Courtney Mangini has been boating since she was two years old. On July 16, she was one of only three women who competed in the Tiki Lee’s Second Annual Shootout on the River. We recently caught up with Courtney to discuss her passion for boating and her experience at the event.

courtney mangini
Courtney Mangini was one of only three women who competed in the Tiki Lee’s Second Annual Shootout on the River. Photo by Stephen Victor

How did you get started boating? 

My father introduced me to boating at the young age of two. Growing up, every weekend we were out on the Chesapeake Bay in his 22 Wellcraft Elite. We did everything from tube and kneeboard to attend an Orioles baseball game in Baltimore. He also always had some type of Jon boat. We typically took that out during the week on the Christina River. After the Wellcraft, he had anything from a jet boat to a bowrider. After I graduated from high school, he bought the boat he always wanted: a 26-foot Sonic Prowler. That’s when I fell in love with an entirely different kind of boating. 

I’ve obviously learned to boat through my dad, but I’ve been running his Sonic for 15 years. That’s where the desire to have my own boat came from. Boating throughout the years came with carnage; blown motors and outdrives. I was there every time the motor was pulled—handing tools, watching, asking questions. I was grateful he never once kicked me out of the garage. As the years went by, the passion grew stronger.  

courtney mangini
Courtney with her dad, Mike Mangini.

Primarily, what kind of boating do you do these days?

I don’t consider myself a racer. I enjoy cruising to waterfront restaurants with a group of friends. I’ve run 40 miles down the Bay in my boat as well as my dad’s boat. We get a group of boats together and run down the Bay for lunch. I love overnights, too. I’ll take my boat out on the Bohemia River and raft up with friends. They all have cruisers. I’m lucky enough that usually someone has room for me to sleep on their boat. It’s peaceful waking up on the water. You tend to forget about life’s worries. 

What made you decide to purchase a Baja?

My first boat I owned was a 17-foot center console Trophy. It was a great first boat. I had it for two seasons. The summer of 2020, I was running my dad’s boat 50 percent of the time and I quickly realized that my Trophy just didn’t seem fun anymore. It was simply too slow. So, the hunt for a hot rod began. 

When I bought my 21-foot Baja, I didn’t plan to restore it. I only planned to redo the interior. It quickly snowballed when I took it to my friend Mike Cassidy who owns Cassidy Painting. I took the boat to Mike for fiberglass work and one thing led to another. Before I knew it, he was painting the entire boat. Once that happened, I thought, now’s the time to change what I want. With the help of my dad, we completely gutted the boat. The only thing we didn’t remove was the motor. My dad and I made all the wood for a new interior. We made a custom dash with new gauges, added hydraulic steering, and trim tabs. The boat got new carpet, all new cleats and vents. I also added offshore controls with custom throttle made to have trim and tab switches. Spring of 2021, Flirtin’ With Disaster was born (the name comes from a Molly Hatchet song).

Before the Tiki Lee’s Shootout, had you ever participated in such an event? 

I had not. I only ever pleasure boated. Several years ago, I started following the OPA racing and went to several races. They were always a blast—walking the pits, checking out the race boats, and watching them race.  

courtney mangini
After owning a 17-foot center console Trophy, Courtney moved up to a 21-foot Baja.

What was it like being one of only three women to participate?

It was pretty cool being one of three women. Ashley Pennypacker ran her father’s 21 Scarab and Christie Ungarten ran her husband’s 22 Apache. Running solo didn’t bother me. I take my boat out by myself and meet up with friends all the time. For me, it wasn’t really anything different than what I do on a normal weekend, except this time, I had a helmet on. 

I will say the three of us all knew each other and even though we were technically in competition, we showed up with one goal in mind: to support each other. We even had “team” shirts made. We were Team Badass Chicks. The goal is to promote women in a male-dominated world and hope to inspire other women with the same interests. I knew my boat wasn’t really in it for the competition. It was for fun, and a self-goal for me. 

They had a poker run on Friday, which I participated in in a friend’s boat. That was very fun and very well organized. They also had an air show. 

What was your speed for the shootout? 

They recorded me at 62.8 mph—which is just taking your speed at that last radar point. The course is three-fourths of a mile.

Any nerves going into it?

I didn’t have any. The only thing I was kind of unsure about was the start but once I got out there and saw how it worked, I was fine. I take my boat out every weekend. I’m very comfortable with my boat. I knew the Coast Guard had cleared the course. I said to my dad, “I’m not doing anything that I don’t do on any given weekend. It’s actually safer because I’m wearing a helmet and a lifejacket, and I know there are no other boats on the course.” Normally on the Bay you need to keep you head on a swivel in case another boator or jet ski comes by.

Before the Shootout, organizers went through and checked everyone’s boat. At the driver’s meeting they explained everything really well. The place was packed, and they had tons of staff. The rain put a little damper on things. I got my runs in early, but I know some of the other racers didn’t get all their solo runs in because of the weather. Each person automatically gets two runs, and you can pay an additional $50 for two more runs. 

courtney mangini
Team Badass Chicks: Courtney (left), Ashley Pennypacker, and Christie Ungarten.

What advice would you give other women?

Best advice I can give is practice. Get seat time. Get comfortable with whatever boat you’re going to be racing or driving. With any boat, you really must become one with the boat. Anybody can get in a boat and just push the throttles forward, but it’s so much more than that—learning how the boat feels and how far you can push the boat. And the only way you’re going to do that is just getting in and driving it. It doesn’t have to be driving at full throttle all the time. Once you get a feel for it, and learning how to trim it out, the more comfortable you get, and you can start going faster. 

Do you plan to do more events like the shootout? 

I plan to do the shootout again next year just because I had so much fun doing it this year. I have a goal of doing the Lake of the Ozarks shootout someday. However, that will require a bigger/faster boat. So that plan is on hold for now.  

That to me is the Superbowl of Shootouts. It’s a much bigger event—they have the fastest of the fastest. My boat right now is just stock. I could take my boat out there just to say I did it, but it wouldn’t really be in the competition. Potentially I would like to have a faster boat in general. To me you can only go so fast in a 21-foot boat before it gets to be dangerous. I don’t really have my eye on a dream boat now. I have a sentimental value in my boat because I restored it with my dad. Someday I’d like to have a 30-foot boat.

What is your favorite aspect of boating?

I’m not sure I can name just one thing. I love blasting down the Bay, listening to nothing but the sound of the motor, and forgetting about life’s worries. 

One of my favorite things is sunset cruises. I love watching the sunset from the water. It’s good for the soul. 

I love how boating brings people together. Rafting up on the water with friends is a great way to meet new people. Everyone is out there with the same intention: to relax, escape reality, and have a good time.