Super Boat National Championship in ClearwaterWhen offshore racing fans cruise the dry pits at this weekend’s Super Boat National Championship in Clearwater, many will stop and linger at the Miss GEICO tent. Most powerboat enthusiasts are familiar with standard piston engines, but few have ever seen a boat powered by helicopter turbines.

Powerboat enthusiasts have been experimenting with Army surplus engines since the mid-1970s. But it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that turbines gained widespread acceptance. These engines are more powerful, and some believe, more relaible than piston engines.

Miss Geico, a 50-foot Mystic that was built in Florida, can hit speeds in excess of 200 mph. “That is unheard of in offshore racing,” said driver Marc Granet of St. Pete Beach. “In many of the other classes, guys go through engines every other race. That is costly in both time and money. If your boat is in the shop all the time, you can’t be out on the water testing.”

Organizers are billing this as a family-friendly speed fest, with food, entertainment and free fans access to the dry pits all weekends. For more information, click here.