The monsters of the sea will be ripping through the waves on Sunday, baring their teeth and fighting for the No. 1 spot in the circuit as the 8th annual Clearwater Super Boat National Championship and Seafood Festival roars into town.
The three-day extravaganza begins today and includes close encounters with the race teams and their boats, a seafood festival, VIP parties, a boat parade and block party, a fireworks display and more.
Sunday's race will feature 35 to 40 high-performance boats — some equipped with F-16 jet canopies — vying in seven classes to win a spot in November's 36th annual Super Boat World Championship in Key West. The heats are held right off Pier 60 and run to the north end of Clearwater Beach and back.
"It's great family fun and a good way to show off the No. 1 beach in the world," said Frank Chivas, owner of Bay Star Restaurant Group. It was Chivas and former Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst who brought the muscle boat competitions to the area seven years ago when a slot opened up on the circuit.
The timing of the event couldn't be better for beach businesses and area hotels. September used to mean sluggish sales — but no more.
"If the weather cooperates, we can expect an economic impact of over $20 million," Chivas said. He based his statement on information from Research Data Services of Tampa that showed last year's event generated a similar amount, with an estimated 170,000 people attending race-related events. About half of the economic activity came from out-of-county attendees.
The Bay Star Race Village opens at noon today in Coachman Park with free admission. The super boats will be on display; guests can meet the racers and enjoy food and entertainment. The annual super boat parade begins at 6 p.m. on downtown Cleveland Street and is followed by a street party that runs until 10.
Beginning Saturday at 10 a.m. a seafood festival takes place in Coachman Park. Timed trials will be going on in the gulf providing onlookers with a glimpse of Sunday's races. A pyrotechnics display will illuminate the sky at sunset near Pier 60.
Then, get ready for Sunday's grand finale. Heats begin at noon, 1:30 and 3 p.m. See it all from the beach, Pier 60, the fleet viewing area for boaters, or at a designated VIP viewing party.
VIP passes grant access to not only the distinctive viewing locations, but special concerts, parties and autograph sessions with the racers. Passes also included free Jolley Trolley rides, admission to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, discounts for restaurant and area businesses, and free sailboat rides at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center.
The event concludes as the national champions are crowned at the awards ceremony at Bay Star Race Village at 5:30 p.m. A VIP after-party will take place at Marina Cantina.