Online Originals: OPA kicks off season; 32 boats race in Crystal Coast Grand Prix

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MOREHEAD CITY, N.C.

Friday, September 11

Following a four-month delay, the 2020 Offshore Powerboat Racing (OPA) season kicks off September 11-13 in Morehead City, NC. Racing teams from across the U.S. will compete in the Crystal Coast Grand Prix.

A new partnership between the American Powerboat Association (APBA) and OPA drew record-breaking crowds and race teams during the 2019 season. “We had great plans and a lot of anticipation for the 2020 season,” said OPA President Ed “Smitty” Smith. “In spite of early cancellations, we’re especially excited to finally return to racing with our season opener in Morehead City. We’ve partnered with local organizer, Jeff McCann, to create a safe event for racers and fans alike.”

Teams are travel to Morehead City from all across the country to compete. Greg Ballough, from Boca Raton, Florida, has been racing for more than 30 years and is especially excited. He says, “I do this for a living. So, it means a lot to me that we’re back to work a little bit here with the pandemic and everybody’s excited about it! We just wanted to get off the couch and get in the water.”

The Miss GEICO Team is set to participate in the offshore race in Morehead City, with an added incentive this year. The 47-foot Victory catamaran overturned on the last turn of the final lap during the Sarasota race in July 2019. The team has invested 13 months of intensive work to repair and restore the Miss GEICO boat, which will compete for the first time during the Crystal Coast Grand Prix. 

“Because of the pandemic, races have been cancelled or postponed.  Local ordinances forced us to close our facilities for a while,” said GEICO Crew Chief Gary Stray.  “After returning to the shop, we had extra time to ensure the boat was in top performance condition. We’re looking forward to racing in Morehead City and seeing the restored Miss GEICO compete against some of the best racing teams in the U.S.”

In addition to a newly restored boat, Miss GEICO will sport new racers in the driver’s seat. Action and extreme sports icon Travis Pastrana will split driving time with APBA Hall of Champions inductee Brit Lilly. The race in Morehead City will be the first time the duo will drive the Miss GEICO in racing competitions. 

Boat racing legend Sir Steve Curtis will control the throttles for the 11-tme world championship team. Curtis has more than 20 world championship titles of his own and has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth for excellence in offshore racing. 

Miss GEICO will compete in the recently formed Class One racing division.  Class One is comprised of the biggest and fastest race boats in the world. All the boats in this class weigh 11,750 pounds with identical race engines sealed and governed by Mercury Racing to ensure fairness.   The 47-foot Miss GEICO Victory catamaran is made of carbon, Kevlar and S-glass for high performance.  The boat sports a pair of Mercury sealed 1,100 horsepower twin turbo engines and can reach top speeds of more than 160 mph.

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Sunday, September 14- Race Day

The main races include eleven classes of race boats competing on Sunday, Sept. 13 along the shores of Morehead City, NC. One lap around the course is approximately 7.25 miles. Each class will have a specific amount of lap requirements in order to complete the race. Depending on the boat size and make, teams will race between 25.8 miles and 60.2 miles.

Crystal Coast Grand Prix race course. COURTESY: OPA

“It’s incredible, we had a 10-race schedule this year and they were just dropping like flies,” said OPA President Ed Smith.

Like many other sports, the coronavirus paused offshore powerboat racing, but teams are excited to be back out on the water.

“It’s fantastic to be back in a boat. We had a great weekend!” said Steve Curtis, Throttleman, Miss Geico Racing Team. “The weather was a bit dodgy, in fact we didn’t think we were going to carry on.” Curtis and the Miss Geico team showed their power on Sunday with a first place win for the largest class of the weekend, ClassONE.

“We were running just about over 150 mph. today,” Curtis said with a laugh.

Racers had to wait out a few rain delays due to lack of visibility. But, after every storm, the sun shines through– especially on the class winners.

“To get out there and have a good race… it felt good just to get out there,” said Francis Vellautato Jr. Throttleman, Rum Runner. “It was competitive!” Vellautato and his team zoomed into first place for Class 6 at the competition of Race 1.

Jackhammer overturned during the third race and was removed from the course. Both the driver and throttleman are okay.

Here is a list of the winners:

ClassONE USA

1st: Miss Geico 

Super Stock

1st: XTR 

2nd: CR Racing 

3rd: FJ Propeller 

Vee Extreme

1st: Knucklehead Racing 

Modified Vee 

1st: Marker 17

2nd: Sun Print 

Stock Vee 

1st: Fastboys

2nd: Typhoon 

3rd: N Myrtle Beach RV Resort 

Class 2

1st: Cus n’ Fus 

Class 3

1st: Reindl Powerboats 

Absolutely Not’s father-daughter duo, Mark and Sami Gibbons, hold their first place trophy at the post-race award ceremony Sunday. 16-year-old Sami is the youngest driver in the 2020 Crystal Coast Grand Prix to compete.

2nd: Strictly Business 

Class 4

1st: Absolutely Not (pictured right)

2nd: Old School 

Class 5

1st: Shoreline Plumbing 

2nd: Reindl Powerboats

Class 6

1st: Rum Runner 

2nd: Money Monster 

3rd: Wicked 

Class 7

1st: Nauti Boyz

2nd: Freedom

3rd: Evil Ways 

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