Monday, December 18, 2017
Events

With super boat championship racing, vroom! comes to Clearwater Beach

CLEARWATER

Feel the need for speed? Head out to Clearwater Beach this weekend for the chance to watch some of the fastest and largest powerboats in the world at the 5th Annual Clearwater Super Boat National Championship and Seafood Festival.

High-performance boats will be going full throttle, roaring across the Gulf of Mexico parallel to Clearwater Beach at speeds of up to 180 mph.

Beachgoers can relax and watch the race any way they want. Choose a spot to watch from shore. Launch a boat to watch at sea. Rent a room and watch from your hotel balcony. Or buy a ticket to see the race from Pier 60.

Not able to go? The action will be streamed at new.livestream.com/sbi/clearwater2013.

"I watch from the 17th floor, the deck of the Hyatt," said former Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst Sr., a co-founder of the race. "It's fun to watch the boats start lining up at 8 a.m. to see the race. Those boats don't just have one or two people on them. According to the Coast Guard, we had 5,500 boats in the water to watch the race last year."

But the fun begins long before the racing boats enter the water. Baystar Race Village at Coachman Park on the downtown waterfront will again be the dry pit area for the three-day festival.

On Friday, people can see the boats on dry land, up close and personal.

Race teams will sign autographs and pose for pictures.

For fans, the party continues later at the city's Blast Friday downtown, with a boat parade and concert featuring the music of John Cafferty of Beaver Brown Band with Stormbringer.

On Saturday, boats and teams will remain in the pits at Coachman Park for spectators to see and meet the drivers, but super boat practice runs also will take place. Stay for the evening and watch fireworks explode over Clearwater Beach.

On Sunday, the racing starts on Clearwater Beach. The entire beach will turn into a party as tourists and locals alike watch in awe.

The Clearwater Downtown Development Board voted in July to give a $10,000 grant to the Clearwater Super Boat Championship Festival this year, in part because the event has been successful in creating a connection between Coachman Park and the Cleveland Street District, and because the media coverage brings attention to the Clearwater Beach area.

And that attention is working, judging from the growth in the crowds.

"Historically, the race weekend was the slowest tourist weekend of the year ... that's all changed," Aungst said. "Last year, because of the race, there were 6,200 room nights and a $15 million economic impact for the three days.

"The festival has really grown," continued Aungst, who credits his co-founder, restaurateur Frank Chivas. "The first couple of years there was a really big crowd on Sunday. Last year there was a spring break crowd on Clearwater Beach on Friday and Saturday. That tells me we're putting the heads in beds."

The Sunday races start at Pier 60 and run on a 2.5-mile course. Laps loop back to where the race began. Two-person race teams juggle working the throttle and steering while the boats speed across the water.

Since the inaugural race in 2009, the event has grown into a festival with the addition of the boat parade and concert.

"Every year it gets a little bigger with events we've added," said Aungst. "The kids and adults enjoy seeing the boats up close and meeting the drivers. We've expanded to make it a more robust, family-friendly experience."

Proceeds from the festival will support Tampa Bay Charities, Inc., which includes the Community Clearwater Sailing Center, the Make a Difference Fishing Tournament and Sailability.

On stage

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