Bolton Racers Bring Home Second World Championship
Saris Racing, a team composed of father and son Jason and Johnny Saris and Vern French, has returned to Bolton Landing from October’s offshore power boat races in Solomons, Maryland with its second consecutive World Championship title.
“It was a really great event, with huge crowds and more than fifty boats racing,” said Johnny Saris, a senior at SUNY Albany. “There were five boats in our class, but three classes raced at the same time, which takes the experience to a whole other level. It’s electrifying.”
The Bolton Landing team won its trophy with the same 32-foot Cobra with which it won last year’s championship.
Built in 1982, the boat is powered by twin 650-hp engines which were built by Performance Marine at the start of last year’s racing season.
Jason Saris helped turn the original into a raceboat almost thirty years ago, when he worked in Fort Lauderdale. After twenty years in use as a pleasure boat, it was bought and rebuilt for racing at Performance Marine.
“Over the years, I had told Johnny that it was a special boat, one that I was impressed by when I rigged it. He located it in Maryland, where it had been dismantled and had sat for five years. After twenty years in use as a pleasure boat, it was shot. We bought it and rebuilt it here in Bolton Landing,” said Jason Saris.
“My memory didn’t fail me; the boat proved itself,” said Saris.
Despite the fact that it was the oldest boat in its class, it was among the best, said Johnny Saris.
“It handles really well, especially on turns in calm waters, which gives us a huge advantage,” said Saris.
Jason Saris noted that it is also a well-balanced boat, giving it an edge in rough waters.
“You could certainly build a bigger, faster boat, but it fits the niche of the class in which we race almost perfectly,” said Jason Saris.
“We start with a good boat; the rest is up to us,” said Johnny Saris.
“The boat doesn’t have a mind of its own; you have to have a driver who knows what he’s doing, and as a driver, Johnny knows the fastest way around a course,” said Jason Saris.
Saris and his father have been racing together as a team since 2009.
“Until 2008, no one under 18 was eligible to compete,” said Jason Saris “But fortunately for us, the OPA Racing Organization changed the rules so that someone as young as 14 can compete as long as he’s accompanied by a parent or guardian. ”
In 2010, Johnny Saris became the youngest speedboat driver in history to win a sanctioned World Championship race when the team competed in the Offshore Powerboat Association’s Orange Beach, Alabama meet.
He is now among the youngest, if not the youngest driver ever, to win two world championships.
“Johnny becomes a better racer every year. He goes from strength to strength. He makes it look easy,” said Saris.
Last year, Vern French joined the team as an on-board navigator and crew chief.
“Vern monitors the engines’ vital statistics as well as what’s going on around us. That allows Johnny as the driver and me as the throttleman to focus on our jobs without any distractions,” said Jason Saris.
“Vern is a big part of our success,” said Johnny Saris. “As a three-man team, we’re now a well-oiled machine.”
However good the boat and however skillful the team, future world championships are not guaranteed, said Jason Saris.
“If we knew who was going to win, we wouldn’t bother to race,” said Saris.