The Ukranians went, raced and conquered!

Sunday, December 4, 2011, 19:24

by Wilfred Sultana

The reflections expressed in our preview on the eve of the 31st Key West World Championship staged at Key West Florida only three weeks ago were so very true.

Appropriate words to go along with the character and qualities of Ukrainian Viktor Shemchuk, a Doctor of Philosophy in Law by profession, a powerboat sports aficionado, the president of the National Ukrainian Powerboat Federation and the proud owner of super powerboats Ukrainian Spirit and Seagull, so successful in Europe and now in America too. Viktor Shemchuk following Key West …..

Prior to this first USA experience you were confident of doing well but have you ever thought that ‘doing well’ meant winning the two categories you contested?

“Our investors, managers, the whole Ukrainian team of Seagull as well as Aaron and me have done a great job and naturally we are happy with the results. The Ukrainian guys were very well prepared – confidently they went on from race to race eventually to win the SBI World Championship.  Fate gave me and Aaron one in a thousand chance and we took it. Of course, we are happy. Prior to the race we discussed the possible results on our debut. The participation of Seagull was a last minute decision.   We hoped that one of the boats would make the podium. But no, we never dreamt of winning in two classes on the same occasion.”

How does the level of competition of the Super Boat International compare to that you have experienced in Europe and the Mediterranean?

“Winning a World Championship is a feat experienced on any continent. The level of competition in the P1 and P3 classes at the SBI were very high. Compared to championships in Europe, especially to those of last year, the Worlds’ in theUSAwere held on a large, I would say on a superior scale. Here it is a festival in which teams, their boats, support trucks and equipment, in general the entire personnel and their subsidiaries, are part of a grand scenario.  Furthermore sportsmen, pilots, throttle men, navigators and mechanics are regarded as actors performing for the attention and recognition of the thousands of spectators, fans and supporters.

It is quite unrealistic to call an event a World Championship when the occasion is a race between just three Italian boats as it was last year inEurope. It is just improper to compare the SBI and a Championship inEurope. The SBI World Championship was contested by 61 teams from three continents – North America, Europe and Australia – in reality, the number of participants will be even greater and the competition even tougher.  Regarding the level and professionalism of the participating teams I believe the European level is as good as that of the Americans and of other international teams. Our results prove that.”

It has already been announced that next season the SBI championship will be made up of an eight events challenge, as now Jacksonville, Florida will be an added new racing venue.  What is your SBI Championships plan for next year?

“The SBI calendar is stable and has already been announced for the next three years. Teams are able to plan their participation, secure sponsors and see through the implementation of related obligations. The first outing of next year’s Championship will be atJacksonville, second largest city in theU.S., where a great spectacle and a high level of racing are programmed. Furthermore new international teams are expected. Unfortunately at the moment everything is doubtful and unstructured inEuropeand within the UIM. For this reason we plan to concentrate on the SBI – our boats will be based inAmericawhere more participation by the Ukrainian team in the SBI championships is likely.  However, we are most keen on the idea of setting speed records on water in different global destinations. In fact we have also received an invitation to participate in the approximately 320 nautical miles Round Britain Powerboat Race (2012) while we are giving a lot of thinking to our possible participation in the 2,400 nautical miles race fromCowesto Monte-Carlo scheduled for June of 2013.”

As European representatives of Super Boat International Productions Inc., do you foresee the possibility of a SBI Championship in Europe being held next year?

“Being European representatives of SBIP we endeavor on organizing an event similar to the Key-West World Championship inEurope. Our idea is a racing week where the best pilots from the European and American championships will challenge each other to prove their worth. InAmericaracing wise we proved ourselves. Organisation wise we can do it on the same level as done in theUSA, as we did inYaltain 2010. We have experience, staff and appropriate infrastructure. It all depends on the teams. Once there is sufficient interest for such a World Championship, whether it is for the 2012 or 2013 season, we’ll organise it.  We are ready.”

Do you think that boats Ukrainian Spirit and Seagull would require any kind of modification next year to maintain the powerful standing they established this year?

‘It’s easier to rise to the podium than to remain on it. To increase competitiveness and show consistently high results the constant upgrading of the racing boats is needed. In fact we will be doing our upgrading in the USA. On Seagull we’ll replace the engines for more power, change exhaust system, convert the cockpit for more comfortable one for racers, and improve the electronic system of navigation and communication. On Ukrainian Spirit we intend to replace the engine cooling system for a better one, upgrade cockpit, improve the pilots security system, replace drives and purchase new props that will enable us to increase the overall speed and dynamics of the boat.”

Will Maltese driver Aaron Ciantar still be part of the Ukrainian Spirit team next year?

“Aaron is my friend. We were in the same team for three years and we understand each other without words. Together we won two World Championships, went to the podium and led the course. I’d like him to stay in our team. Since victory in Americawe were approached by various pilots, petitioners from Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Great Britain, Russiaand even Japan, offering their service to race for the Ukrainian team in 2012.  We are satisfied clients who recognize the excellent craftsmanship of the Ciantar (Chaudron) family who gave us a quality product which led for the Ukrainian team to become World Champions and winners of the World and European Championships.

For three years there was the Maltese flag next to the Ukrainian one at all events and together with Aaron we have done a lot to strengthen friendship between Ukraine and Malta.  All negotiations are still open.  Maybe, the good tradition to win World Championships being in the Ukrainian-Maltese crew, “Shemchuk-Ciantar” will continue in the 2012 season”, concluded Mr. Shemchuk.

What does Aaron has to say following this sensational victory?

“Well, my partner in this success has given a comprehensive description of our first American adventure.  From my side I am most thrilled with our involvement both as boat-builders and also as a crew member. It was a great team effort and I look forward to share more Ukrainian–Maltese achievements”, remarked Aaron Ciantar.

Shemchuk-Ciantar and all the other winners certainly will remember Key West 2011 as one of their moments of greatness. However, one cannot fail to mention that this event has unfortunately also been described as the offshore powerboat racing deadliest week in memory. Yes, this was a tragic week indeed with the dead of three racers: On 1st Day Big Thunder Marine owner/throttle man Bob Morgan and driver Jeffrey Tillman were killed when their 46-foot catamaran suddenly lept high into the air and spin upside down. On 2nd Day Page Motorsports throttle man Joey Gratton was fatally injured, and died the next day, when his 28-foot Skater rolled near an offshore turn. Page owner/driver Stephen Page luckily only sustained minor injuries in the accident. Our condolences and prayers go to the families of the departed.

Yes, life is like a rainbow made up of different colours each representing different circumstances and outcomes. Yet, whatever colour hits us, bright or dull, survivals must be strong, rise and look forward to the next challenge with confidence. Certainly that is what the Shemchuk-Ciantar team, the newly crowned World Champions, are bound to do in their endeavour to face successive challenges and prevail over the seas!



Captions to photographs:


Ukrainian Spirit (P1-55) under the powerful handling of Maltese Aaron Ciantar (Driver) and Ukrainian Viktor Shemchuk (Owner/Throttle) riding the American waves to victory. (Photo: Cox GroupUSA)


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