Two facts have long been present in the Super Boat International Unlimited class of 40- to 50-foot canopied catamarans, called Extreme class in Offshore Powerboat Association parlance. First, with straightaway speeds of 170-plus mph, the boats are fast, dangerously so in the eyes of most Unlimited-class competitors. Second, the class itself, thanks to engine power outputs of 1,650 hp and beyond per side, is mechanically fragile. More often that not, the Unlimited class team boat that actually finished a race won the race.
With a power decrease in 2019, the Unlimited-class teams are making a collective effort to improve safety and reliability for their ranks. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Thanks to a collaborative effort involving the Miss GEICO, Wake Effects, CRC/Sunlight Supply, CT Marine and Alex And Ani teams, as well as Randy Scism of Marine Technology, Inc., of Wentzille, Mo., those issues—safety and reliability—for the class in the 2019 season. In 2019, all boats in the class will be running twin Mercury Racing 1100 engines or some derivation thereof.
“As a class, we started talking in at the 2017 Key West World Championships last November,” said Scott Colton of the 2017 Unlimited-Class World Champion Miss GEICO offshore racing group. “We met with Erik Christiansen of Mercury Racing in February, and on March 1 we had a conference call with all of the team owners. We collectively decided that launching the new program would be too soon to accomplish this season. So we’re going to start next year. For this season, the Unlimited class boats will run their current power.”
According to Colton, teams currently running Mercury Racing 1650 or 1350 power will be able to have their engines detuned at the company’s headquarters in Fond du Lac, Wis., before the 2019 season. Teams that don’t run Mercury Racing power, such as Miss GEICO and at least two interested team from Europe, will be able to purchase Mercury Racing 1100s. Colton said that Scism of MTI even offered to sell 1100s to fledgling teams at his OEM cost.
For Union Motonautique International Class 1 teams, which no longer have a place to compete since this year’s total collapse of the Class 1 circuit, detuning of their current engines to the 1,100-hp maximum—or simply purchasing new 1100s from Mercury Racing—will be an option. All engines will needs to be sealed by Mercury Racing, which will “supply ECUs on Fridays before races,” he said.
“We are expecting three years of racing out of these engines,” said Colton. “But our primary concern is safety, followed by reliability. We spent millions perfecting our engine program, but we’re willing to abandon it for the good of the sport.
“We have a lot interest from the teams in Europe now that they have no place to race,” said Gary Stray, Miss GEICO’s team manager. “They’ve said, ‘Tell us what we need to do and we’ll be there.’”
During the March 1 conference call, according to Stray and Colton, the teams agreed on four venues in which they would all compete this season. They are the SBI season-opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla., the OPA Lake Race at the Lake Of The Ozarks in Missouri and the SBI National Championships in Clearwater, Fla. "A lot of the teams also probably compete at the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix," said Colton.
While each team will makes its own decision on competing in the annual SBI Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla., this year, the Miss GEICO team is opting out.
“Competing in Key West just didn’t offer enough impressions to justify the huge expense of being there,” said Colton.