For years, offshore powerboat racing fans have watched two classes of single-engine canopied V-bottoms compete—often at the same time—and, frankly, had no idea who was winning. Having announced for two races last year at Cocoa Beach and Sarasota, Fla., it wasn’t any easier for someone who has covered the sport for 30 years.
A couple of seasoned Mod V racers, Steve Kildahl and his son, Steve, will have plenty of company in Boatfloater.com on the racecourse this season. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
That’s going to change this year when most of the teams that owned a boat powered by a Mercury Racing HP525 EFI and ran in the Stock V class are moving up to Mod V. Boats in that class are powered by a single carbureted big-block engine and there are specifications to which the powerplants must be built.
“The goal was to merge the classes and the competitors had some input,” said American Power Boat Association Offshore Racing Commission chairman Rich Luhrs. “At this point, I don’t think there will be enough Stock V boats by the end of the year.”
Offshore racing has three different promoters, the Offshore Powerboat Association, Powerboat P1 and Race World Offshore, all of which are current APBA member-organizations producing races this season. Stock V will still be offered as a class, but virtually every team Speedonthewater.com spoke with said it is building a new motor or converting the HP525EFI for the Mod V class.
Brit Lilly has a unique view of the new class because he’s converting his 29-foot Extreme, LSB Hurricane of Awesomeness, from a Mercury 525EFI to a Mod V engine built by Michigan’s Tyler Crockett. As the owner of Extreme Powerboats, Lilly is also building new hulls for the Mod V class for Kyle Miller at Speed Marine, the 151 Express team and Mark Rinda and Kirk Hanna and the North Myrtle Beach RV crew.
Thanks to ongoing consolidation of two single-engine V-bottom categories, the Mod V class will enter the 2023 stronger than ever.
“We had to choose a year ago or two years ago what class UIM was going to recognize,” he said Lilly. “We chose the carb back then and potentially, there’s going to be 15 modified boats.”
Chris Colson is putting a Crockett engine in his 30-foot Phantom, Shocker, and will run a full Mod-V schedule in 2023 with Colson throttling and Ray Evans driving.
“As of now, we’re definitely going to do all the APBA National events and are including LOTO Powerfest (formerly the Lake Race) and Point Pleasant,” he said.
Driver Ken Bolinger and throttleman Forrest Riddle are putting a new carbureted engine from Gellner Engineering in Ohio in their 30-foot Phantom, Fast Boys, and are looking forward to competing against more boats. “We wanted to race with all of us together because it’s no fun seeing identical boats running together in two different classes,” said Bolinger.
He’s expecting his new engine to make about 660 hp and it will have more torque than the Stock V power. Bolinger expects to spend about $35,000 on the engine.
Ramon Vera is the crew chief for the 151 Express team that has been running in Mod-V for the last two seasons. “We’re strongly pushing for the teams to merge,” he said. “Between the two classes, there’s probably 15 to 20 boats.”
The 151 Express team has a new Extreme being built and Chris Bowers of Washington, N.C., will build the team’s engines. “That’s the nice thing about the class—you can have anybody build the motor,” said Vera. “You can build it yourself if you want.”
For Mod-V veterans and the new teams, having as many as 12 boats heading into turn one at the same time will be a new, nerve-wracking experience. Look at the mayhem it caused in some races in the Super Stock class.
“That’s going to be scary as hell having 12 boats out there all shooting for the first pin,” said Bolinger.
Steve Miklos is the owner/throttleman of the 30-foot Extreme, Sunprint, that he’s been racing in Mod-V with driver Steve Ferhman. Looking at Stock V from last year, the outspoken veteran Miklos said, “There were a lot of collisions last year and I hope this year that better restraint and officiating are employed.
“When you know you have contact issues going on, you sit everybody down and say it’s over,” he continued. “You can’t afford to lose the boats from the fleet. You can’t repair the fast enough. You don’t go into the hauler and get another one.”
Added Steve Kildahl, who throttles the 30-foot Extreme, Boatfloater.com, with his son/driver Stephen, “Rubbing isn’t racing in boats. The course changes every 10 feet and you don’t have brakes.”
“There’s a difference between aggressive close racing and running out of control and hitting people,” he said.
Luhrs also noted that the APBA is aware of the “rubbing is racing” attitude that has been too prevalent in offshore and said that the officials will be calling the races more strictly in 2023. A yellow card will be issued as a warning. A second one results in a penalty and a third will put a team on the beach.
“If you intentionally make contact with a boat, you’ll get a card,” he said.
Competition will increase with more boats entering the Mod V ranks this season, meaning competitors will need to be more situationally aware and at times less aggressive on the racecourse.
To The Extreme
Fans of larger, louder V-bottom boats will be pleased to learn that there will be more than one twin-engine canopied Fountain on the racecourse this year in the Extreme V class. Most competitors want to see the category name changed to Super V, which makes sense as they’re all running naturally aspirated engines.
“Twin-engine V-bottoms are the foundation of offshore racing,” said Luhrs.
For years the lone standard bearer for Extreme V, Ed Smith of St. Clair, Mich., will have his 40-foot Fountain, Knucklehead Racing, back out and there are other teams feverishly working on their equipment to challenge him.
Lilly and his longtime in-boat partner Kevin Smith are hoping to have their 42-foot Fountain, LSB Racing/Tug It, ready to attend a couple of races at the end of the season, think Clearwater, Fla., and Key West.
OPA president Ed “Smitty” Smith bought a canopied Fountain with cut-down decks from a team that formerly ran the boat in Belgium and plans to have it on the water at the Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., race in 2023. His son Anthony has been throttling Knucklehead Racing for the last couple of years so it will be interesting to see which cockpit the younger Smith straps into. Luhrs said that OPA races in 2023 will be APBA regional events and there’s a rule that says race officials can’t compete in an event over which they govern, so we’ll have to see.
Chris Uzzolina is moving up from a single-engine V-bottom to Extreme V. He bought the rare Skater 39-foot monohull that ran as Lucas Oil. He and in-boat partner Rob Hartmann are working on the boat that will get fresh engines from Hairy Nut Racing Customs in Mooresville, N.C. and the plan is for it to be ready for the RWO Key West world championships in November.
There is buzz of another Skater V-bottom being readied to compete in Extreme V this year. A quick text to Dan Kleitz at Outerlimits confirmed that no boats from the Rhode Island builder will be competing in the Extreme V class this year.
A stalwart backer of the V Extreme class, Ed “Evil” Smith of the Knucklehead Racing team will have his patience rewarded this season.
Performance-boating enthusiast Win Farnsworth has purchased a boat he plans to have at the season opener in Marathon, Fla., on April 30. He was looking for a warehouse when he went to look at a property in Florida. The cut-down canopied 42-foot Fountain, that had been campaigned by the late Bill Mazzoni was in the building and Farnsworth was intrigued. He made an offer and bought the boat.
Farnsworth will be in the boat with Jay Healy of Excell Racing in Stuart, Fla., and both of Farnsworth’s boats will be sponsored by Hancock Claims Consultants, a Georgia-based company.
The boat sat for many years so the restoration process is a slow one.
“We weren’t in a situation that we could go out and run the boat to get a baseline,” said Farnsworth.
Frank McComas at Scorpion Engines is building new power for the boat, which has Arneson drives, an atypical setup for a Fountain. Craig Wilson throttled the boat for Mazzoni and his father Mark had lots of input on the setup. Farnsworth said he has been talking with Mark Wilson, who spent decades at Rolla propellers before working for Arneson Twin Disc in the United States.
Even with the sponsorship, Farnsworth said he will keep the Taboo livery and the boat number.
“I love the boat and the style of boat and it deserved to be on the racecourse,” he said. Farnsworth is looking forward to having more big, loud V-bottoms at a race and said, “Seven boats in Extreme V would be an absolutely lights out event.
“I want to go to good events,” he continued. “I hope the best for the season. I think it’s going to be a really good time.”
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