Speed Is Sanctioned
Most boaters associate the offshore performance world with a clip from the opening credits of the 1980s TV show Miami Vice. Sonny Crockett had a Wellcraft Scarab 38. But the need for speed actually traces back to the turn of the 20th century.
The American Power Boat Association formed in 1903 and held its first race on the Hudson River in 1904. Despite holding the race in New York, the scene then revolved around the Michigan boatbuilders, in close proximity to the auto industry in Detroit. Much advancement came from the mind of the famous wood-boat builder Gar Wood, who pushed his designs to get more horsepower on board.
The offshore scene started, as it did for Wayne Schaldenbrand, in the 1950s, with many racers from hydroplane backgrounds; these endurance races ran for hundreds of miles and laid the groundwork for the future.
Offshore performance boating as we know it today emerged through a confluence of events and people in the mid- to late 1950s. Sam Griffith, who worked with yacht broker Richard Bertram, helped found the race that would define the go-fast genre. He, along with boatbuilder Forest Johnson (the father of the famed boating photographer), developed an offshore race between Miami and Nassau, Bahamas.
Miami-Nassau became the premier offshore race in the United States. For a while, it was the only offshore event. Winning it was akin to winning the Indy 500 — and the desire led Bertram to design a hull that changed boating forever.
The inspiration, it turned out, came from a sailboat race. In 1958, designer Ray Hunt’s 23-foot Aqua Hunter, a fiberglass support boat for the 1958 America’s Cup off Newport, Rhode Island, was making waves. The boat had 24 degrees of transom deadrise and lifting strakes, designed to handle the rough waters of offshore sailboat racing. Bertram asked Hunt to design a 30-foot version. The rest is history.
Legend has it that Bertram didn’t want to enter his wooden prototype, named Moppie after his wife, in the 1960 Miami-Nassau race, but Griffith talked him into it. With Griffith at the helm, they charged out into eight-foot swells and blew away every other boat. The second-place finisher, the other Hunt deep-V, Aqua Hunter, came in two hours behind. Most other boats did not finish. From here on, the deep-V ruled the world, and the racing community spent the next several decades figuring out what to do next from Hunt’s hull design.