Who would have thought the state of New York would breed two of the most famous characters associated with the extreme sport of Offshore Powerboat Racing? Peter Meyer, the multitime National Champion and reigning World Champion hails from the Empire State, as did the most infamous man in boating, the late Don Aronow, who was born in Brooklyn.
Meyer, a great admirer of Aronow (the legendary driver, designer and builder of boats who lost his life in 1987) comments, “I would never say I’m in the same class as Aronow, but against any racer of my era, I’ve proven I can go the distance. I’m pleased to be compared to him, as both of us came from New York. We were both successful racers and instigators!” Today that statement is probably the cockiest you’ll hear Meyer make. Earlier on in his career, however, he was a racer who wouldn’t back down from any challenge – or anyone.
Meyer entered his first powerboat race in 1982 in Greenwich, Connecticut. The steering broke on his 27-foot Signature Vee Bottom at the start of the contest and spun out yards from the starting line, directly in the path of another combatant (aptly named Jesse James). Meyer remarks, “That boat smacked us hard and went flying over the top of us. On impact, it broke everything in our boat. I fell to the deck, looked up and saw the props right next to my face. At that moment – looking at the bottom of their boat – I said to myself, ‘if this is what boat racing is all about…I’m in.’”
In 1986, Meyer’s fourth year in the sport, with no podium finishes and unsure if he wanted to continue racing, he received the Appreciation Cup for Sportsmanship from the local sanctioning body. He recalls, “That cheap little plastic cup couldn’t have cost $5, but it cost me over $5 million to stay in racing! After I got that cup, I won the next race and received my first checkered flag. There was absolutely no chance I would quit then.”
Now 56 years old and entering his 30th year in professional offshore racing, Meyer’s career encompasses more than 150 wins, including nine World and fifteen National Championships. At 127.52 mph, he is the current Kilo Speed record holder and has received numerous achievement awards. To speak to his sense of sportsmanship, Meyer received the Award of Valor for leaping into racing fuel-saturated water to save the lives of fellow racers – ironically in a race in his home state. Most recently, in November 2011 he won his fourth consecutive World Championship title in his 1500 hp, 42-foot Fountain Super Vee appropriately named ‘The Instigator.’
John Carbonell, with over 36 years in boat racing and President of the largest and most recognized powerboat racing series in North America, Super Boat International, says early on the sport was held back from mainstream exposure. “We had celebrities like Don Johnson, Kurt Russell and Chuck Norris who enjoyed racing which helped the sport, but it was that association with go-fast boats and drug running from the islands that ultimately held us back.”
Today powerboat racing is completely ‘above board.’ Super Boat International runs 6 to 8 events per year and every November the season ends with the World Championships in Key West. Carbonell says, “It’s been the hard work of many over the years, but I believe soon we will start to see the national exposure powerboat racing has earned. It’s racers like Peter Meyer who have made the sport what it is today through their commitment to the sport and, even more so…to other racers.”
Source: The Private Journey Magazine; Vol MMXII No. II; TPJ