About Matt Trulio

Matt Trulio is the co-publisher and editor in chief of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site with a weekly newsletter and a new bi-monthly digital magazine that covers the high-performance powerboating world. The former editor-in-chief of Sportboat magazine and editor at large of Powerboat magazine, Trulio has covered the go-fast powerboat world since 1995. Since joining boats.com in 2000, he has written more than 200 features and blogs.

Shootout Updates: Record Speeds, Titanium Props and More

Just finished Day No. 1 of the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout and I could sum it up with one word: Wow. Of course, you deserve a little more detail than that so:

Best Moment of the Day: David Scott and John Tomlinson run 208 mph in Nauti-Marine, Scott’s 50-foot-long Mystic catamaran with twin 2,000-hp engines. That’s one mile an hour off the Top Gun record of the 30-year-old Shootout, and a new record for the new venue near Captain Ron’s. “With another half mile, we’d have been at 230 mph,” said Tomlinson. “The engines never stopped making power.” The question is: Will they run again tomorrow? The engines reportedly have one run left in them before they require a tear-down. Plus, Scott and Tomlinson are pretty satisfied with their effort so far. They remain undecided at this point.

Second coolest moment of the day: Chip Romer runs 186 mph in his Skater catamaran, making him the man most likely to collect $10,000 from Skater principal Peter Hledin. If Darr reaches 190 mph tomorrow, the prize goes up to $20,000.

Coolest nearby event: OK, so Skaterfest really isn’t that nearby. Lake of the Ozarks is one of those classic “You can’t get there from here” kind of places, which makes the 15-mile drive to the Camden on the Lake Resort, where Skaterfest is being held, a 30-minute trek from Captain Ron’s. But with almost 40 boats and their owners, families and friends, and folks like Hledin, Mike D’Anniballe of Sterling Performance and Dean Loucks of The Art of Design on hand to celebrate the Skater catamaran brand, this Midwest version of Skaterfest is far and away the best to date. “This venue is just tremendous,” Hledin, who was on his way to a boat ride to the Shootout (Peter Hledin on a boat ride?), told me this morning. Look for a more in-depth story in the next issue of Powerboat magazine.

Coolest new product debut: Titanium propellers for Hering. OK, I’ve known about these for about six months and I’ve been keeping my promise to keep my mouth shut, but they’re finally out. I have no prices. I have no pitches. I have no hard performance data. But according to Ben Robertson, Jr., of Hering, a Skater 388 with 1,550-hp Sterling engines reportedly picked up 9 mph in top end during a 30-second acceleration test. Looking for a more in-depth article in the next issue of Powerboat magazine.

Most frightening moment of the day: Me on local radio and television this morning. First, I had to follow my long-time friend and colleague at Powerboat magazine, Bob Teague, who has forgotten more about high-performance boats than I’ll ever know, on the microphone. Second, Teague is a charismatic guy with the gift of gab. Third, I was a case study in nerves and discomfort. Four words come to mind in regard to how I did: Deer in the headlights.

More tomorrow, WiFi allowing.

Flying to the Shootout

By the time you read this, I’ll be on an airplane headed for St. Louis, Mo., which is about two hours and change by car from the Lake of the Ozarks, the site of this weekend’s top-speed Shootout.

OK, so that’s not entirely true. By the time you read this, I’ll be flying to Denver to catch a connecting flight to St. Louis. I live about 25 miles south of San Francisco. This area is serviced by three international airports and every major commercial passenger carrier.

Unfortunately, none of them offer direct service to St. Louis. So I get to turn what should be an easy three-hour flight into something of a seven-hour travel grind—not counting the car ride from St. Louis to the lake—that starts at 5 a.m.

And you know what? I don’t care. (OK, I sort of care as I’ve grown to despise everything about air travel in the past 10 years.) I am lucky. I get to cover what is arguably the greatest event in high-performance boating for Powerboat magazine, as well as speedonthewater.com and boatermouth.com.

I don’t just get to hang out with long-time industry friends. I get to meet and hang out with real go-fast boat enthusiasts, folks who might never own anything beyond a 60-mph 20-footer but truly appreciate exotic creations such as David’s Scott’s Nauti-Marine, a 50-foot Mystic with a couple of 2,000-hp alcohol engines.

And to his unending credit, Scott appreciates them. I’ve seen him spend hours at the docks answering questions from passersby. Same goes for his throttleman, John Tomlinson. Same goes for former Shootout Top Guns Dave Callan and John Cosker. Same goes for all the big names at the event.

Ace photographer Robert Brown is shooting the event for Powerboat, and his photos will support—OK, carry, because we all know that pictures are far better than words—my feature in the next issue of Powerboat. But during the Shootout on Saturday and Sunday, WiFi-allowing I’ll try to post a few updates.

If you see me at the docks—I’ll be wearing a Powerboat shirt of some sort so it should be easy (yeah, right) to spot me—please say hello and introduce yourself. And if you want me to take a look at your ride, whether it’s a 40-foot Skater cat that tops 160 mph or a 20-foot Baja that runs 60 mph, I’ll be happy to check it out. Because while the boats put on the show, there is no show without you. All of you.

The guys in the show get that and, trust me, I get it too.

Sterling 1700 Engine: “Ready for Christmas Time”

On August 4, I reported on the development Sterling Performance’s new 1,700-hp turbocharged engine. At that time, the engine was headed for dynamometer testing. Company principal Mike D’Anniballe told me he hoped to have the engines ready to debut in Bob Bull’s new 48-foot-long Marine Technology, Inc., racing catamaran at the 2010 Super Boat International Key West World Championships in November.

Unfortunately that won’t happen, according to D’Anniballe.

“We were scheduled to run in Key West, but I won’t have two sets of engines ready in time,” D’Anniballe told me early this morning. “We just ran out of time, so he (Bob Bull) is going to run our supercharged 1,500s.

“We should have the 1,700s ready by Christmas, and he’ll run them after the Key West Worlds,” he added.

D’Anniballe said that he was pleased with the results from the dyno testing.

“It went well—me made 1,690 hp and went through like ten drums of fuel,” he said. “Now we just have to tear the motors apart to evaluate them.”

Dave’s Custom Boats Cat Slated for Display at Shootout

Regardless of what you think of “West Coast custom” catamarans, no company builds them better than Dave’s Custom Boats in El Cajon, Calif. DCB’s workmanship and attention to detail in construction not only lead the genre, they rival that of any custom performance-boat builder east of the Mississippi.

That is, to borrow from the movie “Pulp Fiction,” a bold statement for sure. But it’s one I make based on experience with a wide variety product. As the guy with the second best job in the world as editor at large for Powerboat magazine—Jennifer Aniston’s personal sunscreen technician is job No. 1—I get to log hours in some of the most amazing high-performance pleasure boats on the planet. And DCB consistently blows me away.

But don’t take my word for it. If you happen to be strolling the docks at Captain Ron’s during the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout August 28-30 check out the DCB M-35 catamaran with Mercury Racing 1025EFI engines that will be on display.

“We’re going there to check it out and show our product—we’ve heard it’s just such a great event,” Dave Hemmingson, DCB’s principal, told me earlier today. “And from what I understand, it’s going to be a really big deal this year.”

Hemmingson said he’s not planning to enter the cat in the speed runs.

“But you never know,” he added. “We may be there, watch a little bit and decide we want to run.”

Outerlimits SV-52 Quad Diesel: A Closer Look

Photographed during rigging, the Outerlimits SV-52 in this image has four diesel engines.

Last week I caught up with Mike Fiore of Outerlimits on the Bristol, R.I., custom V-bottom and catamaran builder’s in-house engine program. Near the end of our discussion, Fiore mentioned that he was in the final stages of sea trials for the company’s first quad-diesel-engine SV-52—four 560-hp Fiat Powertrain mills fill the engine compartment. The all-carbon, canopied 52-footer, which rides on a five-step hull and will be used for endurance racing by an overseas buyer, captured a lot of attention.

So about an hour ago I spoke with Fiore to learn more about the 15,000-pound boat. Here’s what he had to say:

In addition to four Fiat Powertrain diesel engines, your new 52-footer has four Arneson ASD drives with quick-change gears and Hering 35-inch-pitch propellers. How has the performance been to date in your sea trials?

Amazing. It’s a big freight train with a top speed of over 112 mph, and it’s very smooth.

How’s the fuel consumption?

Pretty modest, actually. At 90 mph, it gets 1.5 mile per gallon. So with its 500-gallon fuel tank that means it has a range of 700 miles at 90 mph. At 100 mph, it gets 1.2 miles per gallon, which is still pretty good.

Have you had the boat in rough water?

Yeah, and as I said it’s a freight train. It motors along effortlessly. It’s like sitting—it’s a five-place sit-down boat—in your living room. It’s going to be a really good endurance racer. And it handles flat and smooth. It doesn’t do anything wrong. The four propellers in the water work well. The setup is perfect.

This was your first quad-diesel-engine installation. What was that like?

(Laughs) It was a nightmare. It was a packaging nightmare. The forward two engines literally are under the back seats. The engine compartment has, like, a sea strainer “farm.” There’s four of everything in there, and it’s tight. Good thing the engines are diesels—they tend to last awhile (laughs again).

Sunsation Will Be Represented at Shootout

While the fastest catamarans and V-bottoms rightly get top billing at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout—it is after all a top-speed event—the fastest entries don’t comprise the entire fleet. Fact is there are plenty of production and semi-custom performance boats that compete in the Shootout, which still embraces and attracts a lot of “run what you brung” competition.

Case in point: Semi-custom builder Sunsation Performance Boats has at least three models heading for the Shootout according to Wayne Schaldenbrand of the Algonac, Mich., company.

“I believe we have an SS32, which is about two years old, with a pair of 496 Mag HO engines that will be going,” said Schaldenbrand. “There should also be a brand-new XRT (32-foot-long) with the new twin 8.2L, 502 engines with the catalytic converters. We blueprinted the bottom of that boat, applied Speedcoat, raised the X-dimension and went from 30-inch-pitch props to 32-inch-pitch props. It runs 90 mph.

“My dealer in Iowa also is coming with an XRT,” added Schaldebrand. “It has 496 Mags with Raylar upgrades.”

In Other Sunsation News

•The company reportedly received two orders for its new 36-footer, as well an order for a 28-footer this week. “There’s even a possible F-4 coming from a deal we put together at the (2010) Miami Boat Show, so we’re all pretty happy around here,” said Schaldenbrand.

Fiore On Outerlimits Engine Program: “Pleased With Our Progress”

In October 2009, Outerlimits started its own in-house engine program. The project included buying a dynamometer and building a testing cell to house it, acquiring the tools for the job of building high-performance marine engines and hiring engine builder Mike Faucher to manage the program. Ambitious to be sure, especially when the Bristol, R.I. company also had to continue building exotic custom offshore V-bottoms and catamarans.

“We have six engines being built right now, all north of 1,400 horsepower,” said Mike Fiore, the company principal. “We have two boats running with our power in the Northeast. One of them is a 44SL, and the owner is running the crap out of it—he’s put on 65 hours this summer.

“We didn’t want to talk much about our engine program until, honestly, we had something to talk about,” added Fiore. “But we’re really pleased with our progress.”

In addition to Faucher, said Fiore, Outerlimits has three builders/mechanics working in its engine shop. Dustin Whipple of well-known supercharger manufacturer Whipple Industries helped with the development of the various engine models. Whipple superchargers are stock on all Outerlimits engines.

At present, Outerlimits offers 850, 1,275- and 1,375-hp engines in its “pleasure” series (the 850- and 1,275-hp engines come with a one-year warranty, while the 1,375-hp engine comes with a six-month warranty) as well as custom “race” series engines.

“We just finished a set of race series engines in the 1,600-hp range,” said Fiore.

Fiore emphasized that all of his company’s engine models were developed with reliability as a top priority.

“We focused on our oiling systems,” he said. “We pay $3,200 for an oil pump so we can maintain linear oil pressure. We run 65 psi at idle, and 75 psi at wide-open. And thanks to the new products out there, we’ve also gone with a no-maintenance valve train. No valve lashing or any that of kind of maintenance is required.”

In Other Outerlimits News

•The company just finished the final sea trial of its first 52-foot-long, quad-diesel-engine boat. The boat is going to a European client, who says he plans to use it for endurance racing.

•For the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout August 28-29, Fiore said he’s “planning to” bring a 44SL with twin 1,400-hp engines that should hit 160 mph.

Whipple Offers Kits for Mercury Racing Engines

When it comes to engine upgrades, most notably supercharger kits, I lean toward the conservative side. First—and this should be obvious—anyone who upgrades an engine while it’s still under warranty is nuts. Second, in almost every high-performance marine engine upgrade scenario, the kit itself is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to expense. Adding 100-hp or more to your engine’s output can take your drive right out of its rated operating range, and make every propeller in your trailer too small.

And in a twin-engine upgrade application, a little simple math will tell you that your costs will be double.

With that said, a press release from Whipple Industries that came to me via Eric Colby, my good friend and former editor at Powerboat magazine, caught my attention. Having covered several Whipple supercharger upgrade projects over the years, I’m familiar with Whipple’s upgrade kits. High-quality stuff that’s well thought-out, for sure.

What I didn’t know? Whipple now offers an upgrade kit for every engine in the Mercury Racing line. (OK, Whipple doesn’t have one for the new turbocharged 1350, but that power-pumping monster just went into production in late July.) That means the Fresno, Calif.-based company has kits for the 525EFI, the 600SCi and the 662SCi, the 700SCi, the 850SCi, the 1075SCi and the 1025/1200SCi.

Depending the “stage”—meaning blower size, boost level and various aftermarket parts in each kit—the power increases reportedly range from 100 to 370 hp. Even with the 100-hp Stage One kits, that’s substantial. Prices vary from kit to kit, but it’s safe to say that none of them come cheap, particularly if the boat owner in question doesn’t have the mechanical and technical savvy to handle the upgrade himself.

JBS and Nauti-Marine to Go Head to Head at Shootout

This year’s Lake of the Ozarks Shootout August 28-29 is looking to be a battle of the 50-foot Mystics, at least when it comes to the fight for Top Gun honors. In one corner, there’s reigning champion Dave Scott’s Nauti-Marine, which is powered by a pair of 2,000-hp alcohol engines. In the opposite corner, you have Jeff Stevenson’s JBS Racing—officially confirmed last night according to Shootout organizer and title sponsor Ron Duggan—with its twin 1,800-hp turbine engines.

“They’re (JBS) definitely after Dave’s Top Gun trophy,” said Duggan.

Odds favor a Scott repeat, at least as I calculate them. Scott has as much or more experience at the event as anyone, and he and ace throttleman John Tomlinson have worked together in the cockpit for years. He also doesn’t face the challenge of “spooling up” turbine engines.

On the other hand, JBS Racing is, as the kids in my neck of the woods (the San Francisco Bay area) like to say, “hella fast.” Stevenson is ultra competitive and throttleman Joe Skrocki has seen plenty of success, especially when he competed in the Evolution Class of Powerboat P1.

So an upset also wouldn’t surprise me. You also can’t completely count out Bill Pyburn in his Pure Platinum Skater or Gino Gargiulo in his Mercedes MTI. Although both boats have significantly less power than the Mystics, all it would take is a mechanical issue with either Scott’s or Stevensons cat to put them in contention for the Top Gun trophy.

With two weeks left before the event, there are 40 boats registered.

“That’s pretty typical,” said Duggan. “However many we get pre-registered, we’ll get that many more on the weekend. Last year we had 63 boats pre-registered, and we ended up with 123.”

Yet another stand-out 50-foot Mystic cat, the turbine powered Aqua Mania, has not confirmed whether or not it will participate in the Shootout.

Skater Shootout Purse: “For the Boat Owners.”

Caught up with Peter Hledin, the owner of Douglas Marine, which builds Skater catamarans in Douglas, Mich. Hledin remains one of my favorite people in the high-performance marine industry to inteview, particularly for his extensive base of knowledge that’s always tempered with a dry sense of humor. More important, I never feel that Hledin is being cagey with me. He goes “off the record” from time to time, but for the most part he’s on the record—often bluntly—and I respect that.

Hledin has been making news of late, most recently for offering a purse for the fastest “pleasure” Skaters at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout August 28-29. Hledin is putting up $10,000 for the fastest Skater at the Shootout, and if the cat breaks 190 mph he’ll double that purse.

“This event is for the boat owners,” said Hledin. “Most of the guys who are doing the Shootout are there because of their own competitive instincts, and because they want the notoriety. The key to this business is making sure your customers are having the time of their lives. It’s not about the boat builder, it’s not about the engine builder, it’s about the boat owner and his family and friends.

“The owners make it all happen,” he added. “They provide us with a living.”

Skater’s repair of JBS Racing, a 50-foot-long turbine-powered Mystic has also made news and elicited plenty of comment on the message boards of offshoreonly.com.

“They had kind of a small fracture in the bottom at Lake St. Clair (Mich.),” said Hledin. “It was not a big deal—it was a two-day repair. We spent more time fixing the trailer than the boat. But for John (Cosker, the owner of Mystic Performance Boats) to fix it up here would have been next to impossible. The boat is back here now on an unrelated issue. A propeller went through the bottom. Not related and, again, not a big deal.

“It’s not that John’s boats are ‘falling apart,’” Hledin added. “Not at all. It’s just the nature of boat racing. Race boats break.”