• Phenomenon Takes a Shot at the Record, & Update

    by SeriousOffshore

    Update Comments
    Well, unfortunately Phenomenon burned up a motor, number four, in testing on the Thursday before the Kilo Record Trials I cannot tell you how disappointed the fans were in Biloxi. I can tell you the Phenomenon team was as much, or even more disappointed as the fans. I spent some time chatting with Scott and Al at the dunker test on Friday, we were about the last to go. Scott would not say what speeds he was seeing before the engine went on Thursday, but I can tell you there was a really big smile on his face when he thought about it. Seems like a decent hint of what to expect in the future.

    There isn’t enough that could be said about the team and their passion for the sport and for the record-setting attempt. Even though they could have just stayed home when the issue arose, they not only took the time to bring the boat down to Biloxi to support the other racers and record attempts, they brought the entire basket of other toys that are incredible to look at and see run around. They stayed the entire weekend spending time chatting with the fans and answering every question tossed their way. Not one thought of cutting out early. What a class group of individuals.

    Hopefully, when they get the boat back in the water and have another chance to go for the record, I’ll be lucky enough to be there with them again. To sum it up, they may have lost the battle at the Biloxi Kilo, but they’re still every bit as committed as ever to winning this war. Until next time…

    Phenomenon Takes a Shot at the Record
    One of the most-anticipated feature events at the upcoming Smokin’ The Sound event is the APBA sanctioned kilo run. And if this being the first sanctioned run in many years wasn’t enough, there’s a good possibility there will be an assault at the prop-driven world record. That challenger is the Phenomenon project, originally conceived by legendary offshore champion Al Copeland and now being driven forward by his son, Al Jr.
    The last time the mark was moved upward, it was done so by an unlimited hydroplane. The number from that run was 220.5 mph. While there are a couple boats lurking out there with purported capabilities of running that speed, if Copeland’s engineers are correct, their record truly will be a phenomenon. They’re projecting a speed potential just shy of 280 mph. That’s not a typo. Two-hundred eighty miles per hour. At 56 feet long and a touch over 26,000 lbs, it’s tough to call this 12,000 horsepower craft a “boat”. For anyone lucky enough to be present when the record does fall, it will certainly be a once in a lifetime event.

    56 feet, 12,000 horsepower, one bad-ass boat

    While Al Sr’s original goal was the top speed record, the boat is no one-trick pony. Current plans are to do more than break the top speed record. One run that’s being hinted at is the New York to Miami run. That record stands from years ago when Al himself set it in his Popeye’s Cougar vee.

    Virtually everyone in and around the sport has either been following Phenomenon or at least caught pieces of the story. With a project of this magnitude, much of it bears repeating.

    The Phenomenon project was a passion of Al Copeland Sr. the founder of Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken & Biscuits Restaurants and Copeland’s Restaurants and a former driver and owner of the Popeye’s Offshore race team from 1980-90
    Unfortunately, about two years into building Phenomenon Al was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Just eight months after the diagnosis, Al Copeland Sr. died of the disease.
    At the time of his death, Al had but two goals he wanted to accomplish. The first was to find a cure for this rare cancer, and the second was to finish the boat and break the world record. To honor his father’s goals and wishes, Al Copeland Jr. has taken on the challenge of accomplishing both.

    The next "fastest offshore" boat ever?

    Al Jr. and Scott Barnhart have been chasing this goal since the boat was first unveiled at the Key West SBI Worlds in November of 2009. There have been several batches of gremlins since then, but each one has been attacked with the ultimate goal in mind, a new, propeller driven, two way average world record. The record Phenomenon is chasing in the APBA record book—is that 220.5 mph stated above. Dave Villwock established that record in the Miss Budweiser Unlimited hydroplane.

    For those of you who are not familiar with Scott Barnhart, he has been with Copeland’s Motorsports for 18 years and this is his 6th turbine boat project with them. He started this particular project with Al Copeland Sr. in 1998 and is now finishing it with the Copeland family. As Scott told me earlier this week, “We hope to break multiple speed records including the Miami to New York, which Al Copeland Sr. still holds in the Popeye’s V bottom.” Now that would be a run……

    I’ve been attempting to keep up with Scott throughout this week as final preparations were being made. Scott has been extremely busy this week dialing and testing the boat. My next to last conversation with him went something like, “We’re heading out to test again now, we’ll talk later.” My last conversation was more like, “I’m extremely busy at the moment”, and I could tell by his voice he was buried. I can’t wait to chat with them in Biloxi, and am personally rooting for them to set the new record. There is something to be said for a group of family and friends, pushing to fulfill one of the dreams of their father friend and mentor.

    The weather looks to be almost perfect, a little windy maybe, but hopefully that will be blocked by the way the course is set up in the narrows between the mainland and the island just offshore. At 1:00 or so on Saturday afternoon, providing all goes as planned, a very lucky group of people will see this incredible and massive offshore boat hurtle past them at a speed never seen before. And if all goes to plan, that speed will be a lot higher than ever before.

    We wish them luck and our prayers for their success and safety are with them.