The Geico Gekko’s Wild Ride

Miss GEICO goes vertical, gets victory.

Dewayne Thomas
Dewayne Thomas
Dewayne Thomas
Dewayne Thomas
Dewayne Thomas
Dewayne Thomas
Dewayne Thomas
Dewayne Thomas
Dewayne Thomas
Dewayne Thomas

At the 34th annual Super Boat International Offshore World Championships in Key West , which began on November 2nd, all the teams found Sunday’s conditions the most challenging of the week, with many boats launching skyward on the Turn 2 leg as they headed into Key West Harbor from the open ocean.

No boat took a wilder ride than the 44-foot Victory Miss GEICO, which led the Superboat Unlimited race from the time the green flag flew on Sunday and won the world championship despite the fact that the team had been beaten by the 48-foot MTI catamaran CMS Mechanical in earlier races on Wednesday and Friday.

On the first lap, Miss GEICO charged to the front and never looked back. The team had struggled with its twin Mercury Racing 1650s going into guardian mode on Wednesday and Friday, and needed the win Sunday if it was going to claim the world title. In the race before the Superboat Unlimited class took to the water, Miss GEICO driver Marc Granet and throttleman Scott Begovich watched the boats in the Super Stock class all launch when they passed a navigation buoy and headed into Key West Harbor. During the drivers meeting that morning, officials announced that they were reducing the lap count for the critical Sunday race, which had double the points compared to the Wednesday and Friday events.

“As they talked about the reduced laps, the wind got stronger and stronger and stronger. I said, Scott, this is our water,” recalled Granet.

Even though they were running speeds exceeding 120 mph, Granet said, “It didn’t feel fast. It was very, very rough. We were taking rougher, longer fliers coming into Turn 1 than we were out in Turns 2 and 3.”

The big yellow catamaran came around Turn 2 and was headed into the harbor. Granet explained that the team was faced with a strong north wind and an outgoing tide. The conditions created steep rollers that made 6- to 8-foot holes in the midst of the 2-to 3-foot waves.

Suddenly, after taking a small flier, the boat stood straight up, causing all the spectators on the seawall to gasp in unison. The boat tripped on the stern and with a big gust of wind could easily have gone over backward. “Inside the boat it felt like we stopped forward movement,” said Granet. “I didn’t think we were going to blow over. My thought was we were going to land and break off the rudder on the bottom.

He continued: “You had no reference. All you had was the boat slowing in the air. It felt like it was sliding down backward. As soon as we landed, I just screamed go! and we tightened it up a little bit from there.”

The team ran incident-free for the rest of the race and claimed its second consecutive world championship. Afterward Granet said, “We’ve been in so many situations like this that we don’t get emotional about it. I didn’t even know about the pictures until we got on the crane.” Still, it was one wild ride.