When Boat Counts Matter—And Don’t

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Journalists love numbers. How many or few, how much or little, numbers give us jumping-off points for stories. If the numbers are gaudy enough as they were, for example, with last year’s 214-boat Florida Powerboat Club Key West Poker Run, they can become the foundation of whatever story we’re trying to report.

And yet—small or large—numbers never paint a complete picture. Especially without context.

Thanks to great weather, the Erie Poker Run enjoyed its best year yet. Photo by Jeff Helmkamp/Helmkamp Photos.

Two events from last weekend present perfect cases in point.

Produced by Anthony Scioli of Elite Poker Runs, LLC, Saturday’s Erie Poker Run in Pennsylvania saw just 19 of the 23 boats registered take to the water. By any measure, that is a small poker-run fleet.

And yet by multiple accounts the 2019 run on Lake Erie was the best in the event’s five-year history. Great weather was the key.

“Whenever the weather treats you well, there’s nothing better,” said Scioli. “It only took five years.”

The low boat count meant nothing.

The third annual Kuttawa Cannonball Run overcame nasty weather and hosted its largest fleet to date. Photo by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

On the same day in Kentucky, most of the 100-plus boats registered for the Kuttawa Cannonball Run took to the water. That’s a nice, round number—the kind journalists tend to love—made even more impressive by the event reaching that milestone in just three years.

And yet once again, weather—in this case nasty weather—was the real story. On Friday night through most of Saturday morning, the area got pounded by wind and rain. Kuttawa event organizers Jeff Hoefling and Stephen Miles (yeah, that Stephen Miles) even considered scrubbing the run and opting for a weekend-long dock party.

“We got really, really lucky with the weather on Saturday,” said Hoefling.

The high boat count meant something.

As disparate as their fleet sizes were, both events were the most successful in their respective histories. But the real stories of the Erie and Kuttawa events some 620 miles apart—we journalists do love our numbers—hinged on weather. One had it good, the other not so much.

And both came off better than they ever had.

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