Go-Fast Blast from the Past: Doug Wright Catamarans

An undefeated season was the result of excellent boat design by Doug Wright Catamarans.

Go-Fast Blast from the Past: Doug Wright Catamarans
Go-Fast Blast from the Past: Doug Wright CatamaransGary Ballough

In the last couple of years of the previous century and the start of the new millennium, Gary Ballough and Allen Butler were living up to their team name, Cutting Edge, dominating the Stock class in offshore powerboat racing. But there was one problem. “Allen got tired of paying repair bills to fix the boat after every race,” Ballough said. “That’s when I got Allen together with Doug Wright, who was building surfboards.”

That’s right, surfboards. Ballough had grown up surfing in the Sebastian, Florida, area and, through his company Rainbow Surfboards, Wright had established himself as a composites expert.

In 2000, the first Doug Wright offshore racing catamaran, a 30-footer, made its debut with Ballough and Butler at the controls. The team was sponsored by the Blondie cartoon that had been appearing in newspapers for decades.

The Stock class had been made up of 30-foot Spectres, 30-foot Motions and 28-foot Skaters, which were fast with the 280 hp Mercury 2.5-liter offshore engines designated for the category, but Ballough kept his eye on one thing — lap times. “Big John” Vanderstel rigged the boat at Mercury’s Lake X test facility and, out of the box, the boat ran 113 mph.

No team was running an average that exceeded 80 mph. Ballough and Wright designed the 30-footer to be able to do better than 80 mph over the course of an offshore race. “It was such a fantastic design, as all the Doug Wrights are and have been,” Ballough said. “I just kept looking at the lap times. We could run 80 the whole way around.”

Butler drove while Ballough throttled for the 2001 season, but it was in 2002 when the boat and team would challenge history. For financial reasons, Butler stepped aside and Mike Majhess took over as driver. The South Florida powerboat dealer Aqua Toy Store took over as sponsor and, with a solid driver and sponsor, Ballough had all he needed. The team won 12 out of 12 races headed into the season finale in New Orleans.

Despite a fellow Stock class team trying to put a voodoo hex on the team and boat, Ballough and Mahjess finished undefeated and claimed the national championship by making history as the only undefeated team in the Stock class. And the feat has not been accomplished since.