People flock to Clearwater Beach Sept. 30 to watch the Super Boat National Championship from the beach and their personal boats. Stihl took first in the Superboat class, going 70.4 miles in 42.56 minutes at an average of 96.15 miles per hour.
CLEARWATER – The Bright House Clearwater Super Boat National Championship and seafood festival brought over 100,000 people to Clearwater Beach on Sept. 28 to 30, said Bob Clifford, president and CEO of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Clifford said the chamber was pleased to continue to add more components to this year’s event, making it a full weekend of fun.
“Friday night we exceeded the number of people we had last year with the combination of the boat parade as well as Blast Friday,” Clifford said. “And we had quite a crowd down at Coachman Park on Friday as well. There was a VIP reception held on the promenade, and that was a great event with great turnout. Also, added down in Coachman Park was a seafood festival.”
The weekend-long festivities also included the chance for spectators to watch the boats and teams get ready up close and get autographs and photos, and plenty VIP parties throughout the weekend. On Saturday, there were practice runs of the races and fireworks at night. Sunday, were the official races all day, the and in the evening there was the Miss Clearwater Super Boat Corona Girl Pageant.
“It seemed to be an endless weekend of things going on,” Clifford said. “With the races, the folks down on the Gulf, we feel exceeded last year.”
Clifford estimates that there were probably about 20 percent more people at this year’s event than last year, but they won’t know the official numbers for a few months after an economic study is in.
But he estimates that Friday night in downtown Clearwater there were about 4,500 to 5,000 people. All of the VIP parties were at capacity, and hotels and restaurants were packed. Overall, Clifford said the 2012 Super Boat National Championship was bigger and better than previous years all around.
“Absolutely,” Clifford said. “Even the quality that were here to race, we had more of the larger boats, the Unlimited boat class, and more of those boats here this year. We had probably about six more smaller boats that race in the 90- to 120-mile per hour range. We had two great races, and the beach headcount from my observation out there on the water, it looked like we had real strong crowds.”
Celebrity “Hulk Hogan” was the grand marshal for the street parade and donated a lot of time over the weekend to be at many events, Clifford said, and he also launched his new retail beachware store in the Pelican Walk shopping center on Clearwater Beach.
Radio announcing for the event was done at Pier 60, which Clifford said helped the audience understand better what was going on and how the races are run. Live Internet streaming was also taken up to a new level, with all of it being live in high definition.
Proceeds from the championship festival benefits Tampa Bay Charities, Inc., which includes the Clearwater Community Sailing Center, the Make a Difference Fishing Tournament, and Sailability.
The sailing center works to promote sportsmanship and instilling the principle of inclusion in the community while providing safe and enriching sailing opportunities for youth, adults, seniors and disabled people.
Sailability Greater Tampa Bay’s mission is “to provide affordable, accessible sailing activities and education to children and adults of all abilities, focusing on community integration to improve the quality of life for all involved.” It specializes in sailing programs for special needs people, from anything from mental disability and amputations to paralysis and multiple sclerosis.
In the first three years of the event, more than $100,000 was donated, and though official numbers for 2012 are not yet in, Clifford said that given the great turnout, it is going to be another strong year for money raised for charity.
Overall, this event impacts the whole community. In 2011, the races brought about $12 million to the city, Clifford said, and he believes this year should be similar or better.
“That’s from a population of people staying in hotels from out of town or even regionally,” Clifford said. “We have people who come from Tampa, Sarasota, Orlando and stay overnight one or two nights with us. And of course then you start factoring in the purchases made at restaurants and retailers on Clearwater Beach, purchases made at local grocery stores and gasoline purchases. Fuel purchases for boats always have a nice uptick during this, depending on how many boats are actually out there.”
Clifford said he and the city are proud of the success of using the Jolley Trolley to cut down on traffic congestion. They encouraged people to park in downtown Clearwater and use the trolley as a shuttle to the beach, and therefore he said traffic was no worse than on any beautiful weekend.
The championship is already scheduled to return next year, set for the first weekend in October. It is always the second to last super boat event of the year, with only the World Championship event to follow.
The results of the National Championship are as follows:
• Superboat Unlimited class – The Gasse boat won, going the full 79.2 miles in 41.17 minutes, with an average speed of 115.11 miles per hour. Coming in second was WHM Motorsports at 42.49 minutes and an average speed of 110.98 miles per hour. Superheat completed 48.4 miles of the race, averaging 110.98 miles per hour, and Miss Geico came in fourth, only going 13.2 miles of the race.
• Superboat Vee Extreme class – Lucas Oil MAV-TV won uncontested, finishing 66 miles of the 79.2 in 43.51 minutes, going an average of 90.31 miles per hour.
• Turbine class – Semper Fi won uncontested, completing all 79.2 miles in 41.14 minutes, with an average speed of 115.25 miles per hour.
• Superboat class – Stihl won, going 70.4 out of 79.2 miles of the race at 43.56 minutes, going an average of 96.15 miles per hour. It won over Fastboats Marine Group, which went 61.6 miles in 41.06 minutes and an average of 89.93 miles per hour.
• Superboat Vee Limited class – Snowy Mountain Brewery won a tight race, going all 52.8 miles of the race in 39.27 minutes at an average of 80.3 miles per hour. Coming in a close second was Scott Free Racing, finishing the full course in 39.45 minutes at an average of 79.7 miles per hour. Not far behind was Phantom, finishing at 40.08 minutes at an average of 78.94 miles per hour. Sun Print was also registered for this race but did not compete.
• Superboat Stock class – Duce Rods.com won another close race, finishing the full 52.8 miles in 34.49 minutes, going an average of 90.99 miles per hour. Coming in a close second was Blacksand, finishing in 35.06 miles per hour and going an average of 90.26 miles per hour. Not far behind was WHM Motorsports, finishing in 36.05 minutes at an average of 87.8 miles per hour. Turtle Cove Marina Joyland and BK Motorsports also competed but only each went 17.6 miles.
• Manufacturer Prod. 1 class – Instigator won this race, going the full 57.2 miles in 40.01 minutes at an average speed of 85.76 miles per hour. Sheds Plus came in second, only completing 22 miles of the course, going an average of 91.24 miles per hour.
• Manufacturer Prod. 2 class – Zipp Express won uncontested, going 30.8 of the full 48.4 miles of the course in 24.04 minutes and at an average of 76.79 miles per hour.
• Manufacturer P3 class – Team Kilt won uncontested, going the full 48.4 miles of the course in 36.58 miles per hour at an average speed of 78.56 miles per hour.
• Manufacturer Prod. P4 class – Dare Devil won an extremely close race, going the full 48.4 miles in 41.37 minutes and an average of 69.78 miles per hour. Sneaking in second was Two Cruel at 41.42 minutes and an average of 69.65 miles per hour. Kami-Kazi just went the first lap, with 4.4 miles at 67.12 miles per hour.