“You know when you are really cookin’,” said Rowland. “It gets real smooth because you are barely in the water.”
Rowland set his record with the 25-foot triple-tube South Bay pontoon “Tooned In” rigged with triple Mercury Racing Pro Max 300X outboards with 1.75:1 Fleet Master gearcases. In 2016 Rowland matched that record speed in a new 25-foot South Bay powered by the same trio of Mercury Racing Pro Max 300X motors, and claims to have seen 117 mph in private testing.
Rowland and other speed-seeking pontooners run with the deck fencing in place and even retain the stock seating.
“It’s basically a box on the water,” says Rowland. “I will open the front and rear gates to let some air flow through the boat, but I’ve found reducing weight has no effect on speed. The aerodynamics are so bad to start with.”
Rowland ran the South Bay to 112 mph at the 2019 LOTO Shootout, which is now on a course shortened from a mile to ¾-mile since he set the record. A steering malfunction hampered his run, or he feels he might have beat his own best speed.
“It’s a hairy deal running that fast in a pontoon,” says Rowland, who thinks pontoon speed may have hit a wall. “I’ll shake the hand of the man who goes faster.”
A handful of pontoon manufacturers – South Bay, Playcraft, Manitou and Avalon are examples – offer production models designed for speed and handling performance with potent single and twin outboards, including motors like the new Mercury Racing 450R outboard. The fastest production models are capable of speeds exceeding 70 mph.