by Bob Wonders
Bill Barry-Cotter’s Maritimo Offshore Race Team can lay claim to an astonishing 12 Australian Class 1 championships, and now the team has its sights on conquering America’s best at the legendary Key West World Offshore Championships in November.
’’Maritimo’’, Luke Durman (driver) and Ross Willaton (throttles) aboard on its way to victory off Townsville earlier this year. The boat has every chance to take it to the Americans in November.
Luke Durman (driver) and Ross Willaton (throttles) will be in the cockpit of ‘Maritimo’, the Michael Peters-designed catamaran powered by dual 1200hp Mercury Racing engines and BPM surface drives.
Currently leading Class 1 in the Australian Offshore Superboat Championships, Durman and Willaton will be contesting the Superboat Unlimited Class at Key West.
It’s more than 30-years since Australia was represented at Key West; in 1977 Kevin Wyld claimed the Class 2 World Offshore Championship at Key West, while Class 1 competitor Peter Dean registered a highly creditable fifth place.
Wyld drove a 30’ Scarab powered by dual Mercury 200hp outboard engines, finishing sixth overall and claiming the chequered flag in Class 2.
He described the race as 'one of the roughest races I’d ever competed in.'
John Carbonell, founder and President of race organiser Superboat International, has thrown out the ‘welcome mat’ for Martitimo.
'We are very pleased to have the Maritimo Offshore Race Team join us for the 31st annual Key West World Championships,' he said.
'This year’s event (November 6-13) will host teams from around the world and we are very excited to have the premiere team from Australia joining us.
'We welcome the Maritimo team and we expect a week of great racing,' he added.
Key West, the most southerly point of the continental United States, is known for its varied weather conditions, with unpredictable winds and seas from the adjoining Caribbean.
Durman described the US racing scene as 'very different'.
'It’s a very different atmosphere and attitude from the Class 1 World Championships, but every bit as competitive,' he added.
The team is confident it can perform to the required standard.
'We’ll be up against some serious horsepower and experience, but we have shown that we have the skill and ingenuity within the team to compete at the top level,' Willaton declared.
Both men are involved with the award-wining boat manufacturer Maritimo, Durman as Marketing Director and Willaton in the service division.
They have been with the company since it was established in 2003 and both have enjoyed success in racing, winning the Class 1 Offshore Superboat Championship in 2005.
Key West will mark the first time the Maritimo team has competed outside Australia since it contested the Class 1 World Championships in 2009.
While Durman and Willaton are looking forward keenly to their introduction to international racing, that’s not the sole reason for the US trip.
A primary aim will be support of the company’s US dealer network.
'The Maritimo brand is now well established on the US market through our wholly-owned subsidiary Maritimo USA,' Durman explained.
'Key West presents us with a great platform to further market the brand.
'We will also be arranging for a fleet of Maritimo vessels to head for Key West in what will be the first ‘Maritimo Muster’ staged in the United States.
'It will be a great thrill for us to race for them off Key West as we do here at the various Australian race circuits,' he added.
In the Superboat Unlimited Class, restricted to catamarans in the 38’ to 50’ (11.58 to 15.24-metres) that ‘Maritimo’ will contest, it will come up against some very quick boats crewed by very experienced personnel.
One of those will be ‘Cintron’, winner of the class at Key West last year.
Herb Stotler (driver) and Richard Wyatt piloted ‘Cintron’ to victory and averaged 114.90mph (184.90km/hr) for the 42.4 mile (68.23 kilometre) course.
Given 'good water', ‘Maritimo’ is capable of speeds in the region of 160mph (257km/hr), so it’s certainly capable of making an impression.
Offshore racing subjects boats and engines to extremely harsh treatment and the adage as always will apply, 'to finish first, first you must finish'.
The Maritimo team is indeed fortunate in having its equipment in the more than capable hands of crew chief Peter McGrath and engine builder Kurt Davies.