Even though Edward Smith, the head of the Offshore Powerboat Association, has a full name, the only one he needs among the OPA faithful is “Smitty.” (He’s like Madonna and Prince that way.) When I caught with him yesterday before the Sunny Isles OPA race, he was busy getting his own “Wazzup” boats ready (he races one Fountain with his son Anthony in Super V and then Anthony races in another Activator as “Wazzup II” in Class 6 with younger son Nicholas) and overseeing the activity in the pits for the whole race.
“When people ask me how I run a race organization and also race, I tell them that’s why I run a race organization, so I can race,” he said.
Smitty explained his organization’s essence, “OPA is a brotherhood,” he said. “We’re a bunch of guys who really enjoy what they do. There’s no flack. If we have to run into the fire, we do it. Lots of people think we’re a little organization that runs races in the Northeast, but by default, we’ve become the biggest.”
Smitty further discussed OPA’s sponsorship deals with Optima Batteries and Amsoil and the Versus TV deal, which starts in October (Versus was bought by NBC and will be part of NBC Sports soon) and believes that other sponsors will follow. His energy is low-key, his spirit upbeat and the enthusiasm sincere—refreshing combination in boat racing.
With only about 23 boats, the field still looked respectable with at least some competition in most classes except Class 4, which had one Formula, Super Vee with Wazzup and Super Stock, with one Skater, “Fluid Sealing Products.”
The Cintron team avoided that route by opting to run the Mystic Cat in the Extreme Class with the turbine engined Miss GEICO and the Lamborghini Miami. Though Cintron’s 1450 Stotler Racing gasoline-powered engines faced a tough shot against the turbine-powered Mystic, Champs Craig Wilson and Rich Wyatt decided to run against Marc Granett and Scott Begovich and make it a race, rather than a 12-lap parade for a checkered flag .
Cleveland Constructions’ Ed Smith and his son Shawn were ready for their first race since they flipped in Key West last fall. They had re-built the transom and were looking forward to a run in Class 1 against the Twisted Metal Fountain and the GEICO Caveman Skater. British powerboat racing Champs Richard Carr and Mark Pascoe were brought in to campaign this addition to the GEICO fleet, which will add to the green machine team this season.
The first race got off to a late start due to wayward buoys and progressed 9 laps without drama. In Class 5, it was Mark Henderson and Eddie Simmons taking first in Superboat “Mighty Macs,” John and Jason Saris in their Krptonite vee-bottom, “Saris Racing” in second, and Jay Muller and Randy Schleuss in the Kryptonite, Typhoon in third. In Class 6, it was one, two, three for “Joker Powerboats’” Peter and Richard Smith (26' Joker), Wazzup II’s Smith Brothers (Activator) and “Locked Up Bandits” Jeremy Bisson and Robert Geoghegan (Sunsation).
When the big boats finally lined up at 3 PM a dark and stormy sky to the north threatened to spoil the balmy, hot and sunny afternoon. The Cat Lite class was reduced to three when Loriblue did not start so each Class, Extreme, Cat Lite and Class 1 took off with three competitors, followed by the single Super Stock and Super Vee. The beach spectators were treated to some close racing between Cintron and Miss GEICO, Amsoil and Phoenix Parts.com and Twisted Metal and Cleveland Construction. Though the other boats were never a threat, they all finished the race. Norwegians Henry Karlsen and Morten Linderman in the Skater, “Infinity” had a few “moments” in the Cat Lite race, reported Lnderman, but the boat ran smoothly and cleanly for all 11 laps.
Ray Contreras and Harry Clack’s “Phoenix Parts.com” Skater got the inside lane at the start, keeping Amsoil’s Bob Teague and Paul Whittier at bay. But after Amsoil got in their groove, they added to their lead, eventually to over a minute in the final laps of the Cat Lite race.
Cleveland Construction seemed to lag in the beginning behind Twisted Metal’s Billy Glueck and Brett Furshman and the GEICO Caveman’s Wilson and Wyatt, but in the final laps, when the Caveman’s engine hatch started flapping, the Smith Brothers’ Talon pulled up and gave it their best shot--but the Fountain wouldn’t relent.
Miss GEICO and Cintron left the Lamborghini Miami Skater in the dust (though dealership owner Fritz Eigleshowen gave this event a real effort.) and went head-to-head for a full 11 laps; as the end drew near, Begovich and Granet had to pull out all the stops on the last straight-away and earn the checkered flag. But neck-in-neck racing was great for the crowd and the upcoming TV show. Even the rain held up until the final lap, then gave all the participants a post-race shower.
“Gary Stray (crew chief) has set up this boat so perfectly that it does whatever we ask it to,” said Granet, Craig Wilson gave the team credit saying, “We really wanted to keep up and make it a good race—but those engines have so much power.”
Bob Teague, happy to have earned a double win for the weekend, adding to his Miami-Bimini first place, remarked he was sorry that Loriblu did not make the race.
“Reliability is a big part of this and also well-prepared equipment,” he said.
As the teams headed to the awards party for the official results and trophies, Infinity’s Morten Lindeman, explained why he came all the way from Norway to race summarized the event.
“After Key West, we decided to race in the U.S.,” he said. “We had a blast doing the Bimini run (last year) and when I called Bob Teague to ask what he thought about Miami, he said he was going, so we said we would too—we like Miami. With all the work that Brad and Larry put into this, it makes for a good event.”
Editor’s Note: Author Marilyn DeMartini is the owner of PR Power in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Her clients include Cigarette Racing Team, Latham Marine and Peters & May.