Mercury Pro Max 300s Smash OMC Outboard Speed Record!

700-Mile Endurance Challenge Between Ketchikan, Alaska and Seattle,Washington
Previous Record Held by Michael Reagan, Son of President Ronald Reagan

Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, August 19, 1999, -- Mercury Marine engineer Kurt Willows of West Bend, Wisconsin and two-time American Power Boat Association (APBA) World Champion Paul Whittier of Whitefish, Montana smashed OMC's 'Assault on the Inside Passage' endurance speed record by more than two hours - making the 700-mile run from Ketchikan, Alaska to Seattle, Washington in 11 hours, 42 minutes and 50 seconds. The record was set Wednesday, August 18, with Willows at the wheel and Whittier on the throttles. The twin Pro Max 300s powering Willows' 28-foot Skater Catamaran ran flawlessly throughout the event. The Mercury Racing lab-finished 14-1/2 X 32 three-blade cleaver propellers made the trip unscathed. The record was sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association.

The former Inside Passage record was held by Michael Reagan, son of President Ronald Reagan. Reagan set the record 06/08/84, completing the 700-mile run in 13:55:21. He set the record driving a 38' Wellcraft Scarab V-bottom boat powered by triple OMC Evinrude V-8 outboards.

Larry Adam's at Lighthouse Marine in Ketchikan stored the boat upon its arrival via ferryboat from Seattle last week. Adam's and his crew were instrumental in preparing the boat for the record setting run.

Willow's and Whittier left Ketchikan at 9:11:43 a.m. Pacific Standard Time Wednesday, August 18 to begin their 700-mile journey toward Seattle. They would encounter five different weather zones including dense fog, heavy rains and high winds as they wound through the unforgiving Inside Passage.

Dense fog dampened the run from the start, enhancing the team's navigational challenges. It took 2.5 hours, averaging 38 mph, for them to make the 90-mile run from Ketchikan, Alaska to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Travis McNeice of the Prince Rupert Yacht Club assisted the team in fueling the boat in Prince Rupert and clearing customs into Canada. The stop took a total of 25 minutes.

Mother Nature unleashed heavy rains as the team, averaging 73 mph, moved on toward Queen Charlotte Sound, BC. Other deterrents along the way included fish gill nets, seaplanes and well wishers on the numerous cruise ships that run along the Passage. With 06:40 into the run, the team approached their second and final fuel stop at North Island Marine Center in Port Hardy, BC. Owner Greg Skaarvik and his crew performed a NASCAR-like pit stop as they hoisted the boat out of the water to perform an overall inspection of the hull and engines. In a mere 45 minutes, Skaarvik and company had the boat inspected, topped off with fuel and back on the water to complete the remaining 340-mile run to Seattle.

With the rains depleted, Willows and Whittier pressed on over two-foot seas through Port Nanaimo, BC. The team's luck started to turn as their Flux Gate Compass failed 40-miles North of Port Nanaimo. With the security of GPS, they pressed on only to have that fail 20-miles later! Limited to a magnetic compass and landmarks for navigation and no aerial or ground support whatsoever, Willows and Whittier relied more than ever on their Mercury Pro Max 300 outboards to get them into safe harbor.

With limited navigational tools and Mother Nature introducing Gail-force winds, the Pro Max 300 outboard powered Skater Catamaran would make the final 200- mile run to Seattle under the most extreme conditions imaginable.

The San Juan Islands, Willows' and Whittier's native land, brought the roughest water conditions of the run. The boat averaged 35 mph for 60 miles as it slammed into the 6-8 foot seas near the islands.

Time was another element the team had to contend with. The sun was rapidly approaching the horizon as they conquered the San Juans and moved back into open water with 55 miles to go. As dusk approached, they literally had to stop, after driving 25 miles in rough 4-foot seas, to get their bearings.

With daylight rapidly becoming a precious memory and no contact with civilization, Willows and Whittier again relied on the performance and durability of their Mercury Pro Max 300s to get them across treacherous seas and into safe harbor by nightfall. The reliable 300s didn't disappoint!

The team approached Shilshole Marina in Seattle 15 minutes after sunset at 08:31:07 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. Race Director Erick Bentzen punched the APBA certified stopwatch at 11:42:50 when he first heard the roar of the powerful Mercury Pro Max 300s as the record setting boat approached the marina.

by:Rick Mackie, Mercury Marine

Web by: Walt Reynolds

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