July Sparklers: Four Surefire Go-Fast Boat Events

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Racers and their fans make the Suncoast Sarasota Offshore Grand Prix the strongest race of the SBI season. Photo by Jay Nichols

Racers and their fans make the Suncoast Sarasota Offshore Grand Prix the strongest race of the SBI season. (Photo by Jay Nichols.)

Let’s face it: Given the success of the Atlantic City Festival of Speed, the Jacksonville River Rally Poker Run, The Lake Race and the Texas Outlaw Challenge, June’s biggest events set a high bar for the entire 2014 high-performance powerboating season. But that doesn’t mean the best is behind us this early in the summer—far from it. Here are four July events that should keep the season roaring.

Super Boat International Suncoast Sarasota Grand Prix, July 3-6

Eclipsed only by the SBI World Championships in Key West, Fla., next weekend’s Suncoast Sarasota Grand Prix is the most important event in the regular season of domestic offshore racing. This year, the event on Florida’s West Coast celebrates its 30th anniversary. Sarasota and nearby Bradenton have a healthy contingent of hometown racers such as Ryan Beckley and Dan Lawrence in Stock class and Grant Bruggemann in the Superboat class, and their fans come out in force. Both towns are, much like Key West, hotbeds for the sport with lots of knowledgeable fans. All classes tend to field the biggest fleets—again with the exception of the Key West Worlds—of the year in Sarasota. To top it off, the course/conditions typically offer a Key West-like mix of smooth and rough water.

Boyne Thunder Poker Run, July 10-13

Even with the fleet size raised to 100 boats this year, Boyne Thunder sold out early. Photo by Jay Nichols (http://naplesimage)

Even with the fleet size raised to 100 boats this year, Boyne Thunder sold out early. (Photo by Jay Nichols.)

With a long-sold-out fleet of 100 go-fast catamarans and V-bottoms and a sizeable waiting list, the Boyne Thunder Poker Run, which begins and ends on Michigan’s pristine Lake Charlevoix and includes legs on Lake Michigan, celebrates its 11th anniversary in high style. As it has in recent years, the event will attract the hottest pleasure boat hardware in the country. The happenings kick off on Thursday morning with a “lunch fun run” followed by a cocktail party on Boyne Mountain that evening. Friday’s events include a street party with exotic/vintage automobile displays and—of course—exhibits featuring some of the finest go-fast catamarans and V-bottoms in Saturday’s poker run.

Pirates Of Lanier Poker Run, July 17-20

Pirates of Lanier likely will set a new standard for fundraising this year. Photo by Jeff Girardi/FreezeFrameVideo.net (http://www.freezeframevideo.net/)

Pirates of Lanier likely will set a new standard for fundraising this year. (Photo by Jeff Girardi/FreezeFrameVideo.net.)

On numbers alone, the Pirates of Lanier Poker Run is this (or any other) summer’s biggest go-fast boating event. In 2013, more than 280 boats registered for the event on Lake Lanier, an immense waterway near Buford, Ga. Funds raised for local charities in 2013 topped $250,000. Of course, numbers don’t tell the whole story—participants do, and the overwhelming consensus is that Pirates of Lanier is at, or near the top of, the go-fast boating event list in any given year. And with a fundraising goal of more $400,000 this year and new activities including a treasure hunt, the 2014 running of Pirates of Lanier is likely to set an even higher standard.

Offshore Powerboat Association St. Clair River Classic Offshore Race, July 25-27

The St. Clair River Classic attracts OPA’s hottest teams, including Tug It (pictured here at the most recent OPA event in Atlantic City, N.J.) Photo by Pete Boden (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shoot-2-Thrill-Pix/130528070292399)

The St. Clair River Classic attracts OPA’s hottest teams, including Tug It (pictured here at the most recent OPA event in Atlantic City, N.J.) (Photo by Pete Boden.)

A favorite of OPA offshore racers, their fans and offshore racing fans in general, the St. Clair River Classic Offshore Race in St. Clair is one of the finest jewels in the crown of events for the organization, which became a division of the American Power Boat Association earlier this year. The venue attracts healthy fleets in most classes, as well as healthy contingents of fans that can catch the near-shore action from a number of viewing areas. By most accounts, the “vibe” in the local community is positive throughout the race weekend—the people of St. Clair appear to genuinely enjoy having the racers in town. And the racers definitely enjoy being there.

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Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the former editor of Sportboat magazine.

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