Brit Lilly’s Key West Adventure

At the 2017 Superboat International 37th annual Key West World Championships in Key West, Fla., last week, driver Brit Lilly and throttleman Ron Umlandt claimed their second straight offshore racing world title in the Superboat Vee class. They ran their 30’ Extreme, LSB Hurricane of Awesomeness, to three first-place finishes during the Wednesday, Friday, Sunday race schedule, sweeping the class.

“I never dreamed to have this kind of competition this often,” said Lilly, 31. “It’s like a one in a lifetime kind of race where you battle back and forth, especially in a place like Key West, I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

He was talking about how close the nine boats and teams in the class all were in terms of speed and ability. Second place for the week went to the father-and-son team of Steve and Stephen Kildahl in their 30’ Extreme, The Kildahls were in the lead most of the day on Sunday, but a late race spin gave Lilly and Umlandt the opening they needed to take command of the day and the week.  

Following the event in Clearwater, Fla., Lilly figured he just needed to do some routine maintenance before heading to Key West, what followed was anything but routine.

After taking the SBI national championship with a second-place finish at the final event of the 2017 season in Clearwater, Fla., Lilly figured that he just needed to do some routine maintenance to get ready for the world championships.

Two weeks before the team was ready to head to Key West, Lilly went out to test his boat with a new motor. When he fired up the engine, it threw the belt off the sea pump and blew the motors. Only a few days prior to that, engine builder Joey Griffin, who had built motors for Lilly’s father Art when he raced offshore, had told Brit Lilly that he loved him like a son. “I called him and said, ‘Did you mean that,’” recalled Lilly. “He said, ‘What did you do?” Lilly told Griffin what had happened and the gruff engine builder told him to get the motor out and get it to Griffin’s shop.

The motor was torn down to the block and rebuilt in just under two weeks

The motor was disassembled down to the block, the cylinders were re-honed and within 13 days, LSB Hurricane of Awesomeness had a new motor. While the motor was getting worked on, Lilly planned to fix a small chip he saw in the bottom of his boat.

“I took a closer look and saw that the bottom of the boat was delaminated on the starboard side,” said Lilly. “Within seven days, I cut about a 6’ section out of the boat, repaired the bottom and re-vacuum-bagged it and blueprinted the whole bottom.”

“Within seven days, I cut about a 6’ section out of the boat, repaired the bottom and re-vacuum-bagged it and blueprinted the whole bottom.”

For good measure, he also painted the bottom black, which really enhanced the hull’s overall appearance. After he and the crew at Lilly Sport Boats (as in LSB) got the boat put back together, on the day that the team planned to leave for Key West, the boat went into the water for testing.

After little test time, Lilly and Umlandt went out on Wednesday and had a dogfight with the Kildahls, whom Lilly calls his “extended South Florida family” for the lead of race one. LSB Hurricane of Awesomeness took the honors on Day one and on the second day, the team hit the prop selection perfectly and walked away from the fleet.

The rebuilt drives lasted long enough for the Lilly Sport Boats team to claim the title on Sunday

While returning to the pits, the team realized the single-engine boat’s drive was stuck in forward. The crew put on a spare drive, but when it was running on a hose in the pits, the drive’s case got hot. In a parking lot in Key West, the Lilly Sport Boats team combined the best parts from the two drives and the rebuilt one held up long enough to take the title on Sunday.

“It seems to never end. Luckily, I’ve got such a great crew and such a great family,” said Brit Lilly. His father Art is multi-time world and national champion in offshore racing and he still runs Lilly Sport Boats. “From growing up with him, letting me do it and supporting me. He opens the whole shop to me,” said a grateful Brit.

Art and Brit Lilly (First from left and center) and crew.

“It made me proud as hell,” said Art of watching his son race. “When your son’s out there and everybody out there on the bulkhead knows about our company, it’s awesome.”

In true Lilly fashion, the younger one wasn’t sitting back and relaxing after winning the title. He was busy getting the Tug It offshore boat ready to head to Englewood Beach, Fla., for the Offshore Powerboat Association’s world championships next week. Lilly and team owner Kevin Smith will campaign the 30’ Phantom in the OPA’s Class 7.

“I left everything at the Kildahls,” said Lilly. “We’re busy getting Tug It ready to go to Englewood and see if we can do it again.”

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