More than a few significant things were at stake today at the 10th annual Thunder On Cocoa Beach offshore powerboat race in Central Florida, the first race in the American Power Boat Association Offshore Championship Series. First and foremost, the six-race circuit is a product of a collaboration between two very different entities, the Offshore Powerboat Association and Powerboat P1, both of which run under the APBA sanctioning umbrella. Regardless that the two outfits had never worked together to produce a race, a good showing was essential.
Pro Floors Racing was simply phenomenal in today’s Super Cat race on Sunday in the Thunder On Cocoa Beach event.
And they pulled it off, starting with attracting 59 teams—the most in the event’s 10-year history—to a venue that pulled in 23 teams last year under Super Boat International, its former race producer. Today’s action was as smooth as it was almost nonstop.
“It was a huge success,” said Ed “Smitty” Smith, the president of OPA. “We are only going to build from here.”
Based on the Cocoa Beach event, the APBA Offshore Championship series has much to build on.
Integral to the success of the OPA family, the bracketed classes warmed up big crowds on the beach and in the spectator fleet during the first race of the day, which got started just after 11 a.m. While the official results were pending verification when this story went live—as are all results in this report—first-place finishers included Boom Shaka Laka in Class 6, Bronx Phantom/J.T. Social House in Class 5, Simmons Marine in Class 4 and—running uncontested as Smith opted not to compete in in his Wazzup team V-bottom this year in Cocoa Beach—Strictly Business in Class 3.
The second race of the day saw three classes—Super Stock, Pro Stock V and Super Vee Extreme—take to the water. With 10 teams on the course, Super Stock had the largest fleet of any class and put on a show with Shadow Pirate, Performance Boat Center/AutoAlert and FJ Propeller vying for the lead for much of the contest. It was a battle of the 32-foot Doug Wright catamarans, Shadow Pirate and Performance Boat Center, versus the new 32-foot, Dubai-based Victory Team-built catamaran owned by veteran offshore racer Gary Ballough.
With team owner Nick Scafidi driving and throttling today, Shadow Pirate flew to a Super Stock-class victory.
For much of the rest of the contest, the battle for first place was between Shadow Pirate and FJ Propeller. But in the end Shadow Pirate—with owner Nick Scafidi driving and throttling—finished first, followed by Performance Boat Center/AutoAlert piloted by throttleman Myrick Coil and rookie driver Rusty Williams in second place and FJ Propeller in third.
“That was some good racing,” Scafidi said. “I think we had two or three lead changes before we got out front and stayed there, and I kept the throttles pinned.”
In the Pro Stock V contest, the LSB/Hurricane of Awesomeness team’s Brit Lilly and Kevin Smith took out some legitimate frustration on the rest of the fleet by grabbing the lead early and never letting it to go. Their frustration and disappointment stemmed from working 12- to 16-hour days for three weeks to get their new Vee Extreme-class Fountain ready for Cocoa Beach, complete with a stunning paintjob applied by Lilly and company at the LSB shop in Arnold, Md., only to have an engine problem during testing on Saturday. That forced them to find another ride for freestyle motocross star and rookie offshore racer Travis Pastrana, who was set to drive for Lilly in the Fountain. (Pastrana ended up driving in another boat, JRA Boat Sales.) Running away with the Pro Stock V victory certainly didn’t take away all their disappointment, but it was a step in the right direction.
Likewise, throttleman Vinnie Diorio and driver Brian Forehand flat out dominated the Super Vee Extreme-class ranks in Marker 17 Marine, their 29-foot Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats V-bottom powered by a new carbureted Factory Billet engine—but left Cocoa Beach a whole lot less than satisfied. Like their Pro Stock V counterparts, Diorio and Forehand jumped to an early lead and never looked back.
“Factory Billet power, baby,” Diorio said. “That engine was so smooth and responsive it felt fuel injected.”
But the Marker 17 Marine team’s victory celebration was short-lived. According to Diorio, he and Forehand were informed after the race that their boat was underweight based on its number of steps. The father-and-son team of Steve and Stephen Kildahl in Boatfloater.com were awarded the victory and Marker 17 Marine was moved to last place.
A penalty to the Marker 17 Marine team moved Boatfloater.com into first place in the Super Vee Extreme class.
In what was arguably the finest contest of the day, Race No. 3 featured the five-boat Super Cat class. Though Pro Floors Racing throttleman Grant Bruggemann and driver Wayne Valder held the lead for most of the way in their MTI catamaran, they were under constant attack from Tyler Miller and Tyson Garvin in the M-Con Skater.
But even when Miller and Garvin got close—and they got very close in the later laps—Bruggemann and Valder were able to hold them off by controlling the inside of the course, which in today’s third and fourth races included a dog-leg section before the second turn. Even as the seas grew to three to four feet in Bruggemann’s estimation, they were able to keep their Jon Kasse Racing Engines-powered MTI running and flying with a perfectly level attitude.
“We were maintaining our position without doing anything silly, not kiting the boat and maintaining a good average speed,” Bruggemann said. “Wayne drove a great race. Kasse Racing Engines did a great job. They definitely gave us a lot of usable power.
“Once M-Con got behind us we definitely had to pay attention,” he added. “But thanks to the whole team pulling together, we had a great race and a great result.”
The final race of the day saw five Class One teams take the green flag. Miss GEICO, 222 Offshore and Victory all ran new Mercury Racing 1100 Comp engines in their Victory Team-built catamarans. The only V-bottom in the fleet, Lucas Oil/Silverhook ran Mercury Racing 1350 engines, as the team is allowed to this season, while the Zabo Racing ran Mercury Racing 1350s detuned to 1,100 hp per this year’s rules for catamarans in the class not running the new 1100 Comp engines.
The battle for first place quickly became between Miss GEICO and Victory, but about midway through the race Victory took flew awkwardly and landed sideways. The catamaran did not roll or hook, but the team never seemed to recover and did not challenge Miss GEICO throttleman Steve Curtis or driver James Sheppard again.
“We had six miles per hour on everyone in the straights and I said to Steve and James over the radio, ‘Let’s not do anything crazy,’“ said Gary Stray, Miss GEICO’s longtime crew chief. “They weren’t diving into the corners or anything like that.
“Steve was, as usual, perfect,” he added. “James was brilliant. And of course, I have to credit our great crew.”
For Azam Rangoonwala, chief executive officer of Powerboat P1, the Thunder On Cocoa Beach couldn’t have gone better. In addition to thanking his OPA counterparts, he was quick to credit the event’s locally based organizers.
“It has been awesome working with Kerry Bartlett, Kevin Pruett and the Thunder on Cocoa Beach Team,” he said. “We’re going to continue to keep pushing and growing our sport as we really have some positive momentum coming out of this event.
“There was great racing across all classes and we can’t wait to see the competition continue throughout this season,” he added. “The feedback from the live stream and social channels has been excellent and we can only get better. This is just the beginning.”
The second event in the APBA Offshore Championship Series, the Lake Race on the Lake of the Ozarks in Central Missouri is set for June 1.