Aussie quenches thirst for speed

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Darren Nicholson switches from sailing to powerboat racing

SARASOTA

Darren Nicholson decided about nine years ago that he wanted to get from point A to point B a whole lot quicker.

Already a world class sailor, the 56-year-old Australian took the leap into the world of powerboat racing.

And it was no small step. The driver of the 41-foot “222” (pronounced Triple-2) now competes in the largest and fastest of the 13 classes of boats that will take to the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.

Nicholson and Italian throttleman Giovanni Carpitella will race for the crown in Class One International as part of the 35th annual Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix.

The other four crews scheduled to compete in Class One International will be aboard “Miss Geico,” “Lucas Oil/Silverhook,” “Victory” and “Zabrowski Offshore Racing.” All five boats are limited to a total of 2,220 horsepower, or 1,100 horsepower per engine.

That’s still fast enough to fly atop the water.

“I wanted to go faster, I suppose,” Nicholson said of his switch from sailing. “There is nothing quite like five tons of boat going 160 miles per hour.”

But he finds more in common with the two sports than you might think.

“It’s all about preparation, preparation and preparation,” Nicholson said. “The methodology is the same across all boats.

“We go a lot faster these days. But if you’re trying to sail at 50 knots, people are getting hurt there, too.

“We’re strapped in and have oxygen in there. But they are similar. The methodology remains the same.”

It’s the first trip to Sarasota for both Nicholson and Carpitella, who began his career in powerboat racing in 1993. Nicholson is a multi-time Australian SuperBoat champion and Carpitella has been part of a European Championship crew.

Both are concerned that they didn’t get a chance for a practice run before Sunday’s featured race, especially since they are new to the area. But it’s not like you can risk a test run with such a powerful and fickle machine.

Carpitella has taken the opportunity to enjoy himself on his first trip to Sarasota.

“This is a very beautiful place,” Carpitella said. “I am comfortable here. I see a lot of people here who are interested in our race.”

The Sarasota Grand Prix is the third of six stops on this year’s Offshore Power Boat Association Championship Series. “Miss Geico” won in Cocoa Beach and “Victory” finished first at Lake of Ozark, Missouri., with the Triple-2 in second place. The tour will continue on to St. Clair, Michigan, later this month before heading to Michigan City, Indiana, in August and Fort Myers in October.

“It’s all part of racing all around the world,” Nicholson said.

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