• Tom Gentry, Nineteen Years Ago and a Legend Forever

    by Serious Offshore

    Nineteen years ago today a very special racer, and person, crashed in the World Championship Offshore races in Key West Florida. The stories associated with the life and the accident of Tom Gentry are numerous. His accomplishments speak of the type of person he was. His success in Hawaii as a developer allowed him to attempt many things to meet his passion for offshore performance boating, and I have tried to put a few of those accomplishments, and the overwhelming grief his accident caused so many, into this first small article about him.
    For some of you it is a learning experience, for others you were there and know much more about the person than I do. Hopefully all of you will enjoy this a bit and the memory of Tom will be carried on for those who come after us and those memories will allow all to enjoy the sport a bit more because of his passion.

    The Palm Beach Post 11-14-1994
    Racer Critically Injured In Key West Offshore Event
    By: Chris Dummit - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

    Offshore powerboat veteran Tom Gentry was in critical condition Sunday after his 40-foot catamaran spun out and flipped as he was leading his division of the Key West World Championships. Gentry, 64, of Honolulu was not breathing when he was pulled from the capsized boat by a fellow racer, rescue officials said. He was taken by boat and ambulance to Lower Florida Keys Health Systems. Late Sunday, his condition had stabilized and he was taken to Cedars Medical Center in Miami.

    ``By the time I swam there and went down, I couldn't find my buddy Richie (Powers), who throttles the boat,'' said John Tomlinson of North Miami, who leaped into the water from a nearby competing vessel, the CSB out of Puerto Rico. ``I saw Tom. He was caught by the hand and I pulled him out.'' The CSB was about to be lapped by Gentry's boat. When Tomlinson saw the accident, he knew he was the closest help. Rescue boats and a helicopter responded within two minutes. ``I'd want someone else to do the same for me,'' said Tomlinson, 32. Asked whether he considered having to drop out of the race, he said: ``That's not too important right now.''

    Powers, throttleman for the Gentry team, was rescued by one of five safety divers as he breathed on a scuba regulator in his cockpit. Powers said Gentry wanted to catch the front-running Superboat, Recovery, and was gaining on that vessel before the turn in Key West Harbor. Although Gentry's boat was in the Open division, it is considered a matter of pride to win the overall race. ``We knew we had the lead in the Open class,'' said Powers of North Miami Beach. ``I asked Tom, `Do you want to take it easy?' He said `Hell, we should go for it overall.' ''

    Powers said they got bottlenecked behind Recovery and the Japanese boat, Arasaki, in the No. 3 turn. The boats were beginning the 10th lap of the 15-lap race. ``Maybe we were too aggressive. I guess it's just racing,'' he said. Gentry, whose boat had been averaging 105 mph on the 10-mile course, steered the boat to the inside, then decided he couldn't pass. As he corrected, the boat turned too sharply. ``I just remember the rooster tail and it was just a continuous rooster tail and then we were underwater,'' Powers, 48, said. ``I remember the cockpit filling up with water . . . I was down in the floorboards. I just kept thinking to myself to stay calm, stay calm. It was pretty dicey for a while. I didn't think I was going to make it. It felt like an eternity.''

    Gentry, a three-time world champion, has 23 years of experience in offshore racing. He is chairman and chief executive officer of companies which build residential communities, marinas, shopping centers and other ventures in California and Hawaii. His boat had not completed the course during Wednesday's race because of a hydraulic system failure. The championship is determined by points accrued during the two races.

    Two other boats flipped Sunday: the Open boat, Gifford Marine; and the Superboat Alcone Motorsports, which had won its first race Wednesday. Although Gifford Marine rolled mere feet from spectators at the Pier House hotel, no one was injured in either incident. The seas were 4-5 feet high, churned by a stiff northerly wind, and could have been a factor in the accidents. Since 1985, four racers have died on the Key West course. Stuart Hayim, who drove the 46-foot Recovery to victory in the Superboat class, said Gentry's accident has made him think about continuing the sport. ``I've had three world championships in a row; seven world and national titles in two years. The sport can't be better to someone. Maybe what I'm saying is it's time - with the pile of chips on the table - to say let's leave the casino,'' he said.........

    This year's world championship involved the largest field of boats - 147 - in the sport's 90-year history. Three competing racing organizations combined for the record event.

    ``The thing about the world championship and why it's so dangerous is there's no tomorrow,'' race director John Carbonell said. ``In a national race, you can always catch them tomorrow. But there's no next race. These guys are going for broke.''


    This following article is about a run put together to reclaim the world record back from Fountain for Wellcraft.

    SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 8, 1993 PRNewswire - Using a modified 43-foot Wellcraft Scarab, offshore racing legends Tom Gentry and Richie Powers established the World Super Vee Kilo Speed Record in Vallejo, Calif.

    Gentry and Powers, driver and throttleman respectively in the "Wellcraft Gentry Scarab," clocked in at 126.382 miles per hour in the Vallejo Kilo, which took place yesterday off the California coast. The fastest offshore vee hull speed mark was formerly 123.91 mph. Wellcraft now holds bragging rights as the manufacturer of the world's fastest offshore vee hull.

    "We came into this event thinking that we were going to set a new record, and we never lost sight of that goal," said Gentry, a civil engineer from Honolulu who also holds the world speed record of 148.238 mph for catamarans. "The conditions were perfect for the run," added Powers, a Miami resident who is the reigning World Superboat Champion. "Once we got out on the water, we felt confident about our chances." Between them, Gentry and Powers have raced a total of 44 years, with a combined total of 20 world and national titles, as well as five world speed records.

    It was the first official run ever for the "Wellcraft Gentry Scarab," which is built from the same mold that is used in the production of Wellcraft's popular 43 Scarab Thunder. The most significant difference is in the engines -- the Wellcraft Gentry Scarab uses three 1,200-horsepower Gentry Turbocharged engines, which are teamed with MerCruiser High Performance Six Drives. Last year, the same 43-foot Scarab hull, using three 1,000-hp supercharged engines, set an unofficial world record of 116.75 miles per hour. "We assembled a world class team of equipment and professionals with the specific goal of capturing the record," said Gordon Houser, president of Wellcraft Marine's High Performance Division. "We couldn't be happier with the results today."

    In addition to the record-setting Gentry Scarab, Wellcraft also claims a record for A Class boats, established earlier this year by Nigel Hook's "Archer Marine Special Scarab." That boat clocked in at 93.17 mph during kilo runs for the Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix in Sarasota this past July. The Vallejo Kilo serves as prelude for the Golden Gate Offshore Challenge, to be held this Sunday, Oct. 10. Between 25 and 30 high- performance boats will compete in the day-long event, ranging from smaller craft to Super Vees and catamarans measuring nearly 50 feet.
    CONTACT: Jim Murphy of Bruce Rubin Associates, 305-448-7450, for Wellcraft Marine

    Many of you will remember the Gentry Eagle and the accomplishment across the Atlantic.

    Over the past three decades, the late Tom Gentry set nearly every powerboat speed record in existence. His passion to win power boating's most coveted honor, the Blue Riband for the fastest passage across the Atlantic, drove him to design and build the 112', 11,500 horsepower Gentry Eagle. In 1989, he and a crew of five including his son, Norman Gentry, shattered the transatlantic crossing record and brought the honor back to the United States. Gentry took the Blue Riband away from the British airline and music tycoon Richard Branson. His record setting time of 62 hours & 7 minutes bested Branson's record by an astonishing 23%.

    As Charlie McCarthy recalls, Tom was a man who had goals and did everything he could to meet those goals. One of those things, and an issue with Tom, was that the Offshore World Championship had gone to overseas teams for three years in a row leading up to 1976. Because of the upcoming bicentennial in 1976, Tom had a goal;

    "Gentry, I have a lot on him. He came on the scene by winning the Miami Nassau race over a bunch of seasoned racers and champions. He always tried his own ideas with boats and engines. In 1976 he made a pledge that he would get the World Championship back to the USA to celebrate the nations's 200th anniversary. He used a new 35 Cigarette and did it." Charlie McCarthy

    That 1976 season is one to brush up on if you're not familiar with it. Tom traveled all over the world, with his new team and his new boats, to bring that title back home to the United States.

    Gentry actually remained in a coma after that accident in Key West and passed away four years later of respiratory failure. A small bit about that.

    January 18, 1998
    Tom Gentry, 67, who set several world offshore speedboat records before a 1994 crash left him hospitalized in a coma for years, died in Honolulu Thursday of respiratory failure. A month before the crash, the multimillionaire residential and commercial developer had set a speed record for its class by driving the boat in which he later crashed at an average speed of 157.4 mph in San Diego Bay. In 1989, Gentry set the trans-Atlantic record of 62 hours, 7 minutes.

    May he always rest in peace. Thanks for the many memories.

    Comments 6 Comments
    1. rschap1's Avatar
      rschap1 -
      video would be cool of that !!!
    1. Buoy's Avatar
      Buoy -
      A few years ago, I was passing through Havasu on my way back from delivering a trailer to Vegas.
      I had agreed to do a favor for a fellow board member and pick up a crashbox at West Coast drive service.
      I had no idea what I was getting into.
      I expected to drop in, throw the trans in the back of my truck, and beat feet back to Phoenix.

      I walked in, and WOW!!
      I've never seen so many #6 drives in one place.
      It was a one man shop.
      Vern Gilbert.
      Vern worked with Gentry for many years.
      Vern took me around showing me everything in the shop. Very cool!!
      Then he took me out back behind the shop where one of the Gentry Eagle V-hulls sat. De-rigged.
      My intended 10 min stop turned into a 2 hr hanging out looking, asking question, and BS'ing.

      Looking at Vern's work, it was obvious he is the guru on a #6.

      Cool guy to talk to, and spoke very highly of his years working with Tom.
    1. sgrady's Avatar
      sgrady -
      A great guy, a loss to more than just the Offshore World.
    1. Offshore Ginger's Avatar
      Offshore Ginger -
      I was there ( the worlds - 94 ) with two other friends from Skater when Tom had his tragic accident .
    1. Mikekelly's Avatar
      Mikekelly -
      Quote Originally Posted by Offshore Ginger View Post
      I was there ( the worlds - 94 ) with two other friends from Skater when Tom had his tragic accident .
      My dad drove the truck that hauled the boats to the races I use to walk on top of those race boats as a kid
    1. Ratickle's Avatar
      Ratickle -
      Welcome, that is really cool......

      Did you get any pics?