Special Ops

Performance-boating's elite instructors, Tres Martin and Brad Schoenwald, teach Special Warfare Combatant Craft-Crewmen "power management".

Tres Martin/Brad Schoenwald

Tres Martin(L) and Brad Schoenwald(R) of the Tres Martin Performance Boat Driving School.

For the second-straight year, the elite members of the United States Navy’s special operations teams received training in boat operation from the performance-boating world’s elite teachers, Tres Martin and Brad Schoenwald, of the Tres Martin Performance Boat Driving School.

The two, who are best known for teaching owners of high-performance boats how to run their craft safely, went to the naval facility at Virginia Beach, Va. to educate members of the Special Warfare Combatant Craft-Crewmen how to get their passengers and equipment to and from a mission safely. These are the guys who drive the Navy SEALS where they need to go to perform all those covert operations.

After Martin and Schoenwald went through multiple levels of security clearance, they taught groups of SWCC teams how to run their conventional V-bottoms at high speed in big water. One boat was powered by twin fuel-injected large cubic-inch gasoline engines, and the other by some big diesels. Given the weight they carry in personnel and equipment, they run incredible speeds.


“It’s a more specialized approach,” said Martin. “They want to understand how to get the boats to tackle big-water conditions.” I had to laugh when Schoenwald said, “Real 6’ seas, not offshore racing 6’ seas.”

But, as is always the case with Martin, whom I’ve raced with a couple of times and known for about 10 years, I learned something, even from a phone conversation.

“The misconception is that they’re bringing us in for a throttling school, but it’s more about setting the trim of the drives and tabs and power management,” he explained. The term “power management” was new to me, so I asked for clarification.


Power management is not yanking back and forth on the throttles until your right arm is about to fall off. It’s about making sure the boat continues to move forward through the water without it taking flight. For more details, you’ll need to take his course because if I get more specific, you might not ever see another blog from me.

If you don’t control the power, you can’t keep the boat from taking flight. So many guys lean on the throttles to force a boat to soar off a wave and then back off when they’re in the air. Martin says instead to pull back just a little to lower the nose and it will punch through the wave. If you fly off one wave and then land and get on the gas—and keep repeating the process—you’re in the air too much. You actually go slower. “When a boat launches, you have mass that goes into the air and when it comes down it displaces twice as much,” Martin explained.

Schoenwald got a painful opportunity to give a real-world demonstration of this technique to a petty officer who wanted to pick up the trim and fly his boat old school.


In less than a minute, the boat launched so hard off a wave that Schoenwald and all the SWCC personnel on the boat were tossed like rag dolls when the boat landed. By the end of the course, the petty officer praised the instructors and had bought into their technique.

In addition to straight-line runs, the drivers learned how to make turns in formation, and how to steer the boat using a less aggressive approach. They did about five hours of classroom time, and spent two days on the water in real-world rough, rainy conditions. “The overall affect is that the boat’s more comfortable,” said Schoenwald. “They’re going to complete more missions because they’re not suffering as many casualties and mechanical breakdowns.”


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