Veteran offshore racers Nigel Hook and Michael Silfverberg—the team at the controls of the all-carbon, closed-canopy 48-foot #77 Lucas Oil SilverHook— have completed a record-setting run from West Palm Beach, FL, to Grand Bahama Island and back.
Promoted by Powerboat P1 and sanctioned by the Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM) and the American Powerboat Association (APBA), the Ocean Cup event is a revival of a historic offshore race known as the Gateway Marathon. It’s a round-trip event that determines the fastest speed from the USA to Freeport and back.
The marathon dates back to 1964, when George Peroni defeated 15 opponents to win the inaugural 90-mile marathon. In 1966, 33 boats attempted the marathon, but high winds and 10-foot seas caused only 13 boats to finish. The winner was Allen Brown, piloting the Donzi known as Big Broad Jumper. Brown won again in 1967, with only 12 of 27 entrants finishing the 177-mile event. Don Aronow won the 1969 Gateway Marathon in his 32′ Cary known as The Cigarette (powered by twin 475-hp MerCruiser engines) with a total time of 4 hours and 35 minutes for an average speed of 43.6 mph.
The 200+ mile achievement by Hook and Silfverberg encompassed a run to the Bahamas on Friday, with the return back to West Palm Beach on Saturday. “It was a fantastic run, and the boat ran flawlessly, which is impressive because we had it a lot rougher than expected out there, with a lot of quartering seas coming from 45 degrees port,” Silfverberg told Powerboat Nation. “So the boat took a real pounding, but everything’s back together, with no problems technically.”
The rough water conditions made it extremely difficult to drive under the circumstances, the pair said. “Every time we got airborne, we blew about 15 to 20 degrees off course. We did what we could to lessen the effects of it, but you gradually lose speed.”
Irregardless, Hook and Silfverberg have established three new records:
• West Palm Beach to Freeport—1 hour, 3 minutes and 36 seconds.
• Freeport to West Palm Beach—1 hour, 5 minutes and 30 seconds.
• West Palm to the Bahamas and back “with assist”—2 hours, 9 minutes and 6 seconds.
Hook said that this year’s effort was a kind of “icebreaker” for getting the Gateway Marathon back up and running again. “That’s what’s exciting about it,” he said. “The promoter in the Bahamas, Jamie Rose of OBS Marine LTD., is now actively looking to put on the event for next year. With our dry run, we hit some problems with immigration and customs and so forth, so we hope that next year, his race committees will bring on customs and immigration representatives, as well as the Coast Guard so it can be handled smoothly.”
Asked what the biggest challenge is of making the international crossing, Hook spoke of massive eddies, or whirlpools, of between 10-20 miles located in the Gulf Stream that make it difficult to maneuver. “When we can take it on the nose, it’s a lot easier than when it comes at us from the side, it can get difficult. On the beach, you see the waves coming in and there’s a sort of harmonious consistency. But out in the middle of the ocean, things pop out of nowhere, like when you encounter these eddy situations. You’ll get rogue waves coming at you. It’s always a challenge. People think that in the middle of the ocean, things are pretty stable, but it’s quite the contrary—conditions are constantly changing.” In addition, Hook said they occasionally encounter a huge container ship and are forced to drive through its wake.
The SilverHook crossing comes on the heels of Hook’s 2017 Guinness World Record-setting Key West to Havana, Cuba, run with co-pilot Jay Johnson, which saw them traveling 110+ miles in 1 hour, 18 minutes, and 3 seconds.
In 2018, Hook and Johnson competed in the 50th Anniversary of the Trinidad & Tobago Great Race, one of the longest consecutively held powerboat races in the world. Of the 43 entries, SilverHook was the only USA team to enter the race in the last 29 years, finishing second in the top A Class won by Motul Monster, establishing a UIM World Record.
SilverHook‘s telemetry and communications is sponsored by Melbourne, FL-based satellite communications giant Satcom Direct, which provides global connectivity solutions for business and general aviation, and provides land mobile services to areas with connectivity limitations. “They put satellite radios on our boat, on all of the support boats and of course the helicopter involved in our run, and it really helps from a safety point of view,” Hook said. Adds Silfverberg: “It makes it more interesting to the public, too, because they can follow us live as our fully integrating satellite equipment broadcasts the data via the telemetry system.”
The SilverHook team is currently mulling which speed record to break next. In the meantime, they are currently on track to attend the remaining dates in the APBA National circuit, presented by OPA and Powerboat P1.