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Victor shakes off memory

One year after a near-fatal crash, Jerry Sorrentino wins in the Offshore Super Series with In Mocean Again Again.

TERRY TOMALIN
Published June 28, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Californian Jerry Sorrentino needed to win in Florida to shake the ghosts of Daytona.

"To be honest, the first time I raced after my accident I was horrified," said the former National and World champion in the Super Cat Light class, who won Sunday in the Offshore Super Series. "But in this sport you can never lose your fear. ... That is what keeps you alive."

Sorrentino, owner of the 36-foot Skater In Mocean Again, crashed with St. Petersburg's Steve Armstrong in last year's offshore powerboat racing season opener and sat out the rest of the season.

"Steve almost died," Sorrentino recalled. "The paramedics had to bring him back to life. You never forget something like that."

Sorrentino thought he would never compete again. But after watching a couple of races from the stands, he decided to build a new boat.

His new Offshore Super Series Cat Lite, In Mocean Again Again, made its debut at this year's season opener in Biloxi, Miss. Sorrentino and his old teammate Joey Gratton finished second.

"We felt good coming into St. Pete," Sorrentino said. "We knew if we could get out front we could win."

At the prerace drivers' meeting, he and Gratton didn't get the coveted pole position when the numbers were pulled out of a hat.

But when the green flag dropped, the two friends made it to the turn buoy in first and never looked back.

"They say races are not won or lost on the first lap," said Sorrentino, the driver. "But I think in this case, that is exactly what happened."

In Mocean Again Again took the lead and was not challenged again in the second race of Sunday's Offshore Super Series, which was cut short when a thunderstorm rolled in.

"It was like the old Joey and Jerry show," said throttleman Gratton, who hails from Sarasota. "We just clicked out there. It was like we had never been apart."

Sorrentino and Gratton has a stellar season in 2002. After breaking at the first race in Daytona, the two won every American Power Boat Association race that year, including the national and world championships.

But the following year, the two split up. Sorrentino teamed with Armstrong and Gratton signed on with Slug Hefner's Dirty Duck.

Sunday's victory put the In Mocean Again Again team in first place. "I've got my confidence back," Sorrentino said. "I needed this win."

Finishing second was Bob Bull's CMS/Castaway. Bull, chairman of the rival Offshore Tour, said he raced in St. Petersburg to set an example for other racers to follow.

"I'd like to see everybody put the politics aside and just get back to racing," he said. "Let's start having some fun again. ... That is the way it used to be."

The battle for second place got a little heated by Lap8. At one point, CMS/Castaway, Dirty Duck, Mike DeFrees' CRC and Paul Whittier's Ettore were in the running.

But on Lap 8, CMS took a wake wrong and slid into Dirty Duck.

"The next thing I knew we were flying through the air," Hefner said. "Then water came pouring in the boat."

Dirty Duck rolled but landed upright.

"It was like getting hit by a car on the freeway," throttleman Matt Rice said. "We were just going along, then wham, we went over."

Hefner was a little shaken up but did not require hospitalization.

DeFrees' CMS also was forced to retire. Ettore, was awarded third place when the race was called because of the threat of lightning.

The third race scheduled Sunday, for the largest catamaran class, was canceled because of weather.

A spectator was struck by lightning around 4 p.m. and transported to Bayfront Hospital. A spokeswoman said the unidentified fan was in good condition.

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