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Club Marine

Maritimo leads Smorgan Steel and Acme past the Newcastle foreshore.

Round three of the series, staged on the Derwent River in Hobart was problem plagued for series leader, Bill Barry-Cotter and Peter McGrath in Maritimo Offshore. After discovering a leak in the fuel tank, Maritimo Offshore made a last minute switch from their ‘Aussie’ boat to the Lamborghini ‘European’ Maritimo.

The Searle brothers arrived in Hobart confident that their boat was running faster after completing work on the induction system to squeeze more power from the engines. Similarly, Tony Low and Simon Isherwood in Smorgan Steel changed the rotation in the props to make their rig faster and give it better handling.

But it wasn’t enough to outclass Bill Barry-Cotter and Peter McGrath who held on despite losing all telemetry in the cockpit to take out the round. With electrical malfunctions lighting Maritimo’s dash like a Christmas tree, the defining moment arrived when the oil pressure light came on. “That’s a $160,000 rebuild when you lose oil pressure in a Lamborghini,” said Peter. “Bill looked at the light and chose to ignore it. That shows to me that he’s a true racer!”

Acme went into the race with suspect pistons. When the engine went off song, the crew knew their race was over but continued to round the course to pick up valuable points.

Smorgan Steel had worse luck, dropping valves in one engine and posting a DNF (did not finish) result.

The Class 3 Shifty crew of Paul Gibbs and Paul Fowlds completed their seven laps before the Class 1 boats completed their regulation 13 laps and finished two minutes ahead of the runner-up in Class 2, Spirit of the Mountain, driven by Mike Biel and Steve Jellick. Colonel Racing (Steve and Matt Kelly) came home third.

Class 2 was dominated by Damien Palisi and Stuart Adam in Splits Fibreglass. According to throttleman Stuart Adam, the triple-rig cat hull formerly raced as Rumler Racing was running at its best ever.

Second in the class was Revetec Racing (Jason Boyd and Andrew Rudd) barely a minute astern. Global Racing (Mark Gilbert and Leigh Trevaskis) finished third.

National A competitors Simon Thomas and Anthony DeFina in Thycon enjoyed a superb run to again take line honours ahead of Slick (Craig Purton and David Strucelj). Eye of the Tiger (Nigel and Douglas Craven) was third.

Round four of the series in Newcastle came to a dramatic end when Class 2 entry Revetec, flipped, throwing Jason Boyd and Andrew Rudd into the water.

Fortunately neither were injured but their boat was not as lucky. It sustained a moderate amount of damage with the cowls torn from both engines and the hull finishing upside down floating bow high.

With rescue boats and other competitors quickly stopping to assist, the red flags were hoisted to bring the race to a premature end.

While the Revetec crew were being hauled out of the water, National A competitor Piranha, found a bad patch of water flinging driver Murray Brown out of the cockpit and Piranha into the sea. Passenger Rory Brown stayed on board with the hull remaining right side up only to emerge wet, while Murray sustained a broken arm and rib.

The end came too soon for Acme who finished just 30 seconds behind Maritimo after just five laps. Steve Searle’s plan to stay within striking distance of Maritimo until the last three laps went awry when Revetec brought the event to an early close.

Running a new boat in Class 1, Simon Isherwood and Tony Low in Smorgan Steel finished third, while the Splits Fibreglass team continued their winning form, jumping out to an early lead to hold on throughout the event.

In Class 3 it was a battle between Shifty and Spirit of the Mountain. Shifty made a passing move to edge ahead, shortly before the race was stopped.

The three-way battle in National A saw Slick take the points ahead of Thycon and the Craven’s in Eye of the Tiger. With three laps completed, Slick finished two minutes ahead of Thycon, and Eye of the Tiger one-and-a-half minutes further astern. For the record, Revetec was in second place when the boat flipped, with new entries XXX Racing and Red Bellies filling fourth and fifth positions respectively. Victory Marine continued their bad run, losing an engine cowling and retiring early.

Any lingering hopes of beating the formidable Bill Barry-Cotter and Peter McGrath duo were laid to rest at the conclusion of round five in Botany Bay. The Searle brothers refusing to accept second place, installed new props to mount a serious challenge, but were unable to match the dual Lamborghini engines.

Likewise, Tony Low and Simon Isherwood continued to make significant improvements to Smorgan Steel’s performance. At Botany Bay the hull was some 300kgs lighter than the previous weekend, thanks to a pair of alloy drive housings and a heap of internal weight cut out of the hull. They placed third.

Despite winning every round of the series and with just two rounds remaining after Botany Bay, a single DNF result from the Maritimo team would put Acme on level footing.

In Class 2, Global Racing enjoyed their best run of the series taking victory ahead of Splits Fibreglass. Global Racing’s owner and regular driver, Mark Gilbert was forced to sit out the race due to illness, the boat was run by Leigh Trevaskis with Ross Willarton behind the wheel. Jason Boyd and Andrew Rudd from Revetec finished third.

Red Bellies got to the start line after the team made a gearcase swap earlier that morning to help the handling of the boat. The hull was riding better, although still lacking the speed to join the front runners. Chris Rosch’s run of bad luck continued with CSR Investments losing a flywheel on the centre engine after the boat led the class for the first six laps.

In Class 3, the tussle between Shifty and Spirit of the Mountain continued. The calm seas better suited Shifty, who led the class home. Likewise, National A saw a close match between Slick and eventual winner Thycon.

Queensland offshore racer, Chris Rosch stormed home to an impressive victory onboard the diesel-powered Maritimo Offshore at Mooloolaba. For Chris, this round was the first race he had contested in. Normally taking to the start line in his Victory Marine Class 2 boat, Chris and throttleman Ross Willarton seized the opportunity to step up to race with the big boys when Maritimo boss Bill Barry-Cotter decided to enter both Maritimo rigs for the remaining two rounds of the series.

A record four Class 1 boats lined up the sixth round of the series. Bill Barry-Cotter and Peter McGrath were in the blue-hulled Lamborghini Maritimo Offshore with Steve and Andrew Searle in Acme Racing still looking to take their first outright victory for the season. Tony Low and Simon Isherwood looked strong in Smorgan Steel with fresh engines delivering a better performance.

With the blue-hulled Maritimo running hard into the first turn and Acme right alongside, it seemed the familiar pattern was set to repeat, until Maritimo slowed and pulled out after completing just three laps. This left Acme Racing in the lead ahead of Chris Rosch and Ross Willarton in the white-hulled Maritimo Offshore, followed by Smorgan Steel.

“When Bill offered me the drive in his second string Class 1 boat, I felt that the diesel-powered Maritimo was actually a faster boat,” said Chris. “As it turned out we never got to challenge Bill in a gunwale to gunwale dice, but the race sheets show that the fastest lap of the race was recorded by Ross and I. We saw 220km/h (137mph) on the GPS and that was quite fast enough in the conditions.”

As it turned out Bill Barry-Cotter had blown one of his fresh, factory-supplied Lamborghini engines.

Having chased the rooster tail of Barry-Cotter all season, this looked to be an opportunity for the Searle brothers to finally take the chequered flag. But a mechanical failure forced them to limp across the line with one engine shut down completely and the other at idle after 10 laps.

Smorgan Steel finished third after oil pressure problems forced them to come home on one engine after eight laps. The hotly-contested Class 2 once again saw Splits Fibreglass hold a comfortable edge to win almost five minutes ahead of XXX Racing.

After some 84 minutes of hard fought racing, Shifty crossed the line 14 seconds ahead of Spirit of the Mountain in Class 3. Paul Gibbs acknowledging that it had been a very tough day at the office.

It was a similar story in the National A Class. Throughout the long duel between Slick and Thycon the lead changed several times. While Slick eventually took out victory, Thycon came home at the end of a tow rope, having run out of fuel within a kilometre of the finish line. This allowed Eye of the Tiger to move up into second position. The final round of the 2004 Club Marine Powerboat Series was set at the glamorous Gold Coast under overcast skies with a two-metre swell.

Australian Offshore Powerboat
Champion, Bill Barry-Cotter.

The drama began well before the starters flag went out when Bill Barry-Cotter and Peter McGrath couldn’t get Maritimo Offshore onto the plane as they motored away and out onto the course. They rushed back to the pit for a change of props. But by the time they had lifted the boat from the water and changed the props, Acme had already completed two laps of the course. Enjoying the conditions, the Searle brothers were out in front and doing it easily. Despite having a two lap lead on Maritimo, Steve kept the power on all the way through, leading the race from start to finish.

Smorgan Steel also had a great run in their aluminium cat hull. A fresh engine had been fitted following the Mooloolaba round. But disaster struck just 500 metres from the finish line and running in second place, the escape hatch in Tony Low’s cockpit imploded. The boat began to fill with water immediately and while a tow line was attached, the five-tonne boat flooded with water and proved too big a load for the tow boat.

Smorgan Steel sank with a marker buoy attached for recovery the following day by salvage experts.

Amid all the drama, the Australian Class 1 title for 2004 was being decided. With Acme first, Smorgan Steel second and Maritimo third in the Gold Coast race, the season point score saw Maritimo and Acme tied on equal points. The title eventually going to Maritimo on a countback.

In Class 2, Splits Fibreglass renewed their battle with the Victory Marine team of Chris Rosch and Karl Wall racing hard. Splits held the inside line to cross the finish line first, to win Class 2 and the Australian title.

Global Racing’s Mark Gilbert was first to withdraw from the race when one of his Mercury outboards took a dunking.

The Class 3 battle with Shifty and Spirit of the Mountain again proved to be tight. The tough conditions suiting the heavier Spirit of the Mountain initially, before the hull delaminated on the front port sponson.

In National A Class, victory went to the Melbourne-based Slick team who also took out the Australian National A Title. The conditions proved ideal for the Eye of the Tiger team with Thycon coming home third.

The Craven boys revelled in the rough stuff. However, the going was so rugged on the Gold Coast that the aft quarter of the 22-year-old hull delaminated and looks to be pensioned-off.

Look out for a new ‘Eye’ in 2005.