Powerboat Races Return to Fort Myers Beach

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    The Roar Offshore

    Fort Myers Beach was once home to extraordinarily popular offshore powerboat races until the event left after 2006, but thanks to Tim and Cyndee Hill of Fort Myers Offshore, this heart-thumping extravaganza returns on October 12 with “The Roar Offshore!”

    “Cyndee and I are board members of the local powerboating club, Fort Myers Offshore,” related Tim. “Fort Myers Offshore organizes a local racing series from October through April, as a non-profit fundraising venture to assist area schoolchildren with scholarships. The Offshore Powerboat Association (OPA) reached out to us because they knew about our love of powerboat racing, to return its racing series to Fort Myers Beach because they felt we have the knowledge to do so. We thought it a great idea and worked behind the scenes now for about 5 months to line everything up before we made our announcement to Town Council on April 1, and now it is full speed ahead!”

    “The Roar Offshore” events will be Thursday, October 10, through race day on Saturday, October 12. “There will not just be one race that day,” Tim explained, “but up to as many as five, with different size boats that operate at various speeds. We estimate this may draw upwards of 70,000 spectators!”

    Some powerboats cap their horsepower “but still go around 80 miles-per-hour,” he stated, “all the way up to the Unlimited category that can go 170 miles-per-hour! To optimize the race experience for beach spectators, the Start & Finish Line will be in front of the DiamondHead Resort, with the boats heading south to Turns #3 and #4 at Junkanoo on The Beach, with those turns roughly a quarter-mile apart. Powerboats then roar north until Turns #1 and #2 near the Fort Myers Beach Pier, before heading south again to the DiamondHead, so you will see them the entire time, from start to finish, to keep track of your favorite boat and driver. The slower powerboat races will be 12 to 15 laps, while the Unlimited will do 30 to 40 laps.”

    Cyndee and Tim are doing everything possible to make the races “as fan-friendly as possible. The entire course will be within your field of vision, and we hope to broadcast them locally, with a rebroadcast later on a major national network. We want to enlist a local radio station, so you can hear announcers broadcast the race from the comfort of your favorite beach restaurant or establishment, so you know what is going on. In addition to everything else, mid-October on Fort Myers Beach can economically be a slow time, and powerboat fans bring big money and they spend it!”

    Granddaddy of Them All!

    “The Roar Offshore” will not just be another OPA race, but the season-ending National Championship, with Tim calling it “The Granddaddy of Them All! There are 6 races in the OPA series, starting in May and culminating with Fort Myers Beach, with teams accumulating points based on how they finish, so that will make ‘The Roar Offshore’ even more interesting! A powerboat team may find itself in 4th or 5th place entering the National Championship, but depending on how they and the other leading teams fare, they can jump all the way up to First Place. As a result, we expect roughly 95% of all the leading boats, drivers and teams to be in Fort Myers Beach, with Miss Geico already committing. We will announce a more complete list later this month, and expect 65 to 70 teams to eventually compete, and that is a lot!”

    offshore racing, fort myers beach, returns to fort myers beach
    Dozens of race teams are expected to compete in the OPA National Championships in Fort Myers Beach in October

    The races cap off a three-day celebration: “On Thursday evening, October 10, we will start a boat parade from the pits at our cohost property of Salty Sam’s Marina, across the Matanzas Pass Bridge, tentatively through the Downtown Area, culminating in a street party, with live music and vendors. You can literally touch the boats, meet the drivers and teams, and take photographs. The boats are so wide that most teams trailer them at a sideways angle in the parade and that is impressive to see. When we appeared before Council, however, they had an excellent idea to continue the boat parade down Estero Boulevard past Town Hall, and it looks like we can turn everything around near the Fort Myers Beach Public Library, Beach Elementary School and Bay Oaks Recreational Center, so we are exploring that.”

    On Friday, race fans can visit the dry and wet pits at Salty Sam’s Marina. “We open the race village to the public,” Tim explained, “to see crews setting up the boats for anticipated race conditions, as well as the drivers testing them out on the course. Powerboats are too big to trailer, so large cranes hoist them over the seawall into and out of the water. That evening, there will be several meet & greet parties on Fort Myers Beach, to further interact with the drivers and teams.”

    Saturday, October 12, “is race day – the time everybody is waiting for,” exclaimed Tim! “The smaller classes go first, at Noon, up to the Unlimited class, with the final race over around 4:30 p.m., followed by the Awards Ceremony at DiamondHead at 6 p.m.”

    Goosebumps

    One major sponsor is the SunStream Hotels & Resorts, “where you can purchase VIP Packages to all the action at the DiamondHead, Gullwing and Pointe Estero Beach Resorts,” said Tim, “though you can watch from your own favorite spot for free on Fort Myers Beach! You can see the races anywhere, from the Best Western Hotel all the way to Junkanoo on The Beach, from your best beach chair to lounging in the water to your own boat outside the safety zone. There are several VIP Packages, however, including aboard the Turn Boats inside the course that get you as close to the race as possible. You can buy these later this month from our sponsors, at roaroffshore.com, or Facebook @roaroffshore.”

    While some businesses are already on-board, such as SunStream Resorts, Salty Sam’s and Creative Webmasters, “The Roar Offshore” is still seeking a title sponsor and others at all levels. “Sponsors are crucial,” Tim related, “as this race simply cannot happen without them or volunteers. To be a sponsor, contact us on-line; to volunteer, connect with the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce. Rest assured, however, ‘The Roar Offshore’ is a Done Deal – we are racing on October 12!”

    To Tim, the most exciting part of powerboat racing “is that it is NASCAR on the water! Conditions change throughout the race, so no two laps are ever the same!” What is out of their control is the weather: “We race in inclement weather,” Tim offered, “and compete in almost any condition except for lightning, when we stop until after the storm. This is, however, Southwest Florida in October, where it rains every day at 3 p.m., so we are ready, should conditions necessitate, to move the races back one day, to Sunday, October 13. After five months of preparing for this behind the scenes, the reality has now hit that we are actually doing this! Every time I think about powerboat racing back on Fort Myers Beach, I get goosebumps!”

     

    By Gary Mooney