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Super Cats move to front of race scene

The title will be determined today between three sizes of boats in the same class.

By TERRY TOMALIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 19, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- During a race in which the fastest boats are separated by only a few miles per hour, the winner is decided in the turns, not the straightaways.

"We all could do better in that respect," said Mark Nemschoff of the Super Cat team Tommy Bahama. "The guy who holds his speed the longest is usually the guy who wins."

Nemschoff, the throttleman, and son Paul, the team's driver, led for most of Thursday's Super Cat race until a mechanical failure forced them out. "Our top speed was 128 mph, which wasn't any faster than any other of the boats out there," Mark Nemschoff said. "Our boat just ran better."

The new Super Cats, the American Power Boat Association's new premier class, have replaced the Unlimited, Open USA Class 1 and Modified boats, the power machines of years past.

So far this season, races have been won by relatively small and light 36-footers in calm water and heavy 46-footers in rough water. But the new Marine Technology 40-footer is considered the prototype boat for this class.

Fans will see two of these lean, mean racing machines this afternoon: Nemschoff's Tommy Bahama, which failed to finish a race in its first three starts, and Hugh Fuller's Hydrogen Media Fountain-Mercury boat, which was designed and built by the same man, Randy Scism of St. Louis.

A prerace mechanical problem kept Fuller's boat from the starting line Thursday, so nobody is sure how it will perform.

"We haven't had much time to dial it in," said Fuller of Clearwater. "Right now we are still just guessing on a couple of things. But we should be ready Sunday afternoon."

Fuller and teammate Jerry Gilbreath dominated the APBA-Offshore Circuit this season in their 36-foot Skater. But Gilbreath, one of the best throttlemen in the business, was suspended for unsportsmanlike conduct two weeks before the national championships, which prompted Fuller to recruit Johnny Tomlinson of Miami, another legend of the sport.

While many are anticipating a showdown between the two new Scism 40s, Fuller's and Nemschoff's unproven boats must finish in order to win.

Pat Patel and Felix Serralles captured the National Pro Point Title by a steady stream of second places finishes.

Floridian Charlie Haimes and Indiana's Russ Wilkens of Relief Band won Thursday's race. Their 40-foot Skater performed consistently all season.

Texans Dan Jackson and Jack Carmody put new engines in their Skater after Thursday's race and have promised to contend today.

"The others guys will be down in power, but we will be up," Jackson said. "I think we are ready."

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