Nick Scafidi, who bested the Super Boat International competition one year ago to take the Key West World Championship title in Superboat Stock class, is gearing up to defend his title in next week’s 2018 races.
Speaking to Powerboat Nation as an exhibitor at this week’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Scafidi expressed enthusiasm about history repeating itself—particularly with former Miss Geico champion Marc Granet sitting next to him in the cockpit of the 32′ Doug Wright hull.
Nick’s Creative Marine is the alternate name of Scafidi’s S-55 Shadow Pirate competitor, and also the name of his boat shop and Suzuki outboard engine dealership, located outside West Palm Beach, FL. Scafidi repowers boats and performs fiberglass repairs, electronics installations, etc. “It’s a great business,” he says. “Our customers keep coming back due to our superior service, sales and parts and accessories offerings.”
But despite his success on and off the race course, competition has been bittersweet. Scafidi laments about being accused of having an unfair advantage in Shadow Pirate—about being bullied into doing some “major surgery” on the Doug Wright hull’s setup after some of his competitors griped about his use of a jackplate on the hull. He says this was part of the initial setup that his friend and former race-boat partner Scott Porta (owner of Porta Products Corporation in New Smyrna Beach, FL) helped him perform a few years ago.
“Scott makes jackplates and other high-performance items that go in lot of the boats,” Scafidi explains. “He assisted me in some of the setup and raced with me for a while, and he had jackplates on his own boat (Porta Products) in 2014-15. Lee Austin (in the 30’ LA Marine catamaran Specialty Marine Center) had run jackplates on and off. Nowhere in the rule books does it say you can or can’t have jackplates.” Indeed, according to Scafidi, offshore racing sanctioning bodies SBI and OPA had approved of jackplates for years. But as soon as Shadow Pirate started winning races, some of the competitors in his class got sore and accused him of having an unfair advantage, he says.
“It was a mob rule,” he sighs. “They literally got together as a group and decided to tell me two and a half weeks before Key West that jackplates would be not be allowed.”
While it may be true that the SBI rule book is vague about the use of jackplates, Scafidi’s on-water competitor and multi-World Champion Gary Ballough of FJ Propeller fame defends his role in ensuring that all of the boats running in Superboat Stock class compete fairly and equally—and without a jackplate’s manual manipulation of the engine.
“Some racers don’t appreciate that the boats in our class are intended to be stock,” Ballough says pointedly. “Our class originated from the Class 3, six-liter UIM Stock. And the wonderful thing about our organization is that when we, as a class, see something irregular—somebody cheating or using something that nobody else has—and we don’t like it, we get together and we vote on it. And we voted within the class that we don’t want brackets that move up and down. Everyone knows that it’s an advantage when you can raise your motor.”
He adds: “Sure, we could all go out and buy one. But we don’t want to all go out and buy one. I was offered a free one, and I didn’t want it.”
As far as Scafidi being blindsided by his competitors prior to Key West, Ballough says: “No, we didn’t tell him anything about not wanting his bracket until after the season was over. We asked him to simply disable his bracket—just pull a fuse, take the cylinder out, swap the hoses. Anybody could have made it inoperable in about three seconds. But he chose to whine about it.”
Scafidi has since removed the jackplates from Shadow Pirate and ensured that all of the plates, midsections, exhaust tuners, etc., are the identical match that everybody else is running. “So now, if I do win again, they can’t come back and say that there’s other things on the boat that allowed me to win,” he says. “Because of all this, it has cost me a minimum of $10,000 and a lot of time and energy and retesting the boat. But it’s OK—if we win now, it’ll be even sweeter.”
The SBI World Championships roar into Key West Nov. 4-11.