids: Boating for a Good Cause

One of the brightest spots every summer is at Shore Dreams for Kids, an annual event dedicated to entertaining over 500 special needs children and their families throughout the New Jersey area to a day at the shore. They include participants in the Special Olympics, children of Make A Wish, Oceans of Love Support Group for Children with Cancer and other mentally and physically challenged children. This great day of fun and entertainment is designed to offer a real "carnival atmosphere" complete with games and small rides, an antique car display, food and drinks and live entertainment.

PHOTO CREDITS: Shore Dreams for Kids

Of course, the highlight of the whole event continues to be the Performance Powerboat rides in Barnegat Bay. The boat rides are provided by a large group of offshore powerboaters, including members of the New Jersey Performance Powerboat Club (NJPPC) who generously volunteer their time & their boats to share with those less fortunate.

Shore Dreams for Kids is committed to bringing community awareness to those children who love the open water, and who may never be able to experience the thrill of power boating. The men and women who help make the annual event possible are a unique group of people who love the water, life and their cause. It's amazing to see the joy in the children’s eyes after riding in a performance powerboat, and it's a great reason to get involved.

PHOTO CREDITS: Shore Dreams for Kids

This year's event is scheduled for Saturday, July 19, 2009, from 11:00am – 3:00pm, at the Seaside Heights Municipal Dock and Ball Park – RT. 35, Seaside Heights. If you're an area powerboater who'd like to put a smile on one of these kids faces, or if you just want to volunteer in some capacity, they could certainly use your help. Visit the website, www.shoredreamsforkids.org for complete information, or make a donation now here. It's a great cause!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ocean City Races to be Closer to Beach

In response to comments that last year's race were a little difficult to see, the organizers of the 2009 Geico Triple Crown Offshore Races in Ocean city are moving a section of the course about 200 yards closer to beach. As a result, the United States Coast Guard has taken on the responsibility of keeping swimmers out of the water during the event, which is set for May 30-31.

PHOTO CREDIT: Amsoil Racing Team

Last year's race brought huge crowds to watch the the boats tear their way through a course that was approximately 880 yards offshore. But many of the spectators complained that the boats were too far away to be seen. This year, race organizers will be moving the southern section of the course about 200 yards closer to the beach, which should help.

"People just can't see it that far offshore," organizer Ed Smith told the Ocean City Council on Monday. "Even the TV stations have to bring in monster cameras." In terms of length, the course runs approximately from Sixth Street to 34th Street, but the portion that will be moved in closer to shore runs from Sixth Street to 22nd Street, where the racers will be making a turn.


The Boardwalk Development Association and the Hotel-Motel- Restaurant Association and Boardwalk merchants in that area were very supportive of the move, which should benefit the thousands of people who turn out each year to enjoy the race. With the boats coming that close to shore, the organizers had asked the council to close the water off completely during the race, in case of an emergency, but City Solicitor Guy Ayres explained that the council does not have this authority. The Coast Guard does have this authority, however--and will be taking steps to ensure that swimmers do not go into the water during the race.

"I can't imagine there would be many people in the water that time of year anyway," Council President Joe Mitrecic said of the May event. Ocean City Beach Patrol Lt. Ward Kovacs said that lifeguards would also be on hand to keep swimmers out of the water and alert beach visitors to any possible dangers, should a boat lose control and come ashore. Don't laugh...it's happened before!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SEARACE: Offshore Racing History Class in One Volume

Back in 1989, offshore racer and internationally-respected journalist John Crouse published the most comprehensive and informative history of Offshore Powerboat Racing ever, SEARACE. Exactly what you would expect from someone who was an associate editor and columnist for Powerboat Magazine for two decades, the book provides an exciting and inspirational panorama of the sport--with it's unforgettable cast of characters and incredible stories of adventure offshore. Now a board member of HORBA, the Historic Offshore Race Boat Association, Crouse is well-known for his "no-spin" take on offshore racing, and his account of the sport's history is sure to hold your interest over the book's remarkable 680 pages.

Not only is the book packed with colorfully-written history, information and race statistics, but it's also loaded with historic photgraphs of famous racers and famous boats, and lavishly illustrated with 17 original paintings of the legends by the famed illustrator George Bartell and six by artist Richard Merchan. Aronow, Kiekhaefer, Nordskog, Gar Wood, Al Copeland, Betty Cook..they are all there, along with all the other famous names that mark the history of offshore racing.

PHOTO CREDIT: Historic Offshore Race Boat Association

Recently, word has come to us from HORBA Managing Director Charlie McCarthy that John has some storage issues with his book inventory and is interested in moving out some of what he has available. As a result, the books are now available from HORBA at half-price ($35.00), which is a great deal, considering the scope and completeness of this book. If you are interested in where the sport has been, and want to get "caught up" fast, there's no better way to do it than by grabbing yourself a copy of John's book. You'll be glad you did!

Plenty of Booty at 2009 Seneca Lake Pirate Run

One of the nicest areas for powerboating is New York's Finger Lakes region, and a main highlight of any boating season is the Annual Seneca Lake Pirate Run. Seneca Lake, which is 40 miles long and the largest of the Finger Lakes, is known not only for its scenic beauty but for it's great recreational environment and many fine wineries.

This year's Pirate Run, sponsored by the Seneca Powerboat Association, is scheduled for June 19th-21st and promises to be another great event. Not only is there a big prize for the Best Poker Hand ($3000) but they also offer cash prizes for Best Pirate Costumes for both participants ($100) and spectators ($150) as well! Headquarters for the run will be the Showboat Motel, located in Himrod, NY - about 16 miles north of Watkins Glen, on the west side of the lake. Complete information and registration details are available on the group's website [see below] so don't delay...spots are filling up fast.

PHOTO CREDITS: Seneca Powerboat Association

As anyone who is familiar with the area will tell, you, this is a beautiful place to visit, and the folks in charge of the Pirate Run go out of their way to ensure that everyone has a great time. This year like, all the rest, will include beautiful boats, great bands, great prizes, Pirate Ship prizes, a Charity Auction, and much more. For pictures of Runs from years past check out: the Seneca Powerboats website: www.senecapowerboats.com

Friday, April 10, 2009

IN THE COCKPIT: The New Statement Marine 42'

YouTube poster & Serious Offshore member Poker Run Mike shared some nice video footage of a test ride he was able to enjoy while at the St. Pete Grand Prix last weekend. The subject is the beautiful new Statement Marine 42, which got all kinds of attention at the PRA Poker Run just a week before. One of the most interesting things about these boats, aside from their incredible design and performance, is the advanced Air Cushion system they use to improve ride in the cockpit. Nick's account includes the following observation:
"...at about 125, I tell Nick [the driver] that I am wowed by no chine walking. He had one hand on the wheel and one on the throttles. I had to laugh as he gives me the 'surfs up' signal from his steering hand. Yup...he let go of the steering wheel for about 5-6 seconds as we approached 128 MPH! And the boat did not nudge! I was floored!"

The boat is powered by Mercruiser 1075s, with #6 drives. Statement also produces a sharp 50' cat as well. Their website is still under development, but you can get some more photos and contact information at www.statementmarine.com.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Excuse Our Technical Difficulties...

Temporary Fail Whale! We were making some adjustments on our domain hosting and technical services and the results went way beyond what we were expecting. In addition to temporarily losing some of our images, the www.bigbadboat.com domain is being reset with our DNS servers so it will continue to point here, at bigbadboat.blogspot.com. While we have remedied the photo situation and are now having them hosted at another location, the domain problem may not be resolved for another 12-18 hours, so please bear with us. In the meantime, we'll continue to gather more content so when the domain problem is resolved, there will be some new stuff to look at. Thankfully, the snow has already melted off where we are, so it's easier to envision boating season coming on!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

200mph Racing Action in HD Video!

Aside from being one of the fastest teams on the water, JBS Racing also has one of the better websites out there, filled with some excellent videos and lots of good photography. Based in Wisconsin, the team's 50' Mystic catamaran sports two Turbine Marine T-53's, rated at 1950hp. Owner/driver Jeff Stevenson and throttleman Joey Skrocki have seen a lot of success, most recently taking the top spot in the Cat Extreme/Turbine class at the 2009 Smokin’ The Sound race in Biloxi, MS on March 29th.

In the first heat, the JBS Mystic hit a speed of 190mph...so when you see the 200mph speeds noted in the video below, it's no joke. As for the footage, producer Allan Wright does an outstanding job; the HD video a very, very sharp package. Congratulations to JBS!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Gettin' Down at The Docks: More Tiki Bars

A few weeks back we took a look at Tiki Bar culture here on B3 and I shared a couple of places I really like. A couple of our readers sent me some info on spots they enjoy as well, so I thought I'd post a couple up here. Like I said at the time, once you're done with your day of boating, relaxing by the dock watching the scenery and enjoying a cold one kind of go hand-in-hand. Of course, not all of these are Tiki bars in the strictest sense, but they do have the tropical, nautical feel you want when you tie up and plant yourself on a bar stool.

PHOTO CREDIT: Capt. Woody's

Mark Underwood down in Central Ohio gave us the heads up about Buckeye Lake, which is just due east of Columbus; it's a 3500-acre lake with at least 13 popular watering holes along its shores, some of which will even allow you to dock overnight and sleep on your boat. Mark specifically singled out Capt. Woodys, PaPa Boos and Island House, and sent us some pictures, too. Above is a shot of the crowd at Capt. Woody's, and below is Mark, in his very nice, old-school Velocity 30. You might very well see him at Buckeye or up on Lake Erie - one thing's for sure, you won't miss that outstanding paint job! Also, check out Mark's website here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Underwood - 30velocity.com

Bob Carl from NJ said that he really enjoys the Nauti Goose, in Northeast MD, at the upper end of the Chesapeake Bay. The "Goose" is a very popular hangout for powerboaters, as evidenced by the photo just below. Another favorite, sent to us by Ed Scott in Missouri, is The Topsider [bottom photo] located at Osage Beach on Lake of The Ozarks. According to Ed, they have it all--including a pool, apparently.

PHOTO CREDITS: [above] The Nauti Goose [below] Topsiders

Thanks to everyone who sent us info and photos, we'd include them all but our space is limited. Maybe we'll do occasional updates on new places you find, or maybe at some point, even do a directory of your favorite tiki bars on the water.

Loud Exhaust? Now That's The Ticket!

While it's always nice to be noticed, I usually prefer to fly a little bit under the radar. My Formula's Silent Thunder swim platform has an integrated muffler system that uses water to muffle the sound of my boat's exhaust. Blackjack's 454 Magnum sounds fine as it is--enough rumble to know there's something decent underneath the swim pad, but not so loud that you can't talk to your passengers at idle. And it's plenty loud enough when we're up on plane.

Other guys like to hear a real healthy exhaust note, since they believe it adds to the feeling of high performance. And there are also other folks who like to let everyone know when they're coming...even when they're down the lake a mile away. To each his own, I say--until it becomes overkill, or is so obnoxious that people start wincing when you pull up to the dock at the local watering hole and they can't hear each other or the music playing at the bar.

The fact is, a lot of municipalities and law enforcement agencies are cracking down on boats that are too loud. Grand Haven, MI, for example, is just one town that has gained a reputation among performance boaters as being particularly unfriendly, and maybe a little too zealous in it's enforcement of the law. Different areas have different requirements, so it's important to know what noise decibel levels are acceptable and from what distances it is supposed to be measured. Boaters and manufacturers haven't been standing still. One of the easiest solutions is to port your exhaust underwater with some down-tubes; of course, everybody hates the look of this solution, but it's possible to set it up so it could be removed easily, if needed.

Last year, Mercruiser came up with an OEM solution, with X-haust, a fully integrated sterndrive exhaust noise reduction system. X-haust was developed primarily to bring the HP600 SCi and EU662 SCi sterndrive engine packages into compliance with some of the more stringent noise regulations, especially those of the European Union. Mercury says the muffler design flows exhaust through two separate chambers connected by three attenuator tubes before exiting the exhaust outlet at the bottom, reducing sound pressure waves without sacrificing engine power or performance. The transom-mounted muffler is completely submerged when the boat is at rest. Since it's introduction last year, I have heard little feedback about the system or its effectiveness, but that's no surprise, since I doubt there have been many takers in the U.S. market.

For those who are looking for an add-on solution, a number of options are available. Custom Marine's Sound Elimination Systems mufflers offer proven sound reduction technology that will allow most boaters to operate in areas where sound emissions are restricted. Designed to reduce sound emissions to levels as low as 85 decibels the mufflers are engineered to lower overall sound without restricting exhaust or creating unwanted backpressure, which can keep your high performance engine from running its best. Made from 304 series stainless steel, they can be installed on any exhaust system with tailpipes ranging from 4" to 6" in diameter.

Custom Marine also makes a "silent choice"-type system; External Sound Choice silencers allow the operator to muffle high decibel sound waves emitted through the exhaust with simply a flip of a switch and a butterfly valve system. For safety, they are pneumatically operated, eliminating the risk of electrical spark hazards. You can also find other manufacturers who offer similar systems.

Like everything, there's a time and a place for the display of epic brute power. Way out on the lake or ocean, in a race or poker run, or even the occasional loud rumble at dockside can be enjoyable - within reason. Using your smarts and a good exhaust control system can keep your passengers, fellow boaters and law enforcement officials happy. In the long run, your wallet will thank you, too.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Where Boaters Boat: Preserving Barnegat Bay's F-Cove.

In many places, access to the water continues to be a problem. Whether it's a place to launch or dock a boat, sit by the water and enjoy a cold beverage, or beach your boat on a warm sandbar for a swim...various forces come together at times to limit or restrict our use of the water. Sometimes these forces are for the protection of the area, and are sensible. Sometimes they're economic, and can't be avoided. Other examples just make no sense at all.

The F-Cove is the area on the north end of the Barnegat Bay in Brick, NJ where many boaters go to enjoy and relax with other families and boaters. It is now in danger of being closed off to Boats. Several governmental agencies are advancing a plan to partially fill in F-Cove, using the deep lagoons as a dredge spoil site, and also restricting use in an attempt to restore wildlife habitat. The plan would likely close F-Cove to all present forms of access; according to the plan, powerboats would no longer be allowed entrance. "Bollards" - pilings put in various places much as is done on land to enhance security of some building - would restrict access to craft above a certain size.What New Jersey boaters are requesting is that local officials work with the US Fish & Wildlife Service to arrive at a mutually agreeable way to keep F-Cove in existence for future generations of boaters to safely enjoy. Save Barnegat Bay, the local environmental group that is leading the effort to keep the cove accessible to boaters, acknowledges that the current activities do not meet the official recreational criteria:
"But we strongly believe that the fact that thousands of boaters enjoy this natural setting on weekends over the course of the summer creates an obligation on the part of representative government to work out an accommodation."

PHOTO CREDITS [both]: F-Cove.com

Interested boaters can help by writing letters or attending a hearing--just email info@savebarnegatbay.org for more info. To get a clearer idea of what the government is trying to do, a huge 753-page Army Corps of Engineers report is available here. [PDF] Scroll to page 164.

YOU can race for a Hundred Bucks!

Admit it....you've always wondered what it's like to race in a real offshore race. Waves pounding...heart pounding...surrounded by speed and spray...well, Harrison Offshore in S.E. Michigan is offering an opportunity to experience offshore racing from the inside. If you join the organization's founding member group you will also be entered to win a special race weekend you'll never forget.

Join Harrison Offshore as a member now for just $100 and you'll be part of a respected organization that promotes offshore racing in Michigan. You also get recognition in their Race Magazine as a founding member and receive a Harrison Offshore Race Tee shirt. The best part? One of these new founding members will be selected to take part in the complete race experience!

The Incredible "Bat Boat" / PHOTO CREDIT: Harrison Offshore

The one winner - selected at random - will enjoy the following benefits at the 2nd Annual Harrison Township Offshore Challenge July 25-26th, 2009:

- Test and Race with a World Champion Throttleman
- Enjoy the Racer's Parties
- Attend the Racers meetings and physicals
- Complete the "Dunker Test"
- Hangout with the racers the entire weekend
- Free Hotel room Friday and Saturday at the Racers Hotel
- All This For Only $100. That's right...just $100.

Email Harrison Offshore at wahoo214@comcast.net or rick@dirt-deals.com to get your membership now. Of course, there are a few other requirements. You will need to join the Offshore Powerboat Association (OPA - the $150 annual fee gets you into all OPA races as well as "hot pit" areas for the season) and also have a recent CDL or FAA physical to race.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Now THIS is Offshore Racing...

There's been a lot of talk recently on the various offshore forums about the current state of offshore powerboat racing in the U.S., and the consensus seems to be that a shakeup -- or better yet -- a consolidation of some sort, is seriously needed. In the past, the sport was known for its high visibility, high payouts for race winners, and strong focus on a few classes of competitive boats. Today, while there is still a lot of enthusiasm among individual racers, and some international circuits like Powerboat P1 are seeing a solid level of success, the sport in America is diffused among a number of different racing organizations like OSS, APBA, OPA, SBI...and others. Many participants and former racers feel the sport is suffering from too many classes, too little prize money, a lack of sponsors and media exposure, and a high cost-barrier to entry for the "little guy."

With that in mind, I came across this promotional video for the Honda Formula Four-Stroke Association, a UK-based series that bills itself as "the largest offshore powerboat championship in the world."  Honda launched the Series in 1999 in order to prove the performance of their new BF130 4-stroke outboard engines. To make things simple, there are only two classes, a 150hp class with 21' boats, and a more aggressive 225hp class, featuring 28' Cougar hulls.  Both engines and hulls are standardized and cannot be modified throughout the series, to keep things competitive.  And it IS competitive. In 2006, there were 25 teams fighting it out in just those two classes. The boats are priced within reason as well, making the series one of the most affordable and accessible forms of motor sport out there, allowing an enthusiast with modest means to compete at a national championship level. 

PHOTO CREDIT:  Formula Four-Stroke Association

As for the quality of the racing, the video speaks for itself. There are lots of boats, racing close together, with plenty of "balls-to-the-wall" action. This is the closest I have seen to "Nascar on the water," with hulls banging together and trading paint (trading gel?) at speeds from 55mph for the 150hp class to about 75mph for the 225hp class. Those speeds are far below the 100+mph seen on some high-hp circuits, but that's pretty fast for the size of boat we're talking about and a single outboard. Again, one look at the video proves there's no lack of excitement here. If you want to talk offshore powerboating as an Extreme Sport, here's the proof.

Lessons to be Learned

It seems to me there's a lot that could be gained from studying the approach this series takes. It gets exposure on UK television through the BBC Channel 4, and they are also distributed and syndicated via networks such as Sky Sports, SNTV, Fox Sports and ESPN. They do a great job of supporting the media and involve journalists and celebrities with a special media race boat.

PHOTO CREDIT:  Formula Four-Stroke Association

Here in the U.S., there seems to be a natural bias against using outboard power in a series, as we just love our big V8's and stern drives. As a result, the cost to be truly competitive has risen dramatically, and while some committed individuals are trying to find solutions in this regard, it's still a struggle. This is powerboating, after all, and there are so many "A-type" personalities involved, it's hard to get people to agree on anything -- reflecting a strong tendency to focus inward for solutions instead of looking outward for real answers on how to improve the sport. While everyone agrees there will always be a place for the big, high-dollar competitors and series where the Big Dogs go to play, the Formula Four-Stroke Series seems to be something from which we could learn a lot.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

America's Got Talent - and Fast Boats!

Offshore icon Bob Saccenti has recently spent time helping the NBC TV show America's Got Talent get off to a good start for it's Summer 2009 debut in Miami. New show host Nick Cannon, who is also married to Mariah Carey, got a ride in a beautiful Cigarette, with a little help from legendary throttleman John Tomlinson.

Nick got to enjoy some high-speed runs as the boat was featured in some video shots out of Government Cut. The show staff and videographers were on hand to help coordinate the filming; they were also aided by Phil Lipshultz of Lipship Cigarette, who helped ensure that the right people and equipment were on hand.

Cannon must have been taken with the experience - and who wouldn't be? Later that day he posted on Twitter "...just finished racing a speedboat in Miami. Gotta get me one of these!" Judging by the boat he got to ride in, we can see how he got hooked! Great job, guys...more opportunities like this will give our sport the special profile it deserves. Now somebody better hurry up and send Nick a business card so they can sell him a boat!

PHOTO CREDITS: Charlie McCarthy (top) and Bob Saccenti (bottom)

When it returns this summer, the 4th season of America's Got Talent will be hosted by Cannon and continue to be presided over by the combination of celebrity judges Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan and David Hasselhoff. Cited by People Magazine as one of the "Top Ten most successful young people in Hollywood," the effusive star has been getting accolades from many corners of the entertainment community. For the fourth season, the show will travel to at least nine major cities to find talent of all kinds – singers, dancers, contortionists, comedians, jugglers, magicians and everything in between.

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