New Spirit of Qatar Boat to Enter Extreme/Turbine Class

In announcement that offshore racing fans can drool over, get ready, formidable competition is just around the corner for Miss GEICO. In Florida for the Miami International Boat Show, Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani revealed that the Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF) plans to partner with Mystic Powerboats and Whispering Turbines to build a turbine-powered boat for the 2013 racing season.

qatar_turbine_mysticThe Qatar Marine Sports Federation announced it will campaign Spirit of Qatar, a turbine-powered Mystic catamaran, stateside for the 2013 offshore racing season.The Doha-based team will compete stateside in the Extreme/Turbine class in Spirit of Qatar, its new Mystic catamaran fitted with Whispering Turbine power plants and a Five Axis Industries transmission.

“Our idea is to expand the racing map that we participate in, as well as expand into new race categories to become the leader in powerboat racing,” said Sheikh Hassan in a press release. “We have raced alongside the Miss GEICO team in the past, but we were in two different classes and not far behind, even with the restricted engines we used in 2010.”

I caught up with Marc Granet, driver of Miss GEICO, this afternoon and the first thing he said to me was: “How cool is that?” And I could hear the smile on his face, especially since his team was so instrumental with the Qatar team’s campaign in the 2010 Offshore Powerboat Association (OPA) season.

“First, we’re really happy we’ll have a high-speed boat like ours out there again,” said Granet, who plans to spend some time with Sheikh Hassan at the Miami show this week. “Second, to know that we have very qualified and knowledgeable boat racers running the boat, that’s extremely important.”

Sheikh Hassan, the QMSF president, admitted that his experience with the OPA series was vital in his decision making for 2013.

“Racing in the USA opened our eyes to so many things, one of which is being part of an event where the social scene and interacting with other teams and people is a priority,” he said. “It also was interesting that we caught everyone’s attention when we spoke about Qatar.”

The team is confident that it will have the best package on the water for the start of the new season. Based on the performance of Mystic boats such as Miss GEICO, JBS Racing, AquaMania and My Way, Sheikh Hassan realized that the fastest boats on the circuit were Mystics, so he opted with the proven package.

“I first met Sheikh Hassan when he came to the U.S. with his boats to race at Key West,” said John Cosker, president of DeLand, Fla.-based Mystic Powerboats. “His team was based in the GEICO camp in Palm Beach, so he spent a bit of time around the Turbine Extreme Mystic that they are running.

whispering_turbinesWhispering Turbines will provide a pair of T55-L7C turbine engines like this one, which produces around 2,900 hp, for the new Spirit of Qatar boat.“Mystic Powerboats will be building the carbon-fiber boat for the team and working closely with Whispering Turbines on the drivetrain layout and installation,” he continued. “I think the Spirit of Qatar team entering this class will raise the level of competition and excitement tremendously. Mystic has dominated this class over the past five years and I feel that Qatar building a boat for the class adds great validity and shows that the most extreme competitors appreciate the challenge of this form of racing.”

The new boat will be powered by a pair of T55-L7C turbine engines, delivering around 2,900 hp each, which reportedly will propel it to a top speed 220 mph or more. Although he hasn’t said who will handle the boat-driving responsibilities, Sheikh Hassan announced that the team will attempt to break propeller speed records in Spirt of Qatar.

“Sheikh Hassan contacted me several years ago with questions about turbine power for another project and we have been in regular contact ever since,” said Tracy Bratvold, co-founder of Whispering Turbines, based in Hamilton, Mont. “He then became involved in the sport through the H1 Unlimited series and came to one of our hydroplane races and devised a plan to bring the sport to Qatar, where we have raced for three years.

“We will be there to support in any way we can and will continue to supply the same power plants for U-96 Spirit of Qatar in the H1 Unlimited series,” Bratvold added. “The engines were originally designed for the Chinook helicopter and make an excellent power plant for the marine industry, because they only weigh 700 pounds each and produce nearly 3,000 hp, depending on the fuel flow. We have waited for the perfect time to be closely associated in a project like this and hope to have a long and exciting future with the QMSF.”

Erick Ellstrom of Five Axis Industries said he was honored to be asked to be part of this new venture.

“The team will have complete access to all of our technology to produce and design whatever is necessary,” said Ellstrom. “The relationship between the QMSF and Five Axis is very strong.”

Sheikh Hassan, who will be switching his attention to the 2012 Class 1 racing season, which begins March 14 in Doha, is relishing the start of the new project.

“We are proud of our Spirit of Qatar team as being a multicultural and multinational operation, with crew from Qatar, Italy, the UK and Norway, and we want to continue to show that we are a truly international team and the very best on the water,” he concluded.