Commentary: Unlimited Attrition, Unlimited Expense

News of Unlimited class team owners planning a move to Mercury Racing 1100 engines—or some derivation thereof—as spec/max power for the 2019 season received a rocky reception from offshore powerboat racing fans in favor of a truly “unlimited” category. Social media exploded with comments on the plan, as did the message boards. Rarely does news from the offshore racing world spark such spirited debate among its followers.


Competitors in offshore racing’s fastest and most exotic class proposed a power decrease for the 2019 season. Here’s why it makes sense. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

While I’m not qualified to speak to the specifics of the proposed power solution, I have to admit I was gob-smacked by the negative fan reaction to it. Because to my way of watching, the Unlimited class has been underwhelming for years.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the speed, the hardware and the courage and skill of the people involved. I am lucky to count many Unlimited-class racers as friends. Anyone questioning their bravery in the cockpit or commitment to the sport is wildly mistaken.

But as I read comment after comment lamenting the Unlimited-class power proposal, I honestly wondered if those opining had been watching the same product on the racecourse that I had.

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Related Story: Offshore Racing’s Unlimited Class Unified To Decrease Power For 2019 Season

Sunsation’s Centered Salvation

By the numbers alone, the success of Sunsation Powerboats is impressive. Just three years after the Algonac, Mich., company introduced its 32 CCX performance center console, hull No. 60 is in the mold. According to Wayne Schaldenbrand, who owns the company with his brother, Joe, and partners Jared Morris and Kyle Miller, Sunsation currently builds one 32-footer—in addition to its 34-foot sibling—a week. And though it has taken a little longer than anyone involved imagined, a 39-footer is on the way.


With its 32 CCX a runaway hit and a 39-foot version coming this summer, life is good for the Schaldenbrand brothers and company.

“The interest in the 39 is almost overwhelming,” said Joe Schaldenbrand. “We have four or five solid commitments and at least five more potential buyers waiting to see the finished product. We should have the first one completed by June, and from there we plan to build one a month.”

But the bigger story of Sunsation—and most high-performance powerboat enthusiasts know it—is how center console production saved the company.

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Erik Christiansen’s Own Tough Act To Follow

As the longtime leader of Mercury Racing, Fred Kiekhaefer—the brilliant, charismatic and sometimes goofy son of high-performance marine industry pioneer Carl Kiekhaefer—was a tough act to follow. So when Erik Christiansen, Fred’s remarkably talented, hand-groomed successor, picked up the general manager reins of the Fond du Lac, Wis., marine engine and accessories company upon his departure in 2012, Christiansen knew better than to even try.


The outgoing head of Mercury Racing (front row, far right) accomplished much—in his own low-key style—during his tenure at the high-performance marine engine giant.

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Offshore Racing’s Elephant In The Room

Within minutes of yesterday’s story on key personnel changes at Super Boat International, my mobile phone and email account began blowing up. Beyond hearing from offshore racers and fans, I quickly learned that SBI technical inspector Lee Stanford, as well as other longtime staff members, had quit or were in the process of quitting the organization.


Between major changes at one organization and a new outfit launching, offshore racing heads into its 2018 season with more questions than answers. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

None of this surprised me. Nor did reports of concerns regarding the future of the season coming out SBI’s Cocoa Beach, Fla., and Michigan City, Ind., venues. For all the success SBI has enjoyed during the past few years with its impressive Superboat class, the organization has struggled with its schedule.

In 2017, the SBI went from five to four regular-season races prior to its annual offshore world championships in Key West, Fla. For the 2018 season, SBI dropped its regular-season schedule to three races—with the loss of its Mentor, Ohio, contest to the new Race World Offshore organization—in advance of its Key West finale. Despite good showings in the Superboat and Superboat Vee classes, overall boat counts have dwindled in the past few years.

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Related Story: Steinert In As New SBI Rescue Coordinator, Harshfield Ousted And Dancisin Resigns

In Their Footsteps

Imagine if everyday in your professional life people compared you to your father—and your father was a legendary figure in your shared profession. Such is the case for Reggie Fountain, III, who currently works at Fountain Powerboats—the famed Washington, N.C., sportboat and center console company his father founded—and William Moore, the son of Bobby Moore, one of offshore powerboat racing’s greatest all-time throttlemen.


With high-performance marine industry legends for fathers, Reggie Fountain, III, and William Moore, have more than a little in common.

Depending on your perspective, you could find it to be a burden or a blessing. But for Reggie Fountain, III, and William Moore, it is decidedly the latter. Since the Fountain V-bottom kilometer speed record project began taking shape several months ago, they’ve worked closely together. And when the twin 1,900-hp turbocharged Sterling Performance engines were installed in the 40-foot canopied boat, Moore and Fountain were the first to run it.

As it happens, Moore is more familiar than most—maybe even all—folks save for D’Anniballe with the 557-cubic-inch Sterling powerplants. The 44-foot Super Boat International Unlimited-class CT Marine catamaran he throttles with driver/owner Andy Strobert is powered by a pair of the same Sterling engines, albeit with their output lowered to a longer-living 1,600-plus hp.

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