Racing: Play Tradez And The Long Road Back To Cocoa Beach
One moment, veteran offshore racing throttleman Randy Sweers was setting up for the notoriously treacherous first turn on the four-plus-mile racecourse in Key West, Fla., in Play Tradez, a new 32-foot Doug Wright Super Stock-class raceboat. The next, he had the tip of another 32-foot catamaran’s sponson sticking in his cat’s mostly destroyed port side.
Before a experiencing a mechanical issue, the new Play Tradez raceboat led in the second race of the 2021 APBA/UIM Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
That no one was killed or seriously injured in the multi-boat wreck, which happened on the first lap of the second race during last year’s American Power Boat Association/Union Internationale Motonautique Offshore World Championships, was fortunate. But after thanking his lucky stars, Sweers, the managing partner of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based FB Marine Group, still had a raceboat—one with only 10 minutes practice time, one full race and one lap on it—that needed to be repaired and set up for 2022 season, which kicks off this Sunday in Cocoa Beach, Fla.
“We had to remove about half of the port side and part of the deck,” said Sweers, who is picking up the repaired 32-footer from Palm Beach this morning, where its new windshields were installed. “We had Doug Wright make us new side panels and deck panels in the molds, and from there we hired the former Miss GEICO lamination guys to handle the repairs. They are masters at carbon fiber work.
Though neither the Play Tradez team’s Randy Sweers nor Bryan Marquardt were injured in the Key West crash, their 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran sustained serious damage. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
“It’s been a long process,” he added, then sighed. “We had a significant amount of damage.”
The original producer of the wrap for the Play Tradez cat, Ryan Beckley of Kinetic Animation across the Sunshine State in Bradenton created replacement graphics for its hull and deck once the lamination work was complete. (The crew also replaced a couple of damaged bulkheads.)
Though the team had planned to swap out the boat’s original Mercury Racing two-stroke 300X outboard engines for the Fond du Lac, Wis., company’s four-stroke 300R model, that, too, added to the process. The FB Marine Group crew handled the re-power work.
“Shaun Torrente made new brackets for us and we had to change out the rigging,” Sweers explained. “And then were a whole bunch of other things we had to address such as bringing the cat’s video and radio systems back online.”
From out-of-action to race-ready, it’s been a long off-season for the Play Tradez team
With the Thunder On Cocoa Beach contest, the season-opener in the eight-race American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series, set for this Sunday, Sweers and driver Bryan Marquardt of Beaumont, Texas, won’t have a lot of time to test.
“We’re going to have to figure out our balance and setup,” said Sweers. “We have to add 500 pounds—we have to go from 4,400 to 4,900 pounds, as does the entire class this season. Fortunately, and I’m looking at the marine forecast for Sunday, it doesn’t look like Cocoa Beach is going to be a very rough race.
“This season will be a learning curve for us,” he continued. “Bryan is new to the class so he’s going to need some seat-time experience. I know all the courses, which helps, and we have a fast boat. We want to be competitive—and not have another incident like we did in Key West.”
On that subject, Sweers said he sees a lot of room for improvement.
“I think penalties for rules violations need to be enforced and there needs to be repercussions,” he explained. “That’s the biggest problem we have in this sport, the rules are so gray and not enforced.
“Key West was a prime example,” he continued. “From my position, the incident was caused because a certain boat didn’t adhere to what the rules stated. Until the rules are enforced, we’re going to have more of these issues.
Said Sweers (above right), “It’s been a long process. We had a significant amount of damage.” Photo by Cole McGowan copyright Powerboat P1.