The King of Offshore—a feature-length documentary film chronicling the incredible career of Reggie Fountain—recently surpassed the million-views mark on YouTube, demonstrating an enduring interest in the life of the innovative boatbuilder, designer, offshore kilo record-holder and racing champion.
The film, which features interviews with Reggie’s friends, copilots, competitors and employees, traces his entire career, which began when he was a mere 14 years old. After he began racing as a teen, he went on to pursue a business law degree at the University of North Carolina, becoming a successful salesman, promoter and developer. At a seasoned 31, Reggie—one year into pro tunnel-boat racing and a factory driver for Glastron—won the Houston Gulf Coast Marathon Association’s championship and was named Outstanding New Driver at the prestigious Lake Havasu World Championships.
A series of offshore victories and world records followed. Reggie joined joined Bill Seebold and Earl Bentz to form one of the most fabled forces in tunnel outboard racing as part of Mercury Marine’s vaunted factory team, becoming the winningest in the history of the sport by 1972.
Using his earnings from real-estate investments, Reggie opened Fountain Powerboats in 1979. The original factory was in an abandoned used car dealership in Washington, NC, near the Pamlico River. The company was an instant hit, quickly expanding its physical plant and its staff. Reggie’s boats had an immediate impact on the recreational boat market, and sales boomed throughout the 1980s. The classic Fountain design emerged as an icon in the offshore sport-boating ranks, as well as a symbol of a certain attained status. Reggie’s sons, Reggie Fountain III and Wyatt Fountain, have continued their father’s legacy in both boat building and racing.
Written and produced by John Potts of American Performance Media, King of Offshore: The Reggie Fountain Story has proved so successful because Reggie’s fame continues to grow, thanks to his amazing contributions to the performance powerboating industry. Speedboat’s editors sat down with the celebrated icon to talk about the film and his career; here are some of the highlights of our conversation.
On the documentary milestone and using the Internet: “Yes, there are over a million views on it now. That’s a lot of views, isn’t it? It hit a million a few days ago, and it’s quite a ways past a million by now. (Note: At the time of this writing, the number had exceeded 1,016,000.) It’s hard to say how much time I spend on social media. Probably only a couple of hours a week.”
On his favorite part of the film: “Well, mostly it’s about the winning, and I guess those are my favorite parts. Actually, I ran 201 races over the course of my lifetime, and we won just a fraction over half of them. And I got a bunch of seconds, thirds, and fourths.”
On his childhood: “Here’s something that added a lot to my later success: When I was 8 years old, I started water skiing on two skis. By 12 years old, I was skiing on single skis, and by 14 I was skiing barefoot. It gave me a good feel for how water reacts in certain situations. So I learned a lot from that, and it went a long way towards helping me build the boats faster.”
On another key to his success: “Lots and lots of testing, and making changes in boats to make them go faster, safer and smoother.”
On crashing: “Of course, some of those races ended with a crash. That happened because many of these boats ran much faster right up out of the water and into the air, and when you run ’em loose like that all the time, it can put you in a crash situation very easily. The looser you run, the faster you’re going to go, but the more times you stand to crash. I think I was lucky that I only crashed eight times out of those 201 races. And usually that would be in close situation where you’d have to run really light to reduce the hydrodynamic drag on the boat and make it mostly aerodynamic—there’s less drag when you’re in the air. So I guess you could say I flew the boats as much as I could, and that had a lot to do with my success.”
On Fountain’s catamaran: “It’s good. It runs good. It’s a good cat. Of course, most of the cats I ran were the factory race boats that I raced in the 1970s and 1980s, when I raced with the Mercury Racing Team. The first one I raced was actually one of the bigger ones: a twin-engine Glastron/Molinari Racing hull. I won a lot of races with that boat—I raced it 23 times and won 22 races. One time, it ran out of gas 400 yards from the finish line and got second place! Most of the factory boats I raced were Molinaris. I raced them for years throughout the 1970s.”
On his longtime friend Ben Robertson: “I still talk to Benny all the time. I hung out with him for years. We met on the race course and became good friends, and he came to work with me quite a while. He was always helpful, and he’s very smart, a very good guy. And we got along well and he helped me a lot.”
On support from the media: “I couldn’t have done it alone. I’ve been blessed with a whole lot of good PR people. Gary Baltz was my in-house sales and marketing man—he worked with me for many years. Working with people like Gary helped me win races and become pretty famous. Mark Spencer helped me a lot—for my first 10 years in business, he was my marketing guy. I’d met him when I was racing and he was an editor at Powerboat Magazine, covering a lot of races. When I started the boat business, he called me up one day and said, ‘I want to go into marketing, and I’d like you to be my first customer.’ I said OK, because I knew he was good, and he was. John Potts has helped me a lot, and I couldn’t have done it without your magazine’s support, I promise you.”
On what he still looks forward to: “I want to be sure I enjoy a good retirement. Along the way, I’ve invested in apartments and a shopping center—I own 315 apartment units in Greenville, NC, and a shopping center in Tarboro, NC, which is where I grew up. The two biggest renters there are Auto Zone and Piggly Wiggly. And so I’m trying to keep that successful so I can continue to enjoy myself as long as the Lord allows me to be here.”