Yesterday morning’s news that Super Boat International Stock-class racer Kyler Talbot, the owner and driver of the Talbot Excavating team, had died after a fall in his Bremerton, Wash., home stunned members of the offshore racing community. The two-time Stock-class world champion—Talbot claimed the 2013 and 2015 titles at the Super Boat International Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla.—was 47 years old.
A two-time world champion, Kyler Talbot ran the Talbot Excavating catamaran with Jay Muller. Photo by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
“I’ve cried my eyes out 20 times,” said Jay Muller, who throttled two different 32-foot Talbot Excavating Doug Wright Designs catamarans with Talbot driving to both world championships. “I can’t believe it. I just spoke to him on Wednesday. I spoke to him four times this week. We were figuring out what we were going to do for the races in Clearwater and Key West. We were going to do the OPA (Offshore Powerboat Association) race in Lake Hopatcong as a warm-up. We’ll be racing in his honor at the OPA race in St. Clair (Mich.) this weekend.”
The owner and founder of Talbot Excavating, a large commercial and residential excavation contracting company based in Bremerton, Talbot started racing in 2006-2007 with Joey Gratton of Sarasota, Fla., who died in an offshore racing accident during the worlds championships in Key West in 2011. (Talbot did not run with Gratton that season.) The following year, Talbot teamed up with Muller in a 32-foot Doug Wright cat that Grant Bruggemann of Grant’s Signature Racing and the late Robert “J.R.” Noble had run in Stock class under the STIHL team umbrella. Talbot leased the WHM Motorsports 32-foot Doug Wright from owner Billy Mauff and took the SBI world title in it in 2013. Two years later in the 32-footer that Talbot had commissioned from the dominant Stock-class catamaran builder, he and Muller claimed another world crown.
“He was the nicest guy—and the funniest guy, always joking,” Muller said. “I think that’s why we got along so well. We were also in the same business, the excavation business. He was great to race with, an awesome driver, very calculated. He always made sure the boat was in top shape. We always had the best of everything.”
Responsible for making sure the 32-footer was ready to go when Talbot, whose burgeoning business took him off the racecourse for the past two years, needed it was his longtime friend Bruggemann. The two were in business together—Bruggemann’s Bradenton, Fla., facility, which he moved into in 2013, was owned by Talbot.
“He most definitely was family,” Bruggemann said. “Kyler and (longtime girlfriend) Shelley flew down for our wedding in Sarasota. “He called me the day he was leaving to fly home to Washington and we were talking about taking off the 2.5s, ordering parts and putting 300s on the boat. That was the last conversation we had. With Kyler, there were always jokes. He wasn’t the guy who wanted to be in the spotlight. He loved to talk about boat racing. He was just the nicest guy in the world.
Grant Bruggemann, Shelley Avery, Kellie Lee Bruggemann, Leah Linebach, Jay Muller, Kyler Talbot at the Bruggemann’s wedding earlier this month during the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix.
“I’m standing here in the shop, looking at his boat, looking at his trailer, looking at the chassis that towed the boat, looking at his Cadillac,” he added. “It’s surreal.”
Stock-class racing veteran Ryan Beckley knew Talbot for 15 years. “I met him when he was buying his first Doug Wright,” Beckley said. “He had the intention of turning it into a pleasure boat. I said, ‘If you’re going to buy it, why don’t you at least race it once and see how you like it?’ That’s how it started.
“Kyler was always happy, always fun to be around, just a great guy,” he continued. “He and I did the Bimini Challenge in my Skater—I think it was in 2009—and it was a ‘bucket-list’ thing for me. He was very calm and collected in the boat. I’m so glad I got to do that with him.”