Is a return to offshore racing in the future for Iconic Marine’s Jeff Harris?
By Gregg Mansfield
It has been nearly two years since Jeff Harris has competed in an offshore race in a distinguished career that includes multiple world and national championships, and several world-speed records. His break from offshore racing is notable considering Harris has been a fixture for two decades.
Like most things these days, Harris’ hiatus can be blamed on the pandemic and work. Harris returned to Fountain Powerboats as its chief operating officer in 2019 and helping to fuel its resurgence. He plans to return to offshore racing and Harris said if you look at his racing career, he’s had a few “gaps.”
“I won my first world championship in Super Vee in 2000 in a V-bottom and I won my last world championship at the Race World Offshore Extreme class in 2019,” Harris said. “Since then, my focus has been here at Iconic Marine growing primarily the Fountain brand.”
The good news is offshore race fans could see Harris back throttling an offshore race boat in 2022 for a few races. Harris had plans to race this year, but it fell through when his canopy needed to be rebuilt.
“If the situation presents itself with the right set of circumstances, I could see myself getting back out there, sure,” Harris said.
Harris was one of the few paid throttleman in the sport but now those positions have dried up as the larger catamarans have left offshore racing or the owners moved into the deeper and more competitive outboard catamaran classes.
“If you look at my list of world championships, they were either in Super Vee, Super Cat or Super Boat Unlimited,” said Harris, later adding, “Unfortunately that high-end (offshore) racing isn’t out there, it’s just a reflection of where the sport is.”
With nine world championships and 12 national championships, any team would be lucky to have Harris throttle for their team. Harris is probably best known for his years running with driver Mike DeFrees with Team CRC and more recently a 48-foot MTI Wake Effects, which he earned during his last championship.
Harris earned several V-bottom titles too in his career, setting the world kilo speed record of 160.986 mph in a 40’ MTI with DeFrees. In 2018, on behalf of Fountain Powerboats and the urging of company founder Reggie Fountain, he tried to reclaim the fastest V-bottom crown that was set by an Outerlimits four years earlier.
Harris paired with Reggie Fountain III for the run, but a cracked manifold kept them short of the 180.47 mph speed run. The duo ran an average of 175 mph, which was faster than the previous 171.88 mph that Fountain’s Reggie Fountain II and Ben Robertson ran in 2004.
Since taking over as the Iconic Marine’s chief operating officer, Harris has taken on additional duties, which he admits leaves him little time for racing. He still gets into boats at the factory in Washington, North Carolina, whether it’s for testing or giving a customer a demo ride.
Talking with Harris for a few minutes, it’s clear the passion is still there. When offshore racing his career line up again, expect to see Harris on a few more podiums.
“I’ve never lost a rough-water offshore race,” Harris said. “Never lost one. I’ve only been passed once and that was a guy that flipped over after he passed me. I like racing the big stuff with big engines that does really fast. That’s what I’ve always raced.”