By Eric Colby
Despite the fact that he owns and throttles what is arguably the most technologically advanced monohull in offshore powerboat racing, the 48’ Silverhook, Lucas Oil Silverhook, and that that his team has partnered with IBM Watson and Cisco to develop real-time system monitoring software, Nigel Hook is a throwback to the glory days of the sport.
I won my first offshore race with Hook in his 26’ Scarab, Archer Marine, in 1992 and for as long as I’ve known him, he has preferred rough water to flat seas and endurance runs over short sprints. So it’s no surprise that he’s decided to go after the record from Key West to Cuba, which is currently held by the 50’ Apache, Apache Star, at one hour, 30 minutes and will then try to establish a new mark for the return leg to Florida.
“It’s a chance to go from racing in circles to the legacy of open ocean racing,” said Hook. “When you leave port and go perpendicular out into the ocean.”
Hook owns DataSkill, a data integration and cognitive intelligence company in the San Diego area. He grew up in England, watching his uncle, Roger Hook, race in circuit and offshore competition. Nigel Hook has won multiple world and national championships in offshore racing and has set endurance records from San Francisco to Long Beach.
He announced the Cuba attempt, known as the Lucas Oil Ocean Cup, in Las Vegas at the 2017 IBM Interconnect Conference. “We are merging artificial intelligence and augmented reality into ocean racing because with this technology we will transform our sport,” explained Hook. The technology, which was developed by DataSkill with IBM Watson IoT (Internet of Things) and Cisco, runs predictive analytics on the engines and onboard systems.
The attempt is scheduled for the week of June 19-23 and it will be sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association and Union Internationale Motonautique with race management by Powerboat P1. Proceeds from the attempt will go to the Key West Community Sailing Center.
When asked why he chose Cuba, Hook said, “A Cuba record has always been in my mind since my first race in Key West. During our recent meeting with the Commodore of the Hemingway International Yacht Club (Havana, Cuba), it became obvious that Commodore Escrich and I share a similar passion for ocean sports.”
The attempt will start in Mallory Square in Key West. Hook will throttle the boat and Jay Johnson will drive. The timer will start when the boat passes just south of Sunset Key and will stop at the channel marker in front of El Morro Castle in Havana. After setting the one-way record, Hook and Johnson will run up the Malecon coastline to do a flyby for the U.S. Embassy before circling back to touch land in Havana Harbor for a brief appearance before TV cameras. They will then strap back into their boat and attempt to set the record from Cuba back to Key West.
Their 48’ boat is powered by twin Mercury Racing 1350/1550 dual fuel motors with BPM surface drives and Weismann two-speed transmissions. The team will carry 350 gallons of fuel and has no plans to refuel. Hook said the team could add an extra 50-gallon tank just forward of the cockpit.
When first starting out will fun in first gear to get on plane, then Hook will shift to overdrive. The team was still working on gear ratios and final propeller selection. IBM Watson will be watching the fuel burn, which will determine the boat’s speed. “Knowing how much fuel we’ve burned will allow us to decide what speed we want to run for the last 10 miles,” said Hook. He’s hoping for average 125 mph for the 107-mile run. And if it’s rough, Hook’s not worried. He’s a throwback. He’s ready for it.