Rougher than it looked but not nearly as rough as it can be—that was the book on today’s season-opening Super Boat International Space Coast Super Boat Grand Prix in Cocoa Beach, Fla. SBI’s Cocoa Beach event is notorious for consistently dishing out the roughest water of any regular-season race, but for the second year in a row the venue showed its more docile side.

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Team CRC/Sunlight Supply and Wake Effects put on a good show in today’s Superboat Unlimited class contest (click image to enlarge). Photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

In the first race of the day, that water suited Superboat Vee-class racers Mark Niemann and Tom Maddalena just fine in Phantom 9, and they piloted Niemann’s newly powered 30-footer to victory in the seven-boat fleet.

“My boat does not like rough water,” said Niemann, who throttles the canopied V-bottom and notched his first win since the second race of the 2015 SBI World Championships in Key West. “It was still pretty rough out there—I think the top speed we saw was 89 or 90 mph."

Niemann was quick to credit Madddalena, his wheel man for the past few seasons. “I’ve been racing for many years and I’ve had a lot of people in the boat and running with Tom is fricking awesome," he said. "We trust each other and we had the boat perfectly dialed in.

“Of course, there’s always a little bit of luck involved,” he added, then chuckled.

For a look at today’s action—and some of the winners—from today’s Space Coast Grand Prix check out the slideshow above. Photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

Veteran Stock-class throttleman Gary Ballough, who doesn’t mind a good rough-water race, also excelled in the relatively tame Cocoa Beach conditions for the first contest. Ballough and driver Jimmie Harrison led the four-boat fleet wire to wire in FJ Propeller, Ballough’s 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran.

The wind picked up a bit for the second race of the day, which featured the Superboat Unlimited, Superboat and Superboat Extreme classes, but while there were a few dramatic launches the bigger catamarans and V-bottoms made short work of the mildly worsening conditions.

Proving that just two boats can produce intriguing action if they’re well matched, Team CRC/Sunlight Supply and 2016 defending national and world champion Wake Effects—both 48-foot MTI catamarans powered by Mercury Racing 1650 engines—kept it close. With a seven-second lead and two laps to go, Wake Effects broke a belt, according to driver/owner Rusty Rahm who shares the cockpit with Jeff Harris, and was unable to finish the race. That left the door wide open for Team CRC/Sunlight Supply owner/throttleman Mike DeFrees and Gary Ballough—who had a really good first day of the 2017 SBI with two wins—and they didn’t hesitate to step through it to take victory.

With six boats in the Superboat class, the defending 2016 national and world champion Performance Boat Center/Jimmy John’s team of throttleman John Tomlinson and driver Myrick Coil had its work cut out in its 38-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran powered by twin Sterling Performance engines. But Tomlinson and Coil picked up right where they off last year and claimed first place for the second year in a row at the venue.

“It’s always rougher than it looks,” Tomlinson said. “It looks flat and calm when you’re standing on the beach but it’s not—it was a little bumpy, maybe two- to two-and-a-half footers but you could still go fast, maybe 110, 111, 112 mph. You could truck across it pretty well.”

No Cocoa Beach event is complete without at least one north buoy impalement. Two years ago, that honor went to Billy Glueck and Brett Furshman in the Superboat Extreme-class Twisted Metal Fountain V-bottom. This time around, Billy Mauff and Jay Muller handled the job in their Superboat-class WHM Motorsports Skater catamaran.

“After Billy (Mauff) hit the north buoy we were able to take the lead,” Tomlinson said. “We got spread out, but you still had to run the whole race. There was no taking a break.”

“When you’re up front it’s way more fun that being in the back,” Coil said. “I thought Pro Floors Racing was going to catch it us—Johnny and I were talking about it near the end of the race—but they didn't. I wouldn’t call it 'deceiving water,' but it’s always a long ride in Cocoa Beach. Our prop selection was good. Our weight was good.”

 

WHM Motorsports gave the Cocoa Beach venue’s north turn buoy a long ride today. Photos courtesy/copyright Loren Morrissey/Speedonthewater.com.

Having spent much of last season running uncontested, Peter Meyer and Johnny Stanch of the AMH Construction/Instigator team were grateful for the competition provided by Joe Sgro and Steve Curtis in Outerlimits. But the efforts Sgro and Curtis weren’t enough to keep Meyer and Stanch from cruising to a decisive victory in the Superboat Extreme class.

For complete final results when they become available visit the Super Boat International website.

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