LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. — When nearly 100 powerboaters show up to race, anything can happen, and as Shootout Saturday revealed, one racer’s mechanical problems can be another racer’s advantage. There were 85 runs made before racing was shut down early on Saturday—Day 1 of the two-day event—and things got interesting when the reigning Top Gun ran into mechanical problems.
American Ethanol Struggles
The reigning Shootout champion, Don Onken’s American Ethanol, is a jaw-dropper. Boasting more than 7,000 horsepower across four engines, the yellow, ethanol-powered, 50-foot Mystic catamaran is deafening as it roars down the race course every year, handily topping 200 mph. But the boat came nowhere close to 200 mph on Saturday. It made a run that, at 143 mph, would have still won the first ten Shootouts (Shootout legend Dave Scott was Top Gun in 1998 with a 142 mph run, and in 1999 with a 153 mph run), but will not be nearly enough to hold the Top Gun title in 2019.
Some spectators said they noticed the boat sounded off, and after the run, it limped back to the docks at Captain Ron’s, where Onken and his team worked to diagnose the problem. That was just after 11 a.m., only about an hour into the race day. By the end of the day, a member of the American Ethanol team told LakeExpo.com the boat may have been fixed, and its crew was taking it out onto the Lake Saturday evening to run it while running diagnostics.
In the interim, other racers siezed the opportunity.
Two Challengers Overtake 'American Ethanol' (For Now)
Dave Megugorac (“Magoo”), throttled his DCB 44 catamaran to 156 mph a little before 12:30 p.m. in his third of three runs.
And then at 1 p.m., Ron Szolack and Myrick Coil took the top speed for the day, in a boat everyone knows: the former Performance Boat Center/Jimmy John’s 38-foot Skater. Now simply dubbed Performance Boat Center, the boat has been re-rigged with massive engines: twin 1,800+ hp Sterlings. The boat hit 169 mph, but it might be able to do more. Those same engines powered Szolack’s 36-foot Skater to 184 mph at the 2016 Shootout.
Other highlights of the day, from the race course?
Tuff Marine Looks Good
Tuff Marine was well-represented on the race course: these compact v-bottoms are incredibly fast, and fun to watch. Mark Weigl is the Founder and President of Tuff Marine, and he ran 98 mph in his twin-engine, black Tuff 28. The boat barely touched the water as it zipped across the finish line.
Thomas Weigl also drove a (blue) Tuff 28, and he hit 112 mph. The boats’ striking hull design and colors made their bold runs look fantastic.
The Triple-Digit Pontoon Returns
Brad Rowland, known as the “Humble Plumber with a Wild Pontoon,” took his souped-up South Bay down the race course, and the boat brought the speed it’s known for. Rowland’s record is 114 mph, and he had hoped for more this year, but was not quite able to get there. He hit 112 mph, and decided that would have to do. The conditions were “a tad windy” on the course, and he said that may have affected his run. Regardless, Tooned In Two put on quite a show.
The Girls Showed Up
Carrie Sixkiller returned in her veteran Shootout Baja Outlaw, B-Nauti, and posted a 59 mph run.
Taylor Scism made a 123 mph run in a 2019, 34-foot MTI with her father Randy.
Tiffany Maasen throttled ‘Merica, the patriotic Poly Lift-owned Nortec center console, to 73 mph.
Carolyn Dorris hit 76 mph in her 2018 Hampton pontoon.
And there are more ladies lined up to run on Sunday, provided the weather cooperates.
The Slowest Boat
Randy Vance returned, in his bid to put electric boats on the map. In 2018, a Torqeedo electric engine propelled his 23-foot center console fishing boat, Calypso, to a top speed of 25 mph. So it took a few minutes to complete the 3/4-mile course. This year, Vance upped his speed by 5 mph with a new boat: an 18-foot "Volt," built by Canadian Electric Boat Company. The boat hit 30 mph: a 20 percent speed increase over last year. At this rate, electric boats may just be on the right track to win over recreational boaters who have a need for speed. Read more about Vance and his electric boat mission, here.
The Air Show Soars
The popular Shootout Air Show went off without a hitch. The show had been threatened to be called off, when, earlier this summer, the Federal Aviation Administration declined the request for a Temporary Flight Restriction (which would ban all air traffic in the area) to be in effect during the show. The Air Show Director appealed to the agency, and they reversed course, approving the TFF about two weeks before the race. So the crowd-pleasing show happened, complete with spiraling acrobatics from the plane piloted by Brian Correll, and a race down the course between the plane and the new PBC/Jimmy John’s catamaran.
Saturday’s weather left something to be desired. It ranged from cloudy to hazy to drizzly to downright rainy. Temperatures stayed in the 70s, which meant the water was warmer than the air. But despite the less-than-ideal weather, huge crowds showed up for the event, both on-water and on-land.
The docks at Captain Ron’s were packed with boaters and the course was lined with spectators hoping to get at peek at the fastest go-fast boats around.