If the Offshore Powerboat Association fleet could “walk,” it definitely would do so with a limp. Heading into its 2010 World Championships Oct. 13-17 in Orange Beach, Ala., the OPA racing series—sponsored by Geico—has had an event almost every other weekend for the past eight weeks. And that much action is hard on equipment, not to mention the racers themselves.
“The jury is out on how many boats we’ll have for Orange Beach,” Ed “Smitty” Smith, the president of OPA, told me during a telephone interview early this week. “There’s a lot of broken boats right now. But I think we’re looking at 35 to 37 in Orange Beach.”
As a group to watch, Smith said Class 5—boats 30 feet and under with a single big-block engine—could be the one most likely to produce consistent action.
“Those guys really go at it,” he said. “A lot of people think the bigger (boat size) classes are the show, but my personal preference is to watch the competitors in the smaller classes.
“In Class 3, which has a speed restriction of 95 mph, Bull on the Beach, a Skater (catamaran) and TKO, 40-foot Sutphen V-bottom, are two rivals who’ve been going at it all season,” he continued. “I don’t think they’ve been more than 30 feet apart the whole season. With this class, it’s not how fast you can go because that’s set, but how fast you can get there. So you tend to see them bunch up in the straights—the battle is in the turns and coming out of the turns.”
Attrition hit OPA’s strong five-boat Super V fleet hard this year, and as the class heads into Orange Beach it looks as if it will be down three entries. The most likely head-to-head battle in Super V will be between Strictly Business and Wazzup Racing, which is driven by Smith.
“We’re driving down to Orange Beach with them (the Strictly Business racing team),” Smith joked. “We’ll probably end up racing on the way there.”