Local brothers build, race powerboats

2013-06-23T23:30:00Z 2013-06-24T18:37:08Z Local brothers build, race powerboatsSusan Erler susan.erler@nwi.com, (219) 662-5336 nwitimes.com

A lifelong love of racing has landed brothers Scott and Daryl Grady in the driver's seat of a powerboat manufacturing business.

The Gradys, who grew up in St. John and graduated from Lake Central High School, operate Chief Powerboats, based in St. John.

The company formed by the Gradys in 2004 makes custom vessels, each designed to the specifications of its buyer.

Three Chief Powerboats have been manufactured so far, including the 42-foot, V-bottom boat, which raced in the Venture Cup earlier this month between London and the Channel Islands.

Daryl Grady, 44, of Crown Point, controlled the throttle as part of a three-man crew that included Ole Finholt, captain and owner of the vessel named Warpath, along with a navigator.

Hurtling through water at speeds reaching 100 mph, Warpath finished first in the second of four legs of a grueling four-day race.

"It's very taxing physically, but it's also very exciting," Daryl Grady said. As throttle man, he controlled the vessel's speed.

The ship runs at high speeds on unpredictable waters.

"You better have your wits about you," he said. "And you have to put your trust in the equipment. As long as the boat is doing its job, you're going to be kept safe."

Known as a rich man's sport, offshore powerboat racing pits large, specially designed vessels able to handle ocean currents against one another.

Building a safe boat was key to Chief Powerboats design, said Scott Grady, 50, of St. John.

"The design is a classic design with some new technology. It not only brings additional speed but safety in the turns," Scott Grady said.

Bob Saccenti, powerboat racing's equivalent of legendary car racer Richard Petty, partnered in the design of the Chief Powerboats line, Scott Grady said.

Scott Grady works as the company president while Daryl Grady is the vice president.

Components of the boats are manufactured in various place, with the shells built in Port Orange, Fla., and custom paint work applied by artists in Michigan and Indiana.

"You have to go where the experts are," Scott Grady said.

Long-range plans could have more of the work done in Northwest Indiana, if business increases, Scott Grady said. Building a dozen boats a year would be ideal.

"I have no desire to mass produce," he said.

Interest in Chief Powerboats, typically costing between $525,000 and $750,000 or more, depending on customer specifications, is growing, he said.

"Now that the economy has picked up and we've started to play a little in Europe, a lot of interest has been generated," Scott Grady said. "We're getting contracts from customers in the Middle East and Europe. A design for a 72-foot model is in the works.

Next up for the Warpath racing team is a Sept. 1 offshore powerboat race between Cowes and Torquay, seaside resort towns in southern England.

Also planned is a return to the Venture Cup for its London to Monte Carlo, 2,400-mile powerboat marathon, in 2014.

The exotic locales are a long way from the Grady brothers' childhood in Northwest Indiana, but not so far from their love of all things high-speed.

Involved in motocross as youngsters, the brothers gravitated to racing cars and motorcycles.

"As we got older we got into offshore boats. We jumped in with both feet, and here we are," Scott Grady said.

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