OPA Crowns Champions at Englewood Beach Waterfest

More than 50 boats put on a sensational display of high-performance seamanship.

OPA Crowns Champions at Englewood Beach Waterfest
Cape Haze MarinaFreeze Frame Video

The Offshore Powerboat Association, which is based in New Jersey, crowned its world champions at the 2016 Englewood Beach Waterfest on November 18 and 20. In two days of rough water, a strong fleet of more than 50 boats put on a sensational display of high-performance seamanship.

In the fastest class, throttleman Mike DeFrees and driver Jay Muller took the top honors in DeFrees' 48-foot MTI, Team CRC Sunlight Supply, which is powered by twin Mercury Racing 1650s. Second went to owner/driver Chris Cox and throttleman Herb Stotler in Cox's 52-foot Mystic catamaran, Envy, and third went to Jimmy Cazzani's popular 40-foot Platinum cat, Alex and Ani.

The boats raced on Friday and again on Sunday, with the winners determined by the best combined results.

OPA Crowns Champions at Englewood Beach Waterfest
Saris BrothersFreeze Frame Video

Sixteen teams battled for the title in Class 5, which features single-engine, open-cockpit V-bottom boats powered by naturally aspirated single sterndrives. The 30-foot Superboat, Reinforcer, which is driven by Al Pisacano and throttled by Donald Goodwin, won first place on Day One and second place on Day Two to take the overall honors. The boat that won Day Two, Ernie DuPuis' 30-foot Sutphen, Boxer, with Steven Reis navigating, finished second in the final standings. The father-son team of driver EJ Salamone and Ken Salamone in their bright-blue 30-foot Superboat, RUFSTR (for R U Faster), claimed third place.

Two classes had six-boat fleets. Super Vee Lite consists of V-bottom boats in the 30-foot range with fully enclosed cockpits powered by single Mercury Racing HP525 EFI sterndrives. The 29-foot Extreme, Typhoon, with throttleman Randy Schleuss and driver Louie Giancontieri, won second place on Day One and first place on Day Two to claim the overall trophy. The father-son team of Stephen and Steve Kildahl from nearby Sarasota, Florida, won the first race in their 30-foot Extreme, Boatfloater.com, but took second place on Day Two to finish in the runner-up spot in the overall standings. Third place went to Pirate Racing.

OPA Crowns Champions at Englewood Beach Waterfest
Team CRCFreeze Frame Video

The other class with six boats was Class 6, which is made up of boats up to 26 feet long powered by single sterndrives. They have top speeds of 70 mph. After taking second place on Day One, the 24-foot Joker, Smith Brothers, which is driven by Pete Smith and throttled by Rich Smith, captured the checkered flag and the world championship on Day Two. The team that captured the checkered flag on Day One, driver Warren Exner and throttleman Mike Bocchino in the 26-foot Cobra, You Gun Learn, took second-place overall. Third place went to Nick and Chris Barrett in their Warlock, Liquid Courage.

In Class 4, the only boat to win both days in a fleet with more than one boat, driver Johnny Saris, his father/throttleman Jason Saris and navigator Verne French took first place in their 32-foot Cobra, Saris Racing, powered by twin Saris Racing engines.

Class 7 is made up of open-cockpit boats up to 22 feet long powered by single outboards, and these competitors deserve recognition just for finishing in the rough conditions. John Hughes drove and throttled the 21-foot Redline, Hangin' N Bangin', to the world title.

OPA Crowns Champions at Englewood Beach Waterfest
WazzupFreeze Frame Video

Veteran racer Ryan Beckley also hails from nearby Sarasota, and he brought his 30-foot Skater, Cape Haze Marine, to Englewood to compete in the Super Stock class. He and driver Tanner Lewis took first place on both days to claim the championship.

Finally, in the Super Vee class, three enclosed-cockpit Fountains battled for top honors, and in the end, driver Louie Giancontieri and throttleman Eric Vorher took the world title in their 35-foot Fountain, Strictly Business, which is powered by twin Mercury Racing HP525 EFIs. Second went to Ed and Anthony Smith in their 38-foot Fountain, Wazzup, also powered by twin Mercury Racing HP525 EFIs. For complete results, check out www.oparacing.org.