Skater At 50—Zero Defect’s Open-Class Perfection

Skater At 50—Zero Defect’s Open-Class Perfection

On the last lap of the final race of the 1996 American Power Boat Association-sanctioned Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla., throttleman John Tomlinson felt his dream-season slipping away. Tomlinson and Zero Defect team owner/driver Laith Pharaon had taken the checkered flag in every Open-class contest in their 46-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran powered by 900-hp Mercury Racing engines with Weismann dry-sump surface drives and two-speed transmissions. They were one win away from making Open-class racing history.

In 1996, the Zero Defect team’s Laith Pharaon and John Tomlinson notched the only perfect season in the history of offshore powerboat racing’s former Open class. Photo by Jeff Gerardi copyright FreezeFrame Images.

All of which meant nothing to would-be record-spoilers John Reban and Hurley Stepp in Ohio Steel, another 46-foot Skater cat competing in the Open class.

“There were eight or nine races that year and we’d won all of them,” Tomlinson recalled. “And Ohio Steel passes us on the last freaking lap in Key West and I’m thinking, ‘We’re going to lose in the last race of the season.’

“That was back when we raced all the way down to the airport and you had to make a right-hand turn came back and were headed into Key West Harbor,” he continued. “I passed them on the inside of that turn. We won by three seconds.”

Asked how he and Pharaon were able to pull off their perfect season, Tomlinson responded in his typical matter-of-fact fashion.

“We were fast, and we were reliable,” he said.

Tomlinson and Pharaon weren’t done claiming titles together. The following year, they won the Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 world championship in the Jolly Motor catamaran.

But they only won four out of nine races in that series.

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