Miami to New York: Drama on the high seas and the high court

Powerboat racers’ personalities can be as colorful as their boats. That was especially true in the 1980s when business tycoons, TV stars and even members of the crime world vied for records and titles.

In 1921, legendary boat builder Gar Wood set the speed record from Miami to New York to prove the dependability of gasoline-powered boats. The trip took 47 hours and 15 minutes over five days. Sixty-four years later, Ben Kramer, fresh off his 1985 APBA Class II International Championship win, decided that he and throttleman Bob Saccenti were going to set a record in order to win the Motor Boating & Sailing Magazine Chapman Trophy.

Al Copeland of the Popeye’s Chicken boat, a three-time superboat champion, challenged Kramer with a $100,000 bet, which was promptly countered by Tom Gentry and Sandy Satullo, 1976 and 1975 world champions, respectively. Then George Morales, two-time world superboat champion, wanted in, but ran into trouble when sanctioning authorities denied his entry due to pending legal charges on drug smuggling and income tax evasion.

However, the race committee yielded when the Columbian threatened to file suit. Providing further intrigue to Morales’ entry was his boat: a 46-foot Cougar catamaran – the only cat in the race – powered by four 635hp MerCruiser engines. The boat was aptly named Maggie’s MerCruiser Special.

After much drama regarding starting dates and times, the 1,257-mile race started with three boats – Popeye’s Diet Coke, Gentry Eagle and Maggie’s MerCruiser Special.

Morales, who arrived at the race wearing a jumpsuit embroidered with “Miami New York Champion,” stood up to that claim. After 19 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds he claimed the win, the $500,000 purse and the trophy. “It started with the guy who built my engines, Rick Ulrich of Mercury Marine,” Morales said following the race. “Without those engines I would not have been successful.”

Neptune awards recognize focus on customers

For 75 years, Mercury Marine has repeatedly been recognized for its industry-leading innovation and for providing customers with valuable safety and boating information. It’s a tradition that continues in 2014.

At the 2014 Miami International Boat Show, the Marine Marketers of America bestowed on Mercury two Neptune Awards for marketing excellence. The projects were Mercury’s “#Handsome Transom” social media contest and the “Meet the Team” advertising campaign.

The #Handsome Transom promotion asked Mercury owners to post photos of their outboards to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites, and thousands responded. The promotion won the Neptune Award for Best Social Media Campaign.

“Meet the Team” won Best Web Advertising Campaign with online ads and videos, featuring individual Mercury employees and their passion for making boating an enjoyable experience. The campaign provided a personal touch to Mercury Marine and increased traffic to the company’s Web site.

Jay Anderson (Mercury years: 1986 — present)

In 27 years of tournament support for Mercury Marine, technician expert Jay Anderson has seen tournament anglers grow from part-time contestants to full-time professionals. During that same time, Mercury has replaced carbureted engines with computer-controlled wonders that self-diagnose and perform flawlessly.

“Mercury is currently building the best product we’ve ever built,” Anderson said. He added that the bulk of tournament repairs now involve “impact trauma” from striking something in the water.

Anderson started as a service school instructor but, after a year, he took to the road in a panel van filled mainly with small parts. Today, he tows a 40-foot trailer with enough components to build entire engines. He keeps Mercury pros on the water and competitive at up to 30 tournaments a year. And he’s one of four such experts on the road for Mercury.

Tournament days begin well before sunrise and last late into the night, in every kind of weather. But Anderson said it’s all worthwhile. “There’s great satisfaction in seeing Mercury product or someone I helped in the winner’s circle,” he said.