To Compete in Roar Offshore
You do not need to be a die hard sports enthusiast to recognize the pinstripe uniforms of the New York Yankees or the large star of the Dallas Cowboys. When it comes to offshore powerboat racing, even the most casual fan is familiar with the name and distinctive bright-colored wrapping of the “Miss Geico” team! Powerboat racing fans will get up-close-&-personal with this legendary squad when they come to Fort Myers Beach to compete in the Roar Offshore powerboat races and related events from Thursday, October 10, through Saturday, October 12.
“‘Miss Geico’ is actually AMF Riviera Beach Racing, with five partners: Gary Stray, Gary Goodell, Scott Begovich, Marc Granet, and myself, and we have been together for 12 years,” explained Steve Colton. “The Geico Insurance Agency is our sponsor. It is impossible to have a better or more accomplished throttleman than we have. Steve Curtis, who is originally from England, is most likely the greatest ever in the history of powerboat racing, having won more World Championships that anyone else; in fact, Queen Elizabeth knighted him for his powerboat racing achievements! This is a lifelong passion for him, as he started out as a very young man as a boat builder before he won his first World Championship in 1985, all the way through last year, when he won the 2018 World Championship aboard ‘Miss Geico.’”
New to the “Miss Geico” team, however, is not only its driver but also its boat! “In early July, we suffered a crash near the end of the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix. Thankfully, our crew is alright, but it severely damaged our boat, so we joined forces with our new driver, Miles Jennings, who is also from England. We are renting our equipment now from the Norwegian team and Miles is their driver, but we re-wrapped their boat in the distinctive ‘Miss Geico’ colors, so from the fan perspective, you will not notice any difference. As for Miles, last month he won one of the most famous races on the entire planet, the Cowes Torquay Cowes Offshore Powerboat Race off the Isle of Wight. As for the new partnership between Miles and Steve, they have been longtime friends for over 20 years, so it is easy to put the two together in the same boat.”
Most Recognized Name
While Miles and Steve are an all-star crew, the real star of the team is “Miss Geico” herself! “I am not bragging when I say ‘Miss Geico’ is the most recognized name and boat on the American Power Boat Association circuit,” said Steve! “We compete in Class One that is for the fastest boats. Each one in our category has a maximum weight of 11,750 pounds, and that figure surprises most people but explains why high-performance cranes must lift the powerboats in and out of the water. We run with twin 1,100-horsepower Mercury engines, with race officials ensuring that all boats in our division have the same weight and engine capacity, so no one cheats, meaning it comes down to the skill of the crew. As for ‘Miss Geico,’ she is a 47-foot catamaran made of carbon, Kevlar, and S-glass, geared for high performance, meaning she exceeds speeds of 165-miles-per-hour!”
Steve explained how the Geico Insurance Agency became affiliated with their powerboat racing team. “Our original owner was John Haggin, who retired in 2010. John is a long-time entrepreneur and one of his best friends is the Vice President of Marketing for Geico and the guy who actually came up with their iconic gecko! Once Geico learned how fast the powerboats go and how exciting our races are, they came on-board in 2006, so we have been together now of 13 years, and it remains a success for all of us. It was John, in fact, who came up with our distinctive color scheme, to have a boat no one could miss!”
In addition to 10 World Championships and over 100 individual races won by “Miss Geico,” the racing team to spread the Geico brand participates annually in 20 national boat shows, 3 national air shows, 5 nationally televised P-1 Powerboat Races, 10 AquaX jet ski races, and numerous charitable events to assist “United We Race, Inc.,” with 100% of their proceeds to United States Veterans.
Turns or Straightaway; Beach or Boat
The “Miss Geico” team will arrive in Fort Myers Beach on Thursday, October 10, “to take part in the Race Boat Parade and ‘Roar Offshore Street Party.’ Friday is on-water testing, and of course Saturday is race day. I encourage everyone on Fort Myers Beach and all throughout Southwest Florida to attend all these, because when a powerboat race comes to a community, it is just like when the circus came to town! We particularly want to invite everyone to the dry pits at Salty Sam’s Marina on Friday, because our sport is all about interacting with the fans, so we distribute sunglasses and plush Geckos and giveaways of all kinds, and you get to actually reach out and touch the boat, speak with the crew, take photographs and get autographs, and ask all the questions you want. I seriously cannot think of another sport that is as fan-friendly as powerboat racing.”
Scott provided his advice to race fans on the best location to watch the races. “If you set up in the middle of the course, you will see the powerboats going all out, but most likely not a lot of passing. Most passing takes place in the turns, when the boats decelerate and pick their own lanes, so if one boat goes inside, the other will go outside so they stay away from each other’s rooster tails, then they speed right back up. While we obviously don’t like to dwell on this much, if you want to see a crash, the turns are the place to be. Remember as well that powerboat racing is not like NASCAR or bicycle races, where competitors try to get an advantage by drafting off one-another; in our sport, we like clean water! As for if you get a better vantage point on the beach or a boat, I am a boater and have been for my entire life, but Fort Myers Beach is an island, and sitting on an island is a great place to watch a powerboat race!”
Roar Offshore Events
Powerboat teams will begin to arrive as early as Monday, October 7. Thursday, October 10, is a ribbon-cutting at Salty Sam’s Marina at 2500 Main Street on San Carlos Island to debut the Race Village & Dry Pits that will remain open to the public along with Vendor Exhibits from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Race Boat Parade staging is on Main Street from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., with the Race Boat Parade over the Matanzas Pass Bridge from 5:45 to 6:15 p.m., followed by the “Roar Offshore Street Party” in the Downtown core through 10 p.m.
Friday, October 11, the Salty Sam’s Race Village, Dry Pits & Vendor Exhibits are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Cranes launch race boats into the water, with time trials, testing and tuning from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The DiamondHead Resort hosts a VIP Race Team Meet & Greet from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., with the “Roar Offshore Festival of Speed” at Salty Sam’s from 4 to 9 p.m.
Saturday, October 12, is race day! The Salty Sam’s Race Village, Dry Pits & Vendor Exhibits are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the Opening Ceremonies at the DiamondHead at 10:30 a.m. Race Times are 11 a.m.; 12:30 p.m.; 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., with the DiamondHead hosting the Award Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. and Closing Ceremonies at 8 p.m. In the event of inclement weather, Race Day moves to Sunday, October 13.
For Years to Come
“We are really excited to be back in Fort Myers Beach,” concluded Scott, “because it’s been 13 years since we were last there. Southwest Floridians should be thrilled, because this race will settle the World Championship in almost every racing division, including ours, so only the best of the best will be there, and that will be great for the spectators. Sarasota has hosted a powerboat race for 35 straight years, and they estimate we generate $28 million each year. CBS Sports will replay Roar Offshore to a national audience at noon on Sunday, October 20, showcasing local venues, and you can’t place a dollar amount on that positive publicity. Powerboaters and our fans come hungry and thirsty, and stay in your hotels and spend money in your shops. When the Roar Offshore concludes, we want this race to return to Fort Myers Beach year after year, for years to come!”
By Gary Mooney