• OPA's Class Seven in St Clair, The Most Fun Class to Watch

    The Offshore Powerboat Association's St Clair River Classic of 2018 had a few glitches this past weekend, mostly ships on the course, but the cream of the event for the spectators appeared to be Class 7.

    Five of the seven Class 7 boats at the start.

    Part of the reason for being most exciting, the number of boats. With seven entries, there was obviously more competition just because they had the most boats racing of any class. But, with St Clair being a, (usually), flat water race when compared to Great Lakes offshore races and offshore races in the ocean or gulf, the class 7 boats also make the most exciting action around the course.

    The Punisher, a 22' Velocity with a 200 Evinrude, finished second.

    NJI Motorsports, a 21' Superboat with a 250HP Evinrude

    For those of you who may not know, the Performance Class 7 rules are:
    Boats are limited to 60 MPH as a top speed.
    All registered hulls shall only be "Vee" hull from 20-22 in length
    Hull shall be equipped with a single outboard motor of horsepower not to exceed 300HP
    Boats must have hydraulic steering or dual cable setup
    Class 7 does not participate in any OPA purse monies (This includes prize and/or travel purses)
    Class 7 will participate in a course of approximately 20-24 miles
    TOP SPEED, Up to 60 MPH

    Chug It, a 22' Velocity with a 225 Mercury EFI

    Some have asked why Class 7 has become the largest fleet in the sport. I can only give my opinion, and it probably doesn't mean a whole lot. My opinion is, it is the newest class directed for beginners to attract new people to the sport, who can then move up into the faster and more expensive classes. That used to be the goal of Class 6, but then some decided to allow unlimited horsepower in the class, and Class 6 became dominated by teams with engine builders as their main sponsors. Plus, the teams became career teams within the class instead of moving up. Why, because they had so much money into their Class 6 engines, and they were no longer forced to move up into the class where the speed of the boat actually fit. Some of the boats within Class 6, a class relegated to a 70MPH top speed, ran around 100MPH at shootout events. The old rules were, somebody from the organization drove your boat in optimum conditions, with the optimum prop, and it went in the class where the top speed occurred. So, a boat that ran 100 in a shootout would be put into Class 3, not allowed to run in Class 6. Class 6 which had as many as a dozen boats show up to events just a few years back, shrank. Nobody likes to be racing for a chance at the last podium spot, (best case), every event due to large budgets spent on big engines.

    Woah Mama, a 22' Redline with a 250XS Mercury

    So, instead of the beginning teams coming into Class 6 with a single engine IO, they are now coming into Class 7 with a single outboard. Some teams are brothers, some are friends, and some are father's with their sons. All are fun to watch.

    Hangin' N Bangin' team finished first in the 21-foot Redline V-bottom with a Mercury 2.5L Promax.

    I believe Class 7 is great for the sport. Reasonably priced, and you still have a chance of winning with that reasonably priced boat. But, how do you keep teams from modifying a 2.5L Mercury race engine into something that will have well over 300HP? I do not know. It really needs to be addressed though.

    Goofin' Around, a 21' Challenger with a Mercury 2.5L ProMax

    My personal biggest fear, the same thing will happen to Class 7 that happened to Class 6. One or two teams may decide to "buy" a championship. So, they build a boat that fits within the rules, but has a top speed of maybe 100+? All you would need is the budget to do it. Say, go buy a new 21' Superboat Legend and have it laid up in Carbon/Kevlar so it's really light. Put in a ballast tank or two, (or use weight bags), depending on water conditions. Add a new Mercury 300HP V8 outboard, and go dominate the class. Every other boat is immediately obsolete.

    Wicked Racing, the 21' Hustler with a Mercury 2.5 above, finished third.

    Until that happens, Class 7 will continue to grow and bring new teams into the sport. Hopefully they will figure out a way to keep it reasonably priced, not allow the high dollar engines and boats, and keep modified engines out of the class. If they can figure that out, (maybe drive the boats like in the old days and not allow any boats that will go over 70MPH top speed), the class will continue to grow. And, if that works, then go back to doing the same thing for the other classes like 5 and 6? Maybe no boats can have the ability to go faster than 5 MPH over the maximum speed in the class when tested or it has to move up?

    We shall see. Until then, congrats to all of the Class 7 teams. Really fun to watch.
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Serious News's Avatar
      Serious News -
    1. Serious News's Avatar
      Serious News -
    1. Serious News's Avatar
      Serious News -
    1. Serious News's Avatar
      Serious News -
      From Speed on the Water story about the Fall River Race

      The racing action started at noon on Sunday with a huge Class 7 feet of 12 boats. “Right now, you guys are the biggest active class in all of offshore racing” said Ed “Smitty” Smith, the president of OPA, at the drivers meeting.

      With 20- to 23-foot, outboard engine-powered boats in its ranks, Class 7 always is fun to watch, but Sunday’s action proved epic. Defending Class 7 national champions Joe and Matt Lauer had the pole on the start in their Goofin’ Around 21 Shadow entry.

      The wide sweeping No. 1 and sharp-angle turns No 2 were hectic and challenging with 12 boats having to negotiate them at the start, but NJI Motorsports and Chug It came out on top with Whoa Momma close behind. A small mechanical issue took out Chug It early.

      “The boat was running great—we were in the top three—then something happened and I couldn’t get over 53 mph” said Chase Muller, the Chug It team’s throttleman after the race.

    1. Ratickle's Avatar
      Ratickle -
      I don't quite get this however. An exception was made to allow a boat that doesn't fit in the rules?

      "Ken Bird and his daughter, Kaleigh, finished in an impressive third place their 23-foot Kryptonite."

      OPA Rulebook
      Performance Class 7:
      a. Boats are limited to 60 MPH as a top speed.
      b. OPA reserves the right to inspect all boats competing in the class in order to determine that it is in a condition worthy of the event
      c. All registered hulls shall only be "Vee" hull from 20’-22’ in length