By Eric Colby
With the Thunder On Cocoa Beach event set to start the 2021 offshore powerboat racing season for the Offshore Powerboat Association and Powerboat P1 on May 23, Jay Muller, throttleman for WHM Motorsports, spent a couple days testing the team’s 40’ Skater in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
“It was good to just get back in the boat and run again,” said Muller in a phone interview on Monday. “It was like we never stopped doing it.” He ran with crewmember Nick Casaula, but Muller and team owner/driver Billy Mauff will test the boat on Saturday in preparation for Sunday’s race. “We’ll run it Saturday and he’ll be good to go,” said Muller.
The first event of the 2021 season is also the first race for many competitors since 2019, although some competed in events in Moorhead City, N.C. Thunder On Cocoa Beach organizer Kerry Bartlett said he’s expecting at least 50 raceboats and 65 personal watercraft racing teams.
Among the offshore racing teams that have pre-registered, Miss GEICO will have extreme sports celebrity Travis Pastrana and throttleman Steve Curtis in the cockpit. The Super Cat class is expected to have as many as five entries including multi-time world and national champion throttleman John Tomlinson in Lorne Leibel’s 38’ Skater, Canada Homes. The Super Stock class is expected to have at least eight boats and Team Woody will campaign three boats during the weekend. The Modified Vee class should have a healthy turnout thanks to a purse that was set up by Powerboat P1. The national champion would earn $50,000 and there are good purses for individual events as well.
Additional highlights include a Saturday night concert with rapper Vanilla Ice, who has his own experience racing offshore in a 28’ Pantera. Cast members from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will be on hand and a dollar from each ticket goes toward sea turtle rescue efforts. There will be a Thunder on Cocoa Beach Block Party Friday night and Saturday will feature jet ski and small-boat racing. The first race on Sunday starts at 10 a.m. and the awards will be presented that evening at 7 p.m. The official charity of the event is Freedom Fighter, an organization that supports abolishing human trafficking around the world.
A handful of competitors including Tomlinson, who will race unopposed with Taylor Scism in the new Factory Stock class, and Myrick Coil, will be doing double duty, campaigning in two races. Coil will drive the Performance Boat Center/FASS Diesel Fuel Systems boat in the Super Stock Class and then will drive the Skater 388, M-Con Racing, with owner/throttleman Tyler Miller.
“It looks like it’s going to be bumpy,” said Coil. “It’s not necessarily the fastest boat wins. It will be a battle of attrition.”
Coil is the shop foreman at Performance Boat Center in Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. He watched teams leaving the Midwest capital of go-fast boating as early as Monday. “You can tell everybody’s antsy,” he said.
There could be as many as 10 Super Stock class teams competing in Cocoa Beach with at least half the fleet hailing from the Lake of the Ozarks. As mentioned above, another fleet that will be well represented is Modified V.
Steve Miklos owns the 29’ Extreme, Sun Print/Black Rifle Coffeethat most recently ran at a celebrity-packed event promoted by Traxxas and Pastrana. He has been racing offshore since 1991 and most recently won the world championship with driver Steve Furman last year in Moorhead City, N.C.
Miklos explained that his team has remained on its usual schedule, testing and improving the boat’s speed to where the team could compete on even turns with Brian Forehand’s 29’ Outerlimits, Marker 17 Marine, in calm water. He and Furman tested frequently in Florida and improved the boat’s performance.
“We stayed on engine rotation and tried not to have an interruption,” said Miklos. When he’s not racing offshore powerboats, Miklos can be found competing in other venues. “I either race cars, carts or boats,” he said. “I race 40 weekends a year.”
Looking ahead to this weekend, Miklos said he’s looking forward to the rough conditions for which Cocoa Beach is known. He’s also hoping that Brit Lilly of Lilly Sportboats in Maryland will bring his two Extremes, including the first one that was built at the company’s headquarters.
“We’ve always done well in the big-water races there,” said Miklos. “We feel a podium if it stays big is always a goal.”
Another Steve racing in Modified V is Steve Kildahl, who competes with his son Stephen, in the 29’ Extreme, Boatfloater.com. At 63, he’s been racing since 1985 and could be the sport’s elder statesman. He’s excited about the competition for Cocoa Beach and about the financial incentives being offered to the Modified Vee class. “It’s the first time in offshore that there’s been prize money like that,” he said. “It’s great for the sport and I hope it brings more boats to the class.”