Offshore Powerboat Races

Paul Morrone |

By Paul Morrone CFP®, CPA, MSA

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By now most of you know that I’m at home around anything with a motor. Not so much from a handy Mr. Fix it point of view, but put me behind the wheel, handlebars or throttles and you’ll see a smile develop on my face pretty quickly. During my last trip to Florida just before Thanksgiving, we were fortunate enough to catch a couple of days of the Offshore Powerboat Association championship races that have been held in Englewood, FL for the past three years. While not a catalyst for our trip down south, it was a welcomed and unexpected surprise to have the races that weekend. It didn’t hurt that our condo is located centrally on the rectangular shaped race course, giving us some of the best seats in the house without having to leave the comfort of our lanai.

The short boating season in New England and rocky coastline may be a deterrent for any potential northern fanbase, meaning I had limited knowledge of how the sport works other than that boats go around a set course at very high speeds. We had seen the same set of races a couple of years ago, but aside from simply enjoying the electric energy in what is normally a quiet southwest Florida town, we did not pay much attention to the different classes of boats and how the standings were determined. This time around I spent some time on Google and found out some information that made being a spectator infinitely more interesting.

I’ll spare the nitty-gritty details, but it is very important to know that there are multiple classes of boats racing at the same time, meaning all the boats are not necessarily racing against one another. Many of the classes have maximum speeds that the boats can drive at (tracked by GPS) and other classes are separated by factors such as hull design (vee vs. catamaran), number of engines, engine output or cockpit type (open vs closed). Winners and losers are determined by how much distance is traveled over the race duration (tracked by GPS). All in there are over 10 classes of boats that range a from a small 20’ boat with a single outboard engine (limited to 300hp and 60mph) to the extreme class which has an unlimited top speed, 50 feet in length and can have well over 3,000hp from two engines. These boats can reach speeds in excess of 200mph, and if you’ve ever been on a boat you know that is incredibly fast. The smaller boats can be valued at tens of thousands, while the larger extreme boats can cost millions simply to build.

Once the races began, we spent most of our time eating fresh gulf seafood (stone crabs and shrimp), drinking cold Coronas and relaxing in the sun. Not a bad weekend for a quick trip!

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