Using Mercury Racing CNC Cleaver Propellers to dial in Supercat performance
To the casual observer the obvious goal in just about any form of racing is to simply go faster than the competition. But in the top levels of offshore powerboat racing, when the water is rough going well is often more important than going fast.
“That’s really the difference between a professional racer and the performance boat enthusiast,” explains Nick Petersen, Mercury Racing propeller manager. “The enthusiast at a poker run is concerned with top speed and mid-range fuel economy. To a racer, acceleration and boat attitude are often more critical than top speed, and that’s especially true when the race is run in real offshore conditions, where seas may reach six feet.”
For the past several seasons Mercury Racing has been working with some of the top teams competing in the P1 Offshore Series to develop Mercury Racing CNC Cleaver propellers the teams can use to dial in ideal performance in any water condition. One of those teams is the M-CON Racing supercat team, owned by Tyler and Lindsey Miller of Wathena, Kansas. The team runs a 388 Skater throttled by Tyler Miller and driven by Myrick Coil, based out of Performance Boat Center in Osage Beach, Mo. Coil has won numerous national and world championships, and the M-CON team won the 2021 Supercat national title and the 2021 Cates Cup, awarded at the 2021 Race World Offshore championships in Key West, Fla., “to a race team that embodies the ideals of competitive excellence, team spirit and true sportsmanship.”
Coil explains the importance of prop tuning when powerboat racing at this highest level.
“When we get to a race, there are really only three things we can do to fine tune the boat,” said Coil. “We can change the weight distribution in the boat, we can change the X dimension of the drives on the transom, and we can change propellers. Right now we have 22 sets of Mercury Racing props in our truck, from 16.25 to 17 inches in diameter, from 28 to 36 inches in pitch, and in 12, 15 and 18 degrees of rake. Even with all these options, there can be days when I wish I had a prop that was just a little different.”
The team’s 388 Skater is powered by a pair of 750-hp engines and Mercury Racing M6 drives, and on good water has a top-speed potential of 140 mph.
“When the water is really rough at a venue like Cocoa Beach, or even when running through chop and the wakes of other boats, acceleration and maintaining speed will keep us out front,” said Coil. “You want hole shot at the start to get out front so you don’t have to run through wakes, and you want strong acceleration out of turns. We also want to dial in the ideal running angle for our hull, using distribution of ballast in the boat and propeller rake.”
Propeller rake (the angle of blades relative to the propeller hub) influences the running angle of the boat. More rake usually lifts the bow. In flat water the team might select a prop set with 18 degrees of rake to intentionally lift the bow and reduce hull drag in the water. If conditions are rough, however, that rake can cause the bow to lift too high as the boat is launched over a wave, with a hard impact on the landing. This causes the boat to lose momentum, and the crew may need to collect control of the boat.
“In a rough race we’ll usually run the 12-degree props to maintain a flatter angle,” said Coil. “We’ll lose some top speed, but our lap times can be quicker because we maintain momentum. When it’s rough, just one mile per hour difference in speed can win or lose the race.”
Of course a race team can’t plan to test in rough conditions, so the experience of a driver like Coil can be a big advantage.
“You keep notes on what set up works from year to year, but when you get a new boat like the M-CON team did this year, that all goes out the window,” said Coil. “The new boat is much lighter, so we have more ballast to position in the boat, and we need to figure out the propping. I like working with Mercury Racing because, number one, the CNC Cleaver props are incredibly reliable. It’s very rare to throw a blade on one of these propellers. Number two is the feedback we get from Racing. I can run a set of props and not like the way the boat feels and send Racing some input and the props keep getting better and better.”
Each Mercury Racing CNC Cleaver prop is custom made.
“We are creating propellers designed to match the engine performance in this class, which is very regulated,” said Petersen. “The blade thickness is very specific to the Supercat class. We’ve been working with M-CON and other teams on new blade shapes intended for rough water. We have a crew from Mercury Racing at the events, listening and learning from the race teams in Supercat and other classes. Ultimately, what we learn from the extreme pressure of racing trickles down to our production propellers.”
Mercury Racing CNC Cleaver propellers are created using a state-of-the-art CNC machining process that offers unparalleled benefits compared to standard cast propellers. Pitch, diameter, and rake are perfectly true on every Mercury Racing CNC propeller to ensure that lift, handling, and speed characteristics are consistent. Thousands of pitch, rake and diameter combinations are available to dial in the maximum performance of almost any boat. Each CNC Cleaver propeller is custom made to order. All Mercury Racing propellers carry a one-year warranty that covers the propeller in its entirety and any damage done to other parts if a failure does occur. All CNC Cleaver props are shipped in a molded plastic Mercury Racing CNC case.