E.J. Salamone, 18 Year Old Bolton Speedboat Racer, Named “Rookie of the Year”
The fascination with boats started early in life for EJ (Edward John) Salamone. The 18-year-old grew up around boats. He passed the Boater Safety course when he was 11 and when he turned 14 his dad, Ken, let him take out the family boat by himself. The family boat at the time was a 22-foot Donzi powered by a 425 hp engine.
It wasn’t long before EJ’s fascination turned to fast boats. The Salamones became friendly with Jason Saris and his son Johnny, 22, at Performance Marine in Bolton Landing. The Saris father and son team races in the Offshore Powerboat Association circuit and are the 2013 and 2014 World Champions.
In 2013, the Salamones accompanied Jason and Johnny to a race on Long Island. Ken was the navigator on the Saris family’s 32-foot Cobra raceboat during the race. It was a first for Ken and, according to EJ, his father enjoyed the experience and decided to get involved. “We wanted to become a father and son team, just like Jason and Johnny,” EJ said.
Ken Salamone sought advice from Jason about which boat would be the best fit for them.
“Jason recommended a 30-foot Superboat because they are built specifically for racing in the OPA circuit,” EJ said. They named the boat RUFSTR which, according to EJ, is a homonym for “Are You Faster”. Performance Marine built the 700 hp, 572 cubic inch engine and rigged Salamone’s boat with an IMCO SCX outdrive and had it ready for the 2014 racing season.
The Salamones towed their new boat to Atlantic City in June of 2014 and entered their first race. “We had about an hour-and-a-half of practice driving time before the race,” EJ said with a grin. “We placed third out of eight boats. Not a bad showing for our first time out.”
Over the course of the summer and fall of 2014, they entered races in St. Claire, MI, Port Huron, MI, Detroit, MI culminating with the National and World Championships in Solomons, MD in October. EJ said they placed third in every race they entered. “There was a trend,” Johnny Saris said with a chuckle. “That was not meant to take anything away from them because they ran so consistent all year and not a lot of people can do that,” he said.
The Salamones compete in Class V, which limits the boat size to 30-feet and a maximum speed of 75 mph. The race course is 5 miles long and they complete seven to eight laps in the race. According to EJ, the most difficult challenge in the race is staying one mile an hour under that 75 mph speed limit. “My dad is the throttle man and I’m the driver. I have to read the water conditions and keep the boat in the best possible position as we race around the course,” EJ said.
At the awards banquet in Atlantic City in February of 2015 the Salamone’s learned that they finished third overall in points. They were also surprised when EJ was awarded the “Rookie of the Year” trophy at the banquet. “That was the first time they have ever done that,” EJ said.
EJ said he and his father learned a lot last year and plan on applying that knowledge in this year’s events. “At the start of the race you try to get the boat in the best position. When you’re at the 2nd turn you’ve got to find the best line. The key is to keep the boat level and steady,” he said.
EJ and Johnny have become very good friends and Johnny, who has been racing since he was 16, is constantly giving tips to EJ. “He gives me advice about how to handle the water conditions and other boats wakes. He also gives me tips about the strategies used by the other racing teams,” EJ said.
EJ said they plan on entering every race during the 2015 season. “The first race is May 31 in Barnegat Bay, NJ,” he said. EJ said he and his father look forward to many years of powerboat racing. “When our fathers get too old to do it anymore, EJ and I will team up,” Johnny said. “We’d make a great team,” EJ added.