For the high-performance powerboat industry, the customers who support it and even folks who don’t own go-fast boats but just like to watch them run flat-out, the most important event of the high-performance powerboating season isn’t a boat show in Miami, an offshore race in the Florida Keys, or a poker run in Arizona. It’s the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary in a hard-to-get-to part of central Missouri.
For two days in late August, performance-boat owners from around the country come to the annual event to show what their rides can do on the straight liquid-mile course. A top-speed event in which the competitors run solo to have their fastest moment captured on radar, the Shootout attracts everything from turbine-powered canopied racing catamarans to triple-outboard pontoon boats. It also attracts almost every major high-performance powerboat manufacturer in the country.
"The whole industry is here," said Martin Sanborn of P1 SuperStock USA during this year’s event. "There are only a couple of events a year other than boat shows you need to be at if you're in the industry, and this is one of them."
If Sanborn seemed excited, he had plenty of reasons, because the 2013 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout didn’t just live up to its justifiable 25th anniversary billing—like the boats involved, it blew right on past it. What follows are a few of the many highlights.
My Way Runs 224 mph
On their second run of the morning of the second day of the Shootout , Canadians Bill Tomlinson and Ken Kehoe didn't just break the Shootout top-speed record—209 mph, which they tied on Saturday afternoon—they blew it away with a 224-mph pass in My Way, a 50-foot Mystic Powerboats catamaran with twin 3,000-hp turbine engines.
"We knew we were capable of it, we just didn't want to say too much about it before we ran," said Tomlinson. "The boat can do more—it was pulling as fast when we came across the finish line as it was at 60 or 70 mph. It was running really well and it was very hot out today. The heat hurts us a little bit, but there's still so much power there. At idle speed we have around 200 hp and at 100 percent we have 3,000 hp, more or less. We were running about 110 percent, so we were running pretty strong.
"We had one turbine pulling stronger than the other, so we were counter-steering a little bit,” he added. “That's why we went back out—we thought we might be able to top [224 mph]. If everything is just right, the boat is probably capable of running 240 mph."
Outerlimits Breaks V-Bottom Record—Twice
When the Shootout runs began on Saturday morning, 139 mph was the fastest any V-bottom had ever run during the event. By the time the event was over, two V-bottoms—both from Outerlimits—had shattered that mark.
An Outerlimits SV 43 canopied offshore raceboat with Mercury Racing 1350 engines laid down a top speed of 152 mph. Earlier in the morning, an Outerlimits SL 52 open-cockpit, full-cabin pleasure boat with Mercury Racing 1650 engines ran 150 mph. It was a big day for the Bristol, R.I., custom go-fast boat builder.
“We couldn’t be happier with our performance, especially since both boats felt great at their top speeds,” said Mike Fiore, the owner and founder of the company.
Sterling-Powered Skater Cat Runs 195 mph
In development for three years, Sterling Performance’s first pair of 1,700-hp turbocharged engines were installed in a 36-foot, open-cockpit Skater just two weeks before the Shootout. Offshore racing ace John Tomlinson, the owner of TNT Custom Marine, the Miami-based shop that installed the engines, took the boat on its first sea trial, the week before the Shootout. The boat was trailered back to Sterling in Milford, Mich., so the engines could be tweaked for a day, and then it was off to the Shootout.
Talk about cutting it close. Until the end of his second sea trial in the 36-foot cat, Tomlinson wasn’t even sure if he was going to compete in the Shootout. But Sterling principal Mike D’Anniballe, who actually bought the cat to showcase the long-awaited engines, was confident enough to fly out Tomlinson and have him run.
And on the 36-footer’s third blast down the course—the first two runs produced speeds of 188 and 190 mph—with Myrick Coil driving and Tomlinson on the throttles -- the boat reached a class-winning 195 mph. Big speeds for a relatively small boat, for sure, but Tomlinson said he felt confident throughout his passes.
“I was wishing the track was a little longer because it would have rolled over 200 mph,” said Tomlinson. “Even at 195, the boat was still pulling, and when that happens with acceleration you have so much more control. It felt like it was on train tracks.”
Said Coil, “It’s awesome. It pulls like you couldn’t believe.”
Monster Piston-Power Mystic Runs 186 mph
Just one week before the Shootout, the twin 3,400-hp V-16 engines for Don Onken’s 50-foot canopied Mystic catamaran weren’t even in the boat. But Onken’s crew wanted to make at least one run at the event, so they worked all week and arrived late Saturday afternoon. With Mystic owner and founder John Cosker on the throttles and Myrick Coil—a man who had one heck of a weekend—behind the wheel, the big cat reached a top speed of 186 mph.
“Two-thirds of the way down the course we were on the rev limiters,” said Cosker. “But that certainly wasn’t bad for a first run in a boat that wasn’t even supposed to make it here. It’s been a great weekend and we’re really happy with how it all turned out.”
Of course, with the 224-mph, record-breaking My Way as one of the boats in the Mystic stable, Cosker would have been happy even if Onken’s boat hadn’t made it. But he was delighted it did.