The Spirit of Qatar won its first Superboat Unlimited title Sunday in the Key West Super Boat World Championship.
Driver Sheik Hassan Al-Thani of Qatar and throttleman Steve Curtis of England took the checkered flag after challengers Gasse and Miss Geico dropped out early with mechanical problems. The silver, 45-foot Victory with twin 1,000-horsepower engines averaged 89.55 mph over a rough 79-mile course amid east-northeast winds of 10-20 knots.
Al-Thani, who won the 2009 world championship in the now-defunct Superboat 850 class, was thrilled with the victory.
“It wasn’t an easy race, for sure,” he said. “The conditions outside were really rough, but we always like running in rough conditions.
“We know how our boat handles. We know the right set-up for that kind of water conditions.”
Despite the choppy seas, Sunday saw no accidents. But one racer reported a minor back injury during the first race of the day.
Instigator, with driver John Stanch of Westmore, N.J. and throttleman Peter Meyer of Port Washington, N.Y., won its fifth world title in a row in the 10-boat Superboat Extreme class. For Meyer, 56, of Port Washington, N.Y. — a 10-time world champion — Sunday’s victory was especially sweet because he plans to retire from racing this year to put his daughter through college.
“We may not have the fastest boat, but we got the baddest boat,” Meyer declared.
“The Italians [Metamarine] were in front of us. I thought they had us. I kept plugging away. We kept on catching up each time.”
Stanch, hugging his teammate, exclaimed, “Oh, it was great! What a riot!”
The team competed in a 40-foot Fountain with twin 710-horsepower engines.
Blacksand, with driver Omar Danial of Dubai and throttleman Gary Ballough of Boca Raton, topped the Stock class in their 32-foot Doug Wright with twin 280-horsepower engines.
Ballough, an 11-time world Stock champion, said they had to overcome “mayhem” on the bumpy, offshore portion of the 6.2-mile course.
“If you could jump inside your washer on spin while it was at the hot and cold cycle with too much soap, it would almost approach what we had here today,” Ballough said.
Other class winners were: Aqua Mania in Turbines; Maritimo in Superboat; Snowy Mountain Brewery in Superboat Vee Limited; Team Kilt in Manufacturer 3; and Rum Runners in Manufacturer 4.
This year’s Key West Worlds — which featured three races Wednesday, Friday and Sunday — had a much safer outcome than last year’s event where three racers died in two separate accidents.
The only real mishap of 2012 came Friday when Turbine-class Semper Fi/Miss Mary Mac flipped on a turn in Key West Harbor. But both crew members swam out of the wreck with only bumps and bruises.