BEST OF 2019: RWO Takes Over Key West World Championships
More than two dozen race teams came to Florida to participate in the Race World Offshore Key West World Championships in November 2019, an event that composed of three separate race days. Competitors faced off in seven different classes, three of which featured boats running unopposed. It was a week that saw three boats flip in Super Stock class—two running side by side.
By Sunday’s final bout, Billy Mauff and Jay Muller in WHM Motorsports walked away as Offshore World Champions in Supercat class, Mike DeFrees and Jeff Harris of Team CRC/Spooled Up Racing were the champs in Extreme Class, and Rob Unnerstall and Casey Boaz in CR Racing were victorious in Super Stock Class.
Some of the battles were genuine heartbreakers, especially in Supercat class. Competitors Charles Broaddus and Chris Hanley in Broadco had finished second on Wednesday and won their class on Friday, so their chances of taking the world title were promising. Unfortunately, they dropped out of Sunday’s final competition about halfway through the race, while another condender, Dependable, also dropped out with a mechanical issue. WHM’s Mauff and Muller stayed out in front for most of Sunday’s race before being overtaken in the final laps by both the New Zealand team of Wayne Valder and Grant Bruggemann in Pro-Floors Racing and Tyson Garvin and Tyler Miller in M-CON, who finished first and second, respectively. But WHM didn’t need to win Sunday’s race—they had enough points from earlier in the week to capture the world title. Pro-Floors wound up with a second overall finish; M-CON, third overall.
Then there was the Super Stock carnage. On the first day of racing, the field of 10 boats included Team Allen Lawn Care and Team LPC, which at one point were running side by side when both appeared to take too much air under the tunnels, blowing both over simultaneously. Video footage of the accident immediately went viral; fortunately, Billy Allen and Larry Minegar of Team Allen Lawn Care and Mike Wright and Loren Peters of Team LPC were not seriously injured. (CR Racing, a Doug Wright catamaran with driver Rob Unnerstall and throttleman Casey Boaz, finished first on Wednesday, followed by FJ Propeller and Performance Boat Center/Auto Alert.)
With the field narrowed to eight boats, Friday’s race saw Gary Ballough and Jimmie Harrison in FJ Propeller take the lead in Super Stock when Jackhammer blew over in the fifth lap (Reese Langheim and Ricky Maldonado quickly emerged, mostly unscathed.) The race was later restarted, and CR Racing grabbed the lead and finished first, followed by Shadow Pirate and Performance Boat Center/Auto Alert. FJ Propeller ended up finishing fourth. Three teams jockeyed for the first-place position in Super Stock during the final day of racing. For the first couple of laps, it was FJ Propeller, then Performance Boat Center/Auto Alert, and then finally CR Racing. Unnerstall and Boaz in CR Racing prevailed, managing to hold off the other six competitors to earn the checkered flag and the World Championship in the class. Nick Scafidi and Scott Porta in Shadow Pirate finished only seconds behind them, with Myrick Coil and Rusty Williams in Performance Boat Center/Auto Alert maintaining a third-place position—the same spot they earned in the first two days of racing.
By Sunday’s race, Mike DeFrees and Jeff Harris of Team CRC/Spooled Up Racing—who had won in Extreme Class earlier in the week—ran unopposed in the class along with the Super Cat field, as their competitors Team Freedom and Huski Chocolate both dropped out with engine problems, sealing a World Championship for Team CRC.
Sunday action featured bracket class racing that featured mostly competitors running unopposed, following the pattern set by the previously days’ racing. The only real drama came in Bracket Class 4, which pitted SimmonsMarine.com (the winner on Wednesday and Friday) against Team Octane; both boats are owned by Jim Simmons. The two boats traded the first-place position until Octane suffered a mechanical issue in the final lap, handing the win to Simmons and Jason Zolecki of SimmonsMarine.com.
Super Vee Extreme—Shameel Mohammed and Mark Niemann in Sheriff Lobo.
Bracket 2—Dan MacNamara and Eric Treadwell in Speedster.
Bracket 3—J.P. Larkin and Ed Tamberino in Wix Filters.
Bracket 5—Greg Bluttler and Mark DiDario in Illicit Motorsports.
Bracket 6—Damon Marotta Jr. and Damon Marotta Sr. in Offshore Outlaw.
RWO president and founder Larry Bleil told Speedboat that the event went off even better than he had anticipated. “I had a vision of changing things up, and making Key West the World Championship that it should be,” he said. “We added concerts during the week. We added a VIP experience that had not been at any other race anywhere. We brought in a shuttle to take people to the VIP area. I was able to implement all of these ideas that I’d come up with over the years, and got nothing but compliments from the people who were there.”
Bleil is now planning to expand the group’s racing season in 2020. The organization held its inaugural race season in 2018 with a modest lineup, including races in Mentor, OH, and Dunkirk, NY. For 2019, RWO dropped the Mentor race but picked up two events in Florida: the Clearwater and Key West competitions formerly run by Super Boat International. “I’m working on two new sites, and we’re going to change our Dunkirk dates,” Bleil says. “We’re working with Orange Beach, AL, on an event toward the end of April, and a race on Lake Lanier in Atlanta, GA. We’ve applied for the Army Corps permit in Lake Lanier, so after it’s approved, we can move forward.”