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A winning turn for the better

Last year, Clearwater's Hugh Fuller lost the Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix boat race thanks to a wrong turn. Not this time.

By TERRY TOMALIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 2001


Last year, Clearwater's Hugh Fuller lost the Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix boat race thanks to a wrong turn. Not this time.

SARASOTA -- One year ago, a wrong turn cost Hugh Fuller a victory at the Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix. But Sunday, the Clearwater resident made all the right moves.

"This time it was the other guys who got lost," the Super Cat driver said after capturing his second victory of the American Power Boat Association Offshore season. "It was sloppy out there, but we stuck to our game plan and it paid off for us."

Fuller and teammate John Tomlinson of Miami came from behind to capture the 90-mile race that saw two-thirds of the fleet break down before the finish line.

"There was some rough water out there," said Tomlinson, one of the sport's premiere throttlemen. "In conditions like that, it could really be anybody's race."

Fuller's Drambuie on Ice, a 39-foot catamaran powered by twin 750 horsepower engines, won the season opener in Daytona. Sunday's win, in front of thousands of spectators who braved numerous thunderstorms, puts the Clearwater resident at the top of the APBA Offshore national points standings.

"The win feels good especially after what happened here last year," Fuller said.

Nine Super Cats, the APBA's largest and most prestigious class, raced seven laps around the nearly 13-mile course during the second of Sunday's races. The big cats shared the field with four Super Vees, the largest of the monohull classes.

Wyatt Fountain, son of racing legend and powerboat manufacturer Reggie Fountain, powered his 39-footer, Znetix, to victory in the Super Vee class. Fountain and teammate Jeff Harris had been locked in a battle all season with the Sarasota Muscle team of Bruce Kruglick and Dave Branch. "I think we had the right props and they didn't," throttleman Harris said. "The wind kicked up and the race just came to us. We were lucky."

It was the third Super Vee victory in a row for Fountain and Harris. Three years ago, Harris wrecked at the same race and was airlifted to a hospital.

"It feels good to win in Sarasota," he said. "The boat ran great. ... I hope we can keep it up."

Thunderstorms and rough seas had an impact on Sunday's first race. The Factory II Class, 30-plus foot vee-bottoms powered by twin 500 horsepower engines, has proven to be one of the APBA's most popular and competitive classes.

The class, which features the same "factory" boats driven by recreational boaters, is patterned after NASCAR's Winston Cup circuit. The races are usually evenly matched with the winner often decided on the last lap.

"We thought we had it," said Lute Dickey, driver of the Utz Quality Foods Fountain. "Then we ran into a squall line and we didn't know where we were."

Team Virgin, with Todd Klindworth and Tres Martin, captured its second straight victory.

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