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Smoke On The Water

High Speed Powerboats Offer Thrills--and Chills--to Adventurous Boaters and Their Wallets
Edward Kiersh
From the Print Edition:
Danny DeVito, Winter 96

(continued from page 6)

Yet even if cats are short on socializing (usually not for sunbathing, most cats have protective canopies with riders strapped and helmeted in separate compartments), catamarans are that expression of freedom a cigar smoker can relate to.

"Cats are the last true refuge for speed freaks," says Connecticut anesthesiologist John Golia, who traded in his Cougar V-bottom for a Skater about two years ago. "Very fuel-efficient, cats are the future. In them, having no fear of getting ticketed on the open sea, I can escape, numb myself and just go crazy."

Don Aronow is alive and well. At least for a few days in Margaritaville, among the Animal's successors trying to outrun his long shadow.

In Key West last May for an American Super Boat race, a prep for last month's World Cup Championships, Bob Saccenti and other dreamers are all nerves during the day. Standing around in the wet and dry pits reworking wiring and revving their 2,000-horsepower motors, they're in no mood to talk. Not with trial runs looming, and with everyone worried about blowing an engine.

But at night, once they hit the bars in their "Apache," "Jaws" and "Zero Defect" racing team polo shirts, the mood lightens a bit. Looking like hard-assed bikers, they couple each Bloody Mary with a tale about their 120 mph crashes, new power packages and, if you believe these seafaring yarns, how every lady in town wants a piece of them.

Eventually, however, reality returns. These muscle boat guys have to stop imbibing on racing's heady sexy stuff and come to terms with the dangers always stalking them--and buyers who want in on this fast boat action.

"We're flying, setting records, having a ball out there," says Phil Hall, a crew member of the Jaws catamaran racing team. "The dream is to go even faster. Maybe one day soon we'll even crank it up to 200 mph." (Last year, Jaws teammate Dennis Kaiser set an American Power Boat Association record at 158.5 mph.). "I love the water," continues Hall. "But my advice to anyone getting into this is still: 'Be straight with God.' For anything can happen out there with a V or a cat. That's why we always give our wives and girlfriends a long goodbye kiss."

Edward Kiersh is a freelance writer living in Florida.

Hitting the Waves

No license is required to operate a high-performance V-bottom. That may sound terrific, but it also means there are a lot of crazies out on the water who know nothing about handling one of these powerful machines. To prepare yourself for this oceangoing adventure (and the fact that many marine financing companies are requiring deep-V instruction), school is recommended. The Top Gun Thunderboat Training School in Washburn, Wisconsin (715/373-5277), offers four days of instruction and lodging amid the Bayfield/Apostle islands on Lake Superior for $2,500, while Wellcraft Marine's Offshore High-Performance Boot Camp in Sarasota, Florida (941/753-7811), gives four days of instruction on 31-foot Scarabs under the supervision of expert offshore racers, with meals and lodging, for $3,950.

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