A proposed boat race offshore St. Pete Beach may or may not happen due to a minimum safety zone required by the U.S. Coast Guard.
ST. PETE BEACH – The future of a proposed offshore boat race June 17-18 off St. Pete Beach is in limbo after it was determined the course for the race would infringe on a minimum safety zone required by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Plans call for P3 and jet ski races 1,000 feet off the beach from the Post Card Inn south to County Park. However, during a routine safety and logistics meeting involving the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Coast Guard, it was determined by the Coast Guard that the 2-mile race course would be too close to the beach.
“What came up at that meeting was the Coast Guard has a measurement for a minimum safety zone from the race course itself and with the course that the sponsors had laid out, that safety zone came up all the way onto the beach,” City Manager Wayne Saunders told city commissioners April 25, “which means there could be no boat activity, or parasailing activity in the safety zone.”
“It would basically shut down all of the vendors along that stretch with whatever water sports activity they have going on,” Saunders continued. “So the sponsors asked if we would close down those vendors and, of course, we said we could not.”
The race promoters, Super Boat International, left the meeting with the intent of meeting with the beach vendors to ask for a voluntary shutdown of their businesses.
“There were some other options the Coast Guard laid out,” said Saunders. “One was to move the course further offshore but that was problematic for several reasons. So it’s sort of in limbo right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen. The promoters are going to get back with us.”
Commissioner Melinda Pletcher asked if it would be possible to move the race course further south but Saunders said race officials balked at that idea.
“The promoters had an issue with that, with not having a sponsor hotel, which made it problematic for some of the staging and access,” Saunders said. “But they will look at that again to see if that’s possible. We’re still trying to work with them to make it happen.”
Pletcher pointed out that the city closes roads for other events and those closings briefly impact local businesses.
“Overall, I think the race is an exciting thing for the city of St. Pete Beach and some businesses are going to benefit tremendously,” she said. “Maybe we can lessen the burden (for the beach vendors) and hopefully the organizers can work that out.”
Commissioner Rick Falkenstein said vacationers may be in town for the weekend and could be planning to do water sports, such as parasailing.
“It all depends on how you look at it,” said Commissioner Ward Friszolowski. “People could be coming here to watch the boat races too. It’s a challenge to make everyone happy in a situation like this.”
Falkenstein suggested the race promoters might consider paying the vendors what they would make in a weekend to shut down for two days.
“To me, it’s a great event to get more visibility for the city and more activity,” said Mayor Al Johnson, “but we can’t have our usual vendors drying up and going away because of it.”
“We’re hoping we’ll find a solution,” said Saunders.