by Bob Wonders
Gentlemen, prepare to start your engines, it’s all set for this weekend’s staging of the 31st Key West World Offshore Powerboat Championships staged by Super Boat International (SBI).
Superboat Stock entry ’Risk’ flies high off Cocoa Beach earlier this year. It’s spectacular action like this that will thrill the spectators at Key West.
The marquee event looms as one of the best and largest turnouts for many years, with teams confirmed from Australia, the Ukraine, Norway and Italy all set to do battle with America’s finest.
‘Maritimo’, the Gold Coast-based team owned by legendary Australian boat builder Bill Barry-Cotter will be Australia’s first entry at Key West since 1972.
Luke Durman (driver) and Ross Willaton (throttles) currently hold a commanding lead in Class 1 in the Australian Offshore Superboat Championships and are confident of being able to deliver a solid performance off Key West.
Luke Durman and Ross Willaton, 2011 Class 1 Offshore Superboat Champions. - Williamstown offshore
At Key West they will compete in Superboat Unlimited. Racing is spread over three gruelling days, November 9-13, with teams striving to accumulate enough points to emerge as World Champions. Key West, situated on the southern-most tip of the continental United States, is known for turning on the most exciting powerboat racing conditions and teams have been told to expect nothing different this year.
John Carbonell, Founder and President of Super Boat International, summed the event up well when he declared 'To be the best, you have to win at Key West.'
Mr Carbonell said SBI had enjoyed a great year of racing and that Key West was sure to be a 'highly competitive event.'
'We strive to give the race teams the best course to race on and to provide race fans with a memorable week long experience,' he added.
Organisers have set a 6.5-mile (10.45 km) course with ever-changing sea conditions predicted. Thirteen classes will be on show, and with the start and finish lines being within Key West Harbour spectators in the grandstand area will be within 50-years of the spectacular action. The teams won’t be racing simply for the glory, either, with a prize purse of US$100,000 to be divided among the class winners.
’WHM Motorsports’, a regular SBI competitor, can be counted on to post a good performance off Key West.
While racing stands unchallenged as the major drawcard, there’s more than racing to enjoy at the Key West extravaganza. Street parades, block parties, various other festivities will all add to the excitement, particularly when ones takes into account that Key West is known as ‘party town’ all year.
American offshore racing professional, Johnny Tomlinson, who will be handling the throttles for Norway’s Tor Staubo aboard ‘Team Gasse, has been contesting Key West since 1986. 'I’ve been fortunate enough to win titles at Key West with different teams and I am looking forward to achieving similar success with ‘Team Gasse’.
'Super Boat International does such a great job with this event and everyone really loves coming down here to race,' he added. Tor Staubo, the Norwegian owner of ‘Team Gasse’, a brand new 48’ (14.63-metres) MTI, said he had been 'fired up' to again try his luck at Key West. 'Hiring Johnny Tomlinson, who I regard as a world class throttleman, means we’re in with a chance and I couldn’t be happier,' he declared.
‘Maritimo’, the Michael Peters-designed catamaran carrying Australia’s hopes, will be offered for sale following the Key West championships, price to be negotiated.
For other teams, December through to March is ‘time out, with preparations being made for the 2012 season which begins next year with a new venue, Jacksonville, Florida. The Jacksonville Grand Prix set for April 12-14 next year, will open the SBI seven-race season. For further information visit the website, www.superboat.com.
Norwegian-owned ’Team Gasse’ will clash with Australian entry ’Maritimo’ and at least three others in Superboat Unlimited.