Scheduled for June 29-July 7, the Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix Festival in Sarasota, Fla., is already looking like it will be the offshore powerboat race of the regular season on the 2013 Super Boat International circuit.

Spirit of Qatar

A new entry in the Superboat-class ranks, the Spirit of Qatar finished fifth out of six boats in Cocoa Beach and will compete in the upcoming Sarasota race.

Always one of the more solid races on the SBI calendar, the Sarasota event, which celebrates its 29th anniversary this year, is looking particularly strong for three primary reasons this year.

1. Restructured just before the SBI Key West Worlds in November last year, the Superboat class drew six boats at the organization’s second race of the season recently in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Among the boats in the fleet was the new Spirit of Qatar catamaran, a 42-foot-long Marine Technology, Inc., cat that formerly ran as Reliable Carriers. Of the 24 boats that showed up for the Cocoa Beach race, six were in the Superboat class. The field will be equally strong, and likely even stronger, in Sarasota.

2. There are now three teams with Mercury Racing 1650 Race engine power in the Superboat Unlimited class, and all three have announced plans to compete in Sarasota. While Miss GEICO has the first production pair of the 1,650-hp turbocharged quad overhead cam engines, CMS and Gasse have prototype sets so—relatively speaking—the playing field will be level for the three cats. What’s more, it will be two 48-foot MTI cats —CMS and Gasse—against one 44-foot Victory cat—Miss GEICO. If Cintron, a 50-foot Mystic cat with twin 1,500-hp mills from Stotler Racing Engines shows up, and the team is strongly considering it, the Superboat Unlimited field will grow to an almost unheard of four cats. It could be battle of the titans.

3. The Qatar team plans on debuting its Turbine-class Spirit of Qatar catamaran in Sarasota. The team planned to debut the 50-foot Mystic cat, which is powered by twin 1,600-hp T-53 turbine engines prepped by the famed Whispering Turbines shop, at the Cocoa Beach race, but the boat wasn’t ready. It also wasn’t ready in time for the next SBI race in Orange Beach, Ala. So anticipation of seeing the new boat in action has been building among offshore racing fans. No one knows if the cat will have any Turbine-class competition—“inconsistent” would be a kind way to describe fleet size in the Turbine-class ranks—but regardless, offshore racing fans are eager to see it on the water. And the Qatar team’s plan to run the cat in Sarasota looks very solid.