Key West crowns a new class of world champions.
Story by Gregg MansfieldPhotos by
Jeff Gerardi/Freezeframevideo.net and Todd Taylor
Steven Fehrman and Steve Miklos were ready to call it a wrap on the 2023 offshore racing season when they made a last-minute decision to race at the Key West World Championship in November.
It turned out to be a good call as the Sun Print/Hooters team won a World Championship in Modified V, putting a bow on an offshore season that included a National Championship.
“The real interesting thing is we weren’t going at all and a new sponsor El Bandido asked us to go and now we don’t regret it,” said Fehrman, who drives the Modified V Extreme boat. “We had some conflicts, and we hadn’t gotten accommodations, so we thought we would sit this out because we had won the Nationals. Now we’re happy we went.”
Race World Offshore’s Key West World Championship lived up to its reputation for great racing and the best party scene in offshore racing. More than 70 teams competed in Key West with the racing taking place on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The World Championships are typically a battle of attrition, and the Sun Print team knows firsthand. Their boat was hit by the Fastboys boat during Wednesday’s race, damaging deck coring and bending a tailpipe. The Sun Print team spent its off day stabilizing the damaged deck.
“It took away our ability to test on Thursday, so we had to just go out Friday with our Wednesday package, but it worked out,” Fehrman said.
Unlike past years when water conditions played kingmaker, this year teams were focused on racing and not the weather app. While the water conditions on the Outer Mole were the typical swells and wind gusts, it was little match for the Class 1 and Super Cat teams.
When the flag dropped for the first Super Cat race, 11 teams crossed the start line, and it was the MCON/Monster Energy Skater duo of Myrick Coil and Tyler Miller that set the tone for the three days of racing. The Skater jumped to an early lead in the first race and never looked back, winning all three Super Cat races.
C.J. Grant Racing/Graydel, Valder Yachts/Pro Floors Racing and Dirty Money Racing all finished second to Monster’s Coil and Miller over the three races. The Dirty Money Racing duo of Brit Lilly and Bill Pyburn were second overall, and CR Racing’s Rob Unnerstall and Casey Boaz were third overall.
The Super Stock was equally stacked with 11 boats making the trip to Key West. Jackhammer, fresh off hitting a buoy at Race World Offshore’s National Championship, owner Reese Langheim and throttleman Ricky Maldonado were looking for redemption at the World Championship.
The duo quickly found it in the opening race, nailing the setup and outpacing the 32’ Doug Wright Northwind, which was second overall in Super Stock. Jackhammer won the next two races and secured the World Championship. Coco’s Monkey was third overall.
“We’re all competitive and we’re best friends until we get out on the racecourse and then we go after one another,” Langheim said. “This year has been great for us. We’ve been very competitive, our boat is freaking phenomenal. I just can’t express our setup, our motors and everything that we’ve done has been phenomenal.”
Langheim is willing to sell the championship boat and build another one to race in Super Stock.
“If somebody called me today, I would sell them that boat and I would sell them that setup ready to go and all you have to do is jump in and go.”
The 450R Factory Stock has developed into a fun class featuring Doug Wright and Marine Technology Inc. catamarans. GC Racing owner/driver Willy Cabeza and throttleman Shaun Torrente were together in the cockpit for the first time and were magic on the course. GC Racing won the World Championship thanks to a first and two seconds giving the team the points to edge second-place Gladiator-Canados. T/S Motorsports MTI was third.
In Class 1, 222 Offshore Australia continued its winning ways and earned a World Championship. Team Farnsworth/Hancock Claims finished atop the podium in the VX class.
The bracket class winners were Predator (Class 2), Simmons Racing (Class 4), Sweat Equity Motorsports (Class 5) and X Insurance/Golf n Gator (Class 7). JBS Racing was the sole boat in the Extreme class.
For Race World Offshore President Larry Bleil, the 2023 World Championship in Key West was what he envisioned when RWO started producing the race in 2019. The bars and restaurants on Duval Street were packed and the RWO staff had a hard time finding enough space for all the race boats. The boat count was the highest since 2011 and organizers added an extra daily race to accommodate the teams.
“It was like an international airport with boats coming and going, and it went off without a hitch,” Bleil said.
Bleil works year-round on the event and requires more than 100 people, from rescue crews to merchandise sales. Speaking to Bleil a few days after the World Championship, he was busy paying the bills from staging the event. Putting on an event the scale of the World Championship doesn’t come cheaply.
“For the amount of time and money put into it, I could put my money in the stock market and do a whole lot better,” Bleil said with a laugh.
Bleil is already working on the next World Championship, November 5-12, 2024.