Snowmachiners claim open-water speed record

zhollander@adn.comOctober 10, 2013 

Score one for Alaska sled heads.

Two snowmachine-obsessed guys from Anchorage say they just beat the YouTube record for top speed on open water -- with a snowmachine.

Not snow, not ice. Water.

The YouTube record, set by a guy in Norway in August, was 102.5 mph.

Rick Coffman says he hit 106 mph over about a quarter mile on a side channel of the Knik River Sunday. The sun was out. The gray, glacial water was calm.

Coffman was fast.

"For the record run I came onto shore at probably 80 mph -- just to get those extra miles an hour," he said Thursday from the Anchorage Yamaha showroom on Spenard Road, where the snowmachine was on display.

Coffman knows speed. He owns OFT Racing, a company that builds after-market sled parts.

The 29-year-old rider and Anchorage Yamaha co-owner Andrew Smith, 30, built the record-setting machine together. They took a 2008 Yamaha Nytro snowmachine and stripped just about everything but the plastic side panels and hood.

Smith tore apart the stock engine and added heavy-duty rods, after-market pistons and head studs to hold it all together. Add turbo and nitrous oxide and you've got a 430-horsepower sled -- a Formula One snowmachine.

"Basically, we beefed up the motor in order to handle the huge amount of horsepower we were going to put into it," he said. "Then we added a turbo, which basically is doubling your horsepower if not more, then the nitrous on top gave it that extra little kick. Or a lot."

The pair decided to go for the open-water record after seeing the Norwegian's YouTube video on Aug. 10. They both realized that between them, they had access to plenty of fast snowmachines.

"We can go faster than that," Smith said they agreed.

For the next month or so, both worked their full-time jobs, ate dinner, then headed to Coffman's shop to work on the machine.

The test runs started on Labor Day. It was a big learning curve. At first, the sled wouldn't go faster than 75 mph.

The machine sank. Four times. One motor blew up. Coffman twice had to dive to recover the sled.

"It wasn't fun," he said. But he kept thinking about all the people and businesses invested in the project -- the Yamaha shop, Curve Industries, Underground Performance -- and didn't want to let them down.

It would cost $20,000 to $25,000 to start from scratch with a new sled capable of the kind of horsepower to go more than 100 mph on the water.

Both men say the feat isn't one to take lightly.

Coffman wore a chest guard and shin guards along with the helmet and life jacket. He said he never tried the run without at least two other people there, one to hold the radar gun and the other to rescue him if he ended up "face down in the water."

Coffman and Smith also paired up last summer on a Yamaha Vector that Coffman drove to the state record for fastest snowmachine on asphalt at Alaska Raceway Park in the Butte.

They both hope the Norwegian guy tries for another record.

"I hope he comes back, I really do," Coffman said. "I want to go faster."


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