Just one hour from Daytona, Florida, is Crescent City, a quaint village set among green pastures of Central Florida where cows and horses graze and local residents enjoy a slower pace of life.
But this small community came alive with pulsating performance when John Haggin and his AMF Offshore Racing Team hosted the second annual Crescent City Power Boat Run for Records, April 3-8. Organized for the OPA (Offshore Performance Association) and the APBA (American Power Boat Association), the power extravaganza captured the attention of serious racers and enthusiasts from all points of the compass who came to feel the rush of performance and break the highest and most challenging world speed records.
One highlight of the event was the presence of Ken Warby of Australia, otherwise known as "The Fastest Man on the Water." Warby dazzled the crowds as he fired up his 9,000 hp "Aussie Spirit" for the first time in the United States. Warby initially earned his world speed record after running his homemade jet-powered "Spirit of Australia" across the Bowring Dam in Australia at 317.60 mph in 1978. This record still stands today, but this year he intends to exceed his record and came to Crescent City to conduct practice speed runs.
Monday to Wednesday was earmarked for the OPA speed trials, followed by APBA trials Thursday to Saturday. Event organizers, Jan and Ron Baker of Crescent City's Fast Boats Inc, had plenty of help on hand thanks to the assistance of APBA Hall of Champions racer, Fred Miller (chief referee). The course, which was set by a local surveyor, was monitored by Russ and Carol Dodge - professional kilo administrators from Seattle, Washington. And with safety strictly enforced, organizers were glad to have the expertise of Ken Smith of Maryland and David Platter of Georgia who brought highly trained rescue teams, while the Crescent City Volunteer Fire Department and Flagler County Sheriff's Marine Patrol units were on hand to assist with any unforeseen emergencies. Since this is an official sanctioned event, every rule has to be adhered to and proper safety equipment, including high-impact life jackets and race helmets, were mandatory for all participants.
OPA entries ranged from a basic pontoon boat (with modified engines(s)) entered by Ken Gouty of Antioch, Illinois, to John Haggin's 50' turbine powered Outerlimits. The event also attracted adventurous competitors from every walk of life, including Monty Murphy of Orange Park, Florida who entered his 47' Gibson Classic Houseboat. Manned by John Haggin and Ron Baker on the throttles and Ken Warby navigating, the trio successfully set a new record of 24.163 mph for this class.
The man normally behind the camera, Jeff Gerardi of Freeze Frame, was in front of all the cameras as he flew his Mercury powered STV Cat through the course. Speeds in the triple digits in this size craft must send chills down the driver's spine. We wonder who supplied his onboard cameras!
As the Run for Records ran as smooth as a high-performance engine, Mother Nature fortunately only brought two days of foul weather, Tuesday and Saturday. With the race on hold both days due to high winds, racers and spectators milled along the slips, greeted old acquaintances and made new ones. Even the chefs at the AMF Offshore Race camp maintained high spirits and ensured everyone's enjoyment by grilling and serving hearty, barbecued steaks. The steaks were enjoyed immensely, however the weather didn't let up and the scheduled runs had to be postponed on each day.
And since a popular affair attracts the who's who of performance boating, there were many familiar faces in the crowd including John Arruda of Turbine marine, the speed enthusiast who installed the turbine engines in John Haggin's all-new 40' Platinum entitled "Platinum Princess," Kevin Cooper, owner of California-based Lavey Craft Performance Boats, popular racer Augie Pensa of the jersey Boyz, and long-timer poker runner turned-offshore racer Dan Lowrance, of Sarasota, Florida. Of course, a huge head-turner was Ken Warby as he dazzled the spectators and made his presence known with his first trial run in "Aussie Spirit." As Warby fired up the engine, the dock trembled, reminding me of the feeling I felt when the world watched John Glenn go back into space several years ago. Just watching him warm up on the course at 175 mph gave everyone goose bumps.
John Haggin is certainly a turbine kind-of-guy. He now owns three turbine-powered boats and just recently he applied to introduce an official Turbine Class to the SBI/APBA. When his request was rejected, haggin, who is known as a man that doesn't comprehend the word "NO." decided to take AMF Offshore Racing (that consists of 13 race teams in assorted classes) to the OSS, which is only too willing to accommodate him .
Over five days of competition, several new records were set and the APBA reported records for seven new classes while raising six current ones. If you have the opportunity to check out the AMF Offshore Race team at any race this year, do it. With a mandate to boost the interest of offshore racing and increase spectators, Haggin is trying to build a "Nascar on the water" and with his dedication and commitment to the offshore community, he'll probably succeed. After all, I suppose the wording on the swim platform of his Turbine Outerlimits sums it all up - "Can't Understand Normal Thinking."