When P1/OPA kicks off its offshore racing season in Cocoa Beach—the first of 12 races for 2021—a brand-new class will be featured consisting of 34′ to 40′ canopied catamarans powered by twin stock Mercury Racing 450R outboard engines. One of the boats on the roster will be an MTI 390X driven by first-time competitor Taylor Scism and throttled by racing legend John Tomlinson.
Taylor, of course, is the daughter of MTI owner and racing legend Randy Scism—her mentor, chief sponsor and supplier of her boat.
Taylor tells Speedboat that she’s been talking about racing for a year or two, but found herself especially drawn to the prospect of this particular class, “especially the stock part of it,” she tells Speedboat. “All the boats have to be homologated molds, so they can’t be modified after the fact. That was really important to us, because the raceboat will be the same one that pops out of the mold for any of our 390X pleasure boats with the 450R engines. This way, it also keeps the cost down—you can’t beef up the power that other teams don’t have the budget for.” The only modification, she says, will be the addition of a closed canopy.
The boat’s number, 7, turns out to be fitting—and not just because Taylor says it’s always been her favorite. “I didn’t even realize it until Randy brought it up, but it was also his race number when he started racing,” she tells Speedboat.
Taylor says the full carbon-fiber boat is currently in lamination, and is expected to be ready for rigging sometime in February. The current plan is to attend about half of P1/OPA’s 2021 races, including Cocoa Beach (May 20-23), Lake of the Ozarks (June 3-5), Sarasota (June 25-27), Ft. Myers (Oct. 7-9), and the World Finals in Englewood, FL (Nov. 18-21). She said the team is also weighing in on the idea of participating at races in Michigan City, IN, St. Clair, MI, and Morehead City, NC.
The MTI race team already has several sponsors, including Tomlinson’s TNT Custom Marine, Devin Wozencraft of Wozencraft Insurance, and, of course, MTI itself. “We’re really happy that Devin is helping us out—it’s amazing of him, and we’re really thankful for that,” Taylor says. “Also, the boat will be on a MYCO Trailer, so we want to support them because we love their trailers. And then we have Pro Motorsports, which is one of our customers. He does SportChassis for a lot of catamaran teams on the circuit, as well as a lot of high-end cars.” Other MTI sponsors include Shaun Torrente Racing and Positive Beverage.
Taylor says she’s extremely excited about her rookie year, and her father Randy seems equally stoked. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:
Speedboat: How long has this been in the works?
Randy Scism: She and I have been scheming for a while on this deal. But the funny part is, her Mom was against it. So we decided to beg for forgiveness instead of asking for permission. (Laughter) Here’s what happened: Taylor started telling somebody about her plan, and they said they were going to post about it on the Internet. I said, “Do you think we ought to call Mom and tell her before it hits the Internet?” So she called her Mom, who said, “No! You can’t do it! We’re a year out on boats. You can’t get it built in time!” But I think she’s warmed up to it now.
SB: What advice did you offer Taylor?
RS: My biggest advice to her was to just settle in and take your time. Get some seat time. And don’t go out there and try and be a rock star. Just go out there and get some good seat time. Everybody thinks you can buy a boat and go win. But it doesn’t work like that. It’s a lot of work; the boat is one part of the package. There’s the seat time, the dynamic between the driver and throttleman, the setup…I mean, if you miss by one pitch in a propeller, you can go from hero to zero. So they’re going to have to figure out what the boat likes, what they like, and what works for them. It’s going to be a process—you can’t just “flip the switch and go racing.” To get successful, you’ve got to be methodical. You have to go through every part of it and learn every piece of it. It’s not like a car, where the track is flat every time. In a boat, conditions are always changing. Cocoa Beach is our target for the first race, and it’s notoriously rough. It’s going to be a deep learning curve. I’m so excited that Johnny is going to go with her. That will obviously accelerate the learning curve.
We also asked John Tomlinson, a National and World Champion racer with more than 150 personal wins, about acting as Taylor’s throttleman.
Speedboat: Were you surprised to be asked to join the MTI team?
John Tomlinson: You know, we had talked about this jokingly years ago when Taylor was younger. I used to say, “Taylor, tell your mom and dad to build you a race boat! Come on, let’s go!” (Laughter) So when she and Randy asked me if I’d run the boat with her, I said yes. I was just happy that they picked me and trusted me to run with her. I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be fun. I said I’d try to do a good job with her, get her acclimated. I think she’ll be good. She’s in these boats a lot. I think she’ll blend right in, for sure. The only thing she hasn’t done is run side by side with anybody in these race conditions.
SB: It’ll be interesting to see what kind of competition you have.
JT: We’ll see what kind of participation we get in this new class. I hear some guys are building some boats, but I don’t know who’s going to be ready for the first race. It’ll give her time to get some seat time and some time for both of us to run the boat together.
SB: You’ll be doing double-duty, because you have plans to race in the Super Cat class as well.
JT: Lorne Leibel and I plan to run the Canada Homes boat in Super Cat, but we won’t do a full season—just two or three races, and then Key West. [Note: Canada Homes is the former World Champion-winning Performance Boat Center 388 Skater, which Tomlinson ran with Myrick Coil from 2016 to 2018.]
SB: How’s business at TNT Custom Marine?
JT: It’s good. I can’t complain. The recreation industry covers everything from bicycles to boats. And it seems like if you go to the bicycle shop, they’ve got no bikes in stock. You go to all the boat manufacturers, and they’re all backed up with orders. It’s busy. I don’t know where all of the money is coming from, but people seem to be spending it. (Laughter) And it’s not just the boat business. I’ve got a friend who’s a jeweler. He sells high-end watches and stuff like that. He told me that 2020 was the best year he ever had! Maybe it’s because people can’t travel or go on vacations, so their money gets spent elsewhere. But I’m not complaining about the boat business. It’s been hectic.