Fountain Speed Record Team Still Hard at Work

We get a behind-the-scenes look with Ben Robertson and Billy Moore

Fountain Speed Record Team Still Hard at Work
The revised Fountain Race boat on the launch ramp following a test run on May 18. The exhaust system and cowl over the engines has been significantly redesigned since the initial runs at the speed record in February.Courtesy Iconic Marine Group / Fountain Boats

Now aiming at an October date for another run at the APBA/FIM Unlimited Vee Bottom speed record, the team at Iconic Marine continues to fine-tune its Fountain 40 Raceboat. We visited Iconic Marine Group in May and got a thorough tech de-brief and walk-around of the boat from driver Ben Robertson and throttleman Billy Moore, who have been testing on the Pamlico River in front of the historic former Fountain facility near Washington, N.C.

We were asked not to divulge many details about the boat until after the Iconic crew successfully re-sets the record – currently 180.464 mph set 2014 by Brian Forehand in a 43-foot Outerlimits SV 43 – but the investment of man-power and cash Iconic has made since its unsuccessful record attempt in February indicates that the company and its owner, Kansas City businessman Fred Ross, is dead serious about reclaiming the speed record formerly held by a Fountain boat.

Since February efforts have been focused on improving the boat’s hydrodynamics and aerodynamics. Use of a Garmin Virb camera mounted on the transom revealed that the original cooling water pick-up location and size was creating a lot of turbulence at the props, and that issue was resolved by devising two new pick-up locations. The entire boat, a cut-down Lightning 42 hull that’s about 39 feet in length, was also digitally scanned and that data plugged into a CFD (computational fluid dynamics) program supervised by Iconic Director of Design Engineering Steve Wedde, who previously worked for more than a decade at Intrepid Powerboats. The CFD analysis identified points of high and low pressure above the waterline at speeds simulated up to 200 mph, and guided the reshaping of the cowl over the engine bay and re-routing of the exhaust system to accommodate that new cowl. Wedde told us that more than 180 hours of CFD analysis have been invested in the speed-record boat.

Robertson told us that the Fountain now feels steady and confident on the water at 180 mph. During our visit he and Moore were making small adjustments to three pair of Herring propellers and comparing the performance of two gear ratios for the Mercury Racing M6 drives. The goal, Robertson told me, is to set the boat up so that it is still accelerating as it enters the one-kilo-long speed trap.

“You want to exit the trap faster than you enter,” said Robertson. “Once the boat reaches its peak velocity you begin to lose thrust at the props. The boat kind of coasts a little and becomes unstable. So we need to get the props, the ratio and the engine torque curve matched up perfectly so we can actually accelerate just a little as we enter the measured kilo.”

From a Fountain center console on the Pamlico I watched with Iconic COO Joe Curran and the one and only Reggie Fountain II as Robertson and Moore ripped up and down the river to test a set of props. Their speed was not revealed but the boat looked much smoother and cleaner in the water than in February.

After the Fountain 40 Raceboat made an appearance June 1-2 as the pace boat for the Offshore Powerboat Association Lake Race on Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., the two 1900-horsepower turbocharged Sterling Performance engines were pulled from the boat.

“We have almost 14 testing hours on the engines,” said Robertson, “so we decided to pull them before they fail and have them gone through and fresh for another run at the record.”

By October, the air in Washington, N.C. will be cooler and there will be less boat traffic on the Pamlico. For safety the stretch of river that defines the kilo course, which is almost six miles long, must be shut down to boat traffic for a record attempt. Iconic remains all-in on re-setting the record for Fountain.