Performance boaters have long taken a bad rap for being gold-chained, fat-walleted, egotistical blowhards who quickly swap a check for 2,000 hp marine missiles and menace the waterways.
Forget that stereotype. Today’s go-fast boaters are more cerebral, more competitive and less likely to assume they know it all. The prevailing attitude is that with speed comes responsibility. Because of this, performance-driving boat schools are cropping up around the country. Some are run by manufacturers like Donzi Marine. Others are independent programs such as Tres Martin’s Performance Boat School.
I had a chance to attend both schools on the infamous go-fast waters of Lake Havasu on the California-Arizona border, during the area’s popular Desert Storm Shootout. What I learned about going fast on the water will make you a safer boater and may save you some money.
Jim Waters, a top-level Hollywood executive, is a longtime boater. He recently acquired a DCB (Dave’s Custom Boats) twin-engine catamaran. Faced with a more aggressive hull style and increased horsepower, he decided to seek out additional training.
Scott and Shellie Potter, from California, felt the same way after acquiring their three-year-old DCB F29. They loved the adrenaline rush from speed. But when friends came along, Shellie was too often relegated to the back seat.
“I was tired of that. I wanted to know more about how to handle the boat, dock it, launch and load it. I wanted to be more confident in my ability to take it out alone,” she said.
Scott was happy to see her take a more active interest in the sport, and wanted to be a better driver himself, so their week’s vacation at Desert Storm began with two days of instruction from Tres Martin and Brad Schoenwald, partners in the Ultra High Performance Course. The school runs $2,500 per student, but the ability to run your fast rig with greater skill and confidence pays a priceless dividend on your investment.
Martin is world-renowned as a racing and performance expert, and throughout his lectures, students furiously jot notes. All of his words come from his years of experience; Martin won’t commit his lessons to a textbook — he’s afraid of losing control of the content to competitors.
Competition? After attending these classes, I also met up with Craig Barrie, vice president of sales for Donzi Marine and chief instructor for hands-on training aboard the Donzi 38 ZR Competition. The “Comp,” as Barrie’s team calls it, is a dual-helm boat ideally suited for training wannabe captains. Between the two schools, I picked up a ton of great skill-sharpening lessons worthy of any boater’s performance tool bag.