On Saturday August 1, the 50’ Apache Powerboats V-bottom, Apache Star, set a new record covering the 110 miles from Key West, Fla., to Havana, Cuba, in one hour, 30 minutes. The new mark shattered the old record by more than four hours.
The team had no idea what to expect when it arrived in Havana, but the sight of more than 10,000 people lining up just to see the American boat and team and to touch the bright orange hull and take a photo was more than the crew expected. “When we arrived at the dock, people were singing and chanting,” said Mark McManus, the throttleman and builder of the boat. “People were rushing to try to touch the boat. They just wanted to touch a piece of America.”
On board the boat, which was originally built in 1992 and named Apache Heritage, were owner/driver Roger Kluh of Germany, throttleman/boat builder McManus, mechanical engineer John Pompi and navigator Damien Sauvage. They left Key West a little before 10 a.m. on Saturday and arrived approximately 90 minutes later. “Roger did a great job driving the boat,” said McManus.
He recalled the start of the run, saying, “It was blowing 15 to 20 and I had to leave, I can’t do anything about that. It was 3 to 5 until you got to 40 mile mark and at the 60 mile mark, it was 8’ to 10’ rollers,” he said. The team wore protective safety equipment including neck braces, elbow and knee pads and Kevlar kidney belts. The boat had a shock mitigating cockpit floor and the team was strapped in with five-point safety harnesses.
About 28 miles out from Havana, the boat inexplicably lost all three GPS antenna signals and the GPS and VHF radio lost transmission capabilities. The team was left to navigate the last 22 miles with a handheld magnetic compass. The team couldn’t even communicate through its headsets. Members had to yell to each other. Sauvage, who is an experienced captain, relayed course headings from his back seat to Kluh and McManus. McManus said that once the team got to the docks in Havana, the electronics worked fine.
“I was ready for nothing to work,” McManus explained. He had redundant equipment on board and was prepared for the worst. “No one can even understand the obstacles you’re going to meet.”
A fan of Apache boats for years, Kluh had seen Apache Star in its original form when it was the first canopied V-bottom offshore raceboat. Racing under the name Apache Heritage, it won the world championship in Key West in 1992 and 1993. Kluh bought it a couple of years ago and had McManus completely rebuild it. McManus and his crew removed the deck and replaced every structural component in the boat, putting in more than 7,000 man-hours.
“The boat will take anything the human body will take,” said McManus. The original hull measured 47’ long and McManus added extension boxes for the M8 drives that stretched the length overall to 50’
The high-tech construction features Kevlar 149 and some carbon. The updated laminate resulted in a substantial weight savings that allowed for re-rigging the boat with the twin Mercury Racing 1,350-hp engines instead of the original trio of 1,000-hp supercharged powerplants that were beneath the hatches. When the team left Key West with 600 gallons of fuel, the boat weighed 19,000 pounds.
The team traveled in Recaro racing seats that were mounted to a shock-absorbing cockpit floor designed by McManus. The electronics were similar to those found on modern aircraft. For information go to www.apachepowerboats.com.
It’s a good thing McManus built the boat as rugged as he did. About 10 miles out from Havana, the boat hit a submerged object at high speed and tore off the starboard drive. McManus kept the starboard engine running at idle to help power the steering and three 2,500-gph bilge pumps and used the port engine to keep the boat on plane at 55 mph.
“At that point I had Havana in my sights and I couldn’t come off plane,” he said. McManus kept the boat moving, Kluh set a course to Havana and the team established an impressive new record. McManus estimated that the team averaged about 85 mph and the fastest he saw was between 100 mph and 105 mph. For more information, check out apachepowerboats.com.