The excitement is building as boat owners – both local and international – prepare themselves for the Million Dollar Run speedboat race, on Easter Monday.
Race organisers have released a preview of the race’s top captains for local fans. This year, the pressure is really on as captains have the choice of two racing classes: offshore and circuit. Million Dollar Run at Kaibo is presented by Ugland Offshore Racing and The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
Gold sponsors include CayCompass.com; Cayman 27; Red Stripe; JACOB & Co. Watches; Gatorade and Hershey’s. Vampt Motors will present the Ford Flashback Tent on Race Day. Rivals Dale Crighton and Andreas Ugland Sr. will return to the water this year in their crafts.
Ugland won the race in 2004 and has been major competition in the water since the race’s inception. As owner of the globally-acclaimed Ugland Offshore Racing Team, Ugland has raced some of the finest offshore racing boats in the world and alongside some of the biggest names.
In 2008, he will once again hit the waves in his monstrous 44-foot Nordcapp V-hull with twin Seatek engines. The boat boasts 1,500 horsepower making it one of the most powerful crafts on the water.
Ugland will race in the offshore class. Like Ugland, Dale Crighton is a founding racer of Million Dollar Run. A Caymanian entrepreneur and fan of the US-speedboat racing circuit; Crighton has improved his time each year by putting incredibly powerful boats on the water.
His troubles, however, have been with craft reliability. Three years have seen Crighton falter either due to technical difficulties or lap discrepancies. This said, Crighton is the only MDR captain to have captured two best-time titles at Million Dollar Run, making him obviously someone to watch.
This year his is the name on everyone’s lips. Although he has kept a tight cap on information, the local racing world is abuzz with talk of Heavy Metal, Crighton’s top secret ocean monster which will make its debut appearance. Crighton will race in the offshore class.
He is supremely confident. ‘This year, I’m hoping to win. Let’s just say I’m taking no prisoners.’ Captain Ian Tibbetts will return this year after missing the 2007 race. Tibbetts is another long-standing competitor.
After coming close with a second-place finish in 2005, Tibbetts broke down in 2006. He will hit the water Easter Monday with the appropriately-named Under Pressure, a 27-foot Fountain with rumuored top speeds of almost 100 miles-per-hour.
Tibbetts already has his strategy planned out. ‘I know that in order to beat these boats, I have to get out in front first, so that’s what I plan to do.’
Weather depending, Tibbetts plans to race in the circuit class. A newcomer to the race in 2007, Merlin Seymour returns this year in his 30-foot Spectre, powered by Mercury engines. Merlin spared no words in challenging his fellow opponents in the race.
‘I’m coming in this race to win. I’ve got one of the best throttle men in the US in my craft. We’re definitely coming.’ US-based speedboat racing champion Troy Hannon will throttle Ole Alley Cat, Seymour’s deceptively-named 700 horsepower machine.
As for what class he will race in, Seymour remains mum. ‘I’m waiting for the day. They won’t see me coming.’
Bob Watler and crew are back for the third year in a row and will unleash Happy Hours II, their 38-foot Donzi. According to organisers, the Watler team, known amongst race fans for their pristine craft, incredible team spirit and unbeatable collective sense of humour, bring a healthy dose of showmanship to the event.
But don’t be deceived by their friendliness, the Donzi is pushed by triple Mercury Verado 275 engines. It’s a mean machine. After disappearing last year, Captain Philip Rankin is back with the luckily-named Smokin’ Aces. But what is the Captain’s lucky number? 107.
‘We are reaching top speeds of 107 miles an hour easily,’ he smiled. ‘We could be doing more on the day.’
Rankin – along with crew members Mario Rankin and Alex Hedo – will push a 33-foot Donzi and like most other captains, will wait until race day to decide which class he is in.
According to race founder Kenny Rankin, this is a smart choice. ‘Water conditions in Cayman can be very volatile. Inside the North Sound, you won’t get more than a one-foot chop; out in the open ocean, you can get anywhere from one-foot to eight-feet.
This could mean the difference between a team winning or losing.’ Race start on Easter Monday is 1pm. Spectators are encouraged to come over to Kaibo for the action on the ferry.
Times are available at www.mdr.ky, by tuning into the official radio stations Vibe 98.9 FM and Spin 94.9 FM or by looking out for updates in The Caymanian Compass. For registration information including price and the Captain’s Privilege Package, phone 345-949-8423.