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'Fire One' blazes to Great Race glory

By Kern De Freitas

"It takes less than a second to destroy your whole effort. You have to beat the race itself, not just your competitor."

Guy Costa's strategy certainly paid off, as he and throttle man Troy Hannon powered "M" Class (120 miles per hour) boat "Gulf Fire One" to victory at the Scarborough Esplanade yesterday to claim the 2011 Carib Great Race trophy.

Second in was "C" Class (110 mph) craft "Stampede," a 42-foot fountain, driven by Pollonais brothers Lee (driver) and Jason (throttle man), and Jeffrey Simmons (navigator), while "B Class" (90 mph) craft "Gulf Dragon" with Costa's brother Kent crossed the finish in third.

Defending champions "Heatwave"—ironically Costa's former boat—finished fourth.

The other big contenders when the race started, record 16-time champion Ken Charles in "Mr Solo Too" and Peter Peake in huge 46-foot Douglas Skater catamaran "Monster" were thwarted by engine trouble moments apart on the North Coast of Trinidad just when the race began to get interesting.

From there the race had only one winner; the 41-foot Doug Wright catamaran Fire One—formerly "Fujitsu Fury"—with two Mercury 850 horse power V-8 engines, which saw their "M" Class rivals fade in their rear view camera.

By the time Costa (G) and company had passed eventual D Class (60 mph) winners "Extreme Measures" just beyond Grand Riviere, there were no contenders left, and cruise control took them to the finish and the title.

The other class winners included "Stampede" ("C" Class), "Energiza" (S1 Class, 70 mph), "Gulf Dragon" ("B" Class), "Hero III" (S2 Class, 80 mph) and "Hero II" ("P" Class, 60 mph).

At the race start at Hyatt Regency Waterfront, the smaller classes had a ten-minute head-start, while the bigger boats had to make a lap just off the Mucurapo Foreshore before heading off to Chaguaramas.

"Mr Solo Too" had the early advantage, with "Monster" and "Fire One" not far behind.

"Once "Monster" slowed," Costa told the Express, "we couldn't see any other boats, back it down to 90 mph and came up the North Coast conservatively."

Costa was happy to have two class wins in the race, with his brother Kent aboard "Gulf Dragon". Another Costa boat, "Gulf F/X" also had a top-three finish in the S2 Class.

"The achievement there is actually three boats finishing the race. It's (a) race of attrition that can be really hard on the equipment," he said.

The only major mishap came when "B" Class boat "Miss Trinidad" capsized while trying to round markers near the finish line. The boat had to be towed to the Scarborough harbour, but the crew of Noel Phillips Jr (driver), Richard Phillips (throttle man) and Clint Chew (navigator) escaped with only minor injuries.

The all-female crew of "Candyman" finished their S1 Class circuit to loud cheers of approval from the sizeable group of supporters having a good time at the Esplanade.

Costa expects even more competitors to contest the 2012 Great Race, and is already looking forward to the event.

"Next year there's going to be a lot of boats," he predicted. "We're hoping we can take this thing to another level."

Great Race winners

Overall:

1. Gulf Fire One (M Class) 2. Stampede (C Class) 3. Gulf Dragon (B Class)

Class:

Hero II (P Class), Extreme Measures (D Class), Energiza (S1 Class), Hero III (S2 Class), Gulf Dragon (B Class), Stampede (C Class), Fire One (M Class)

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