Ed Smith has a brand new toy, and the St. Clair native couldn’t be any happier.
Smith, who has 20 years of racing experience, is essentially starting over.
After competing in Class 1 on a 37 Talon powerboat, Smith moved up to the higher more competitive Supercat Class this year with a brand new boat — a 388 Skater.
“This is the real deal,” said Smith as he beamed with a wide smile. “This is so far advanced technology-wise. The boat actually flies. This boat doesn’t float, it flies. This is the closest thing to NASCAR on water that you can get. It’s a spec class.
“We are running it on 93 octane pump gas you get at the gas station. We are limited to 7,000 rpm, but there is no speed limit. If you select the wrong propeller, you might as well leave it on the trailer because you will find out right at the starting line when everyone flies away from you.”
On Sunday at the St. Clair River Classic, Smith will show off the new powerboat in the fourth and final race of the St. Clair River Classic. The first race of the day is scheduled for noon, with Smith’s race beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Although he has always been fond of racing, the new powerboat seems to have given Smith and his Cleveland Construction team even more energy in time for this weekend’s event. Three weeks ago however, his appearance was in question when he and his son Shawn, who serves as his throttle man, flipped the boat in a race in Sarasota, Fla.
Because the boat was submerged in salt water, it suffered extensive damage and had to be rebuilt in the time since. But after working on it for days at Rivers Bend Marina in St. Clair, it is rounding into form in time for the big event.
“It we had missed this race, we would have been devastated,” Ed Smith said. “When it happened I was more upset than scared. It’s a brand new boat. It’s very expensive, and it was salt water. With this boat I’m like a new kid in a candy store.
“We are still learning. We may have this thing set up for Saturday and go out on Sunday and get a north wind and the river is flatter than a pancake, and have to start all over.
“We had competed in Class 1 for several years and were used to our boat. But this is an entirely different animal. We are in a totally different league, now. We have to think on this one.”
After several years of racing, that isn’t exactly a bad thing.
The team has had to make several adjustments to the boat, and that has helped them remain on the top of their game.
“In many ways it’s totally backward to what we were used to doing,” Shawn Smith said. “We were used to doing things a certain way, and now it has changed, and we have had to change with it. But it’s fun and an exciting opportunity.”
Working with his dad for 16 years also has been a thrill for Shawn Smith.
“It’s still father and son, and you still have good moments and bad moments,” Shawn Smith said. “We work together and race together. During the work week, he is my boss. Between he and (owner) Mark (Small), I am still kind of an employee. But I get to put my two cents in, too. When you are racing, it can get a little heated.
“But it’s really cool. It’s a good opportunity to be able to do what I am doing. A lot of stuff we do is so my dad can get a chance to do it.”
Helping the team has been secretary Julie Kimmel, who has worked with Ed Smith for 17 years and has helped him reach the pinnacle of his sport.
“Its fun, exciting and rewarding working with them,” Kimmel said. “It has its ups and downs. When they are happy, you are happy. But like in Sarasota, when they flipped I was crying. You are afraid for them and also happy for them.
“It’s fun to be a part of it. I never imagined being on a racing team. It really is an exciting opportunity, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”