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Tampa Bay team sails into Red Bull Soabox challenge

Pirates aboard Good Times Invasion aren't sailing the high seas searching for buried treasure.

Though their vessel waves a skull and cross bone flag, it's not fit for floating in the water.

It is a land-locked, hand-made soapbox and it's ready to compete against 49 other teams in the Red Bull Soapbox Race on Saturday.

Though their bounty will depend on three categories: creativity, showmanship and speed, their biggest goal is to simply be the most entertaining team.

The five-man team consists of crew members, Samantha Grahn, Jonathan Gillespie and Eric Clark along with the two pilots, Matt Powell and Aaron Price.

"In 2009, we entered the Red Bull Soapbox and won People's Choice," said Grahn, a Wesley Chapel resident. "We enjoyed it so much and just the silliness of it, we thought we'd do it again."

Before they began work on this year's soapbox which currently sits in Temple Terrace and consists of a PVC pipe frame and plywood base, they had to submit an application showcasing their unique pirate theme.

"We had to get their attention, just to get them to pick us," Grahn said. "All of our team members are from the Tampa Bay area and have been to Gasparilla and other parades where we dress like pirates so we figured why not be pirates for this."

That's not the only reason for their eye patches and tricorne hats.

"We also liked the idea of a Tampa team invading Atlanta and doing better than the rest of the teams," Gillespie said.

To prepare for the race, they've endured multiple trial runs. One which ended in a spill when the driver's seat wasn't bolted to the floor.

Boasting a speed of up to 10 MPH when tested in a local parking garage, they are hoping Atlanta's downhill course will help it to gain momentum.

Speed isn't the only obstacle.

"One of the biggest challenges, in addition to being creative, is the weight requirement," Gillespie said. "It's easy to go over the 176 pound limit."

At one point they spent nine hours just stripping the craft to replace it with lighter material.

The amount of time is no problem for them since hanging out is one of the main reasons Good Times chose to start a soapbox team.

"We've been friends for about twenty years," Grahn said." There's an even larger group of us about 40 and we do everything together. We go on vacations and spend every holiday together."

Grahn and the rest of the group enjoy their weekends in the workshop, eating Cuban sandwiches, tweeking their pirate soapbox and working on their 30-minute skit which ties in with the showmanship aspect of the race.

Grahn will act as a captain yelling at her four-man crew until a mutiny starts and she is wrapped in rope.

Powell and Price will then steal the soapbox ship and that's when the race begins.

To vote for Good Times Invasion to keep their People's Choice title or for more information on the race visit, redbullsoapboxrace.com/usa-atlanta/en/team/good-times-invasion.

Contact Arielle Waldman at awaldman@tampabay.com.

Tampa Bay team sails into Red Bull Soabox challenge 10/23/15 [Last modified: Friday, October 23, 2015 7:44am]
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