The Roar Offshore Powerboat Races will bring dozens of race teams to Fort Myers Beach October 7 – 13. As the Island prepares for this event, the Island Sand Paper is bringing our readers a close-up look at a few of the teams that will be competing.
“I moved to Florida from Illinois in 2000 and started working for a high performance boat company and did that through the 2000’s,” said Clyde Petty of Tampa, the owner and driver of Rollin’ Dirty Offshore, the twin-engine, 28-foot powerboat that will compete in the Roar Offshore Powerboat Races off Fort Myers Beach on Saturday, October 12, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. “I reached the point in life where working for other powerboats just didn’t do it for me anymore, so I bought my own and began racing last year, at Cocoa Beach where I came in 2nd place. Currently, Rollin’ Dirty Offshore is in 3rd Place in the National Championship standings, so that gives us extra motivation to come to Fort Myers Beach!”
The Roar Offshore returns offshore powerboat racing to Fort Myers Beach for the first time since 2006, with the Offshore Powerboat Association’s (OPA) 2019 National Championship, as well as the final stop of the six-race American Power Boat Association Offshore Championship Series produced by OPA and Powerboat P-1. Fort Myers Beach previously was a stop on the American Power Boat Association offshore powerboat races from the 1980s through the mid-2000’s, until the event went dormant. SunStream Hotels & Resorts are this year’s title sponsor, with its DiamondHead Beach Resort & Spa the official host hotel.
Powerboat teams will begin to arrive Monday through Wednesday, October 7 to 9. 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 downtown 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. DiamondHead hosts a VIP Racer 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 DiamondHead hosting the Awards 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.
Shamrock Irish Pub Sponsors Boat
One of Fort Myers Beach’s favorite watering holes, The Shamrock Irish Pub at 2201 Estero Boulevard, is the local sponsor of Rollin’ Dirty Offshore. “I met the Pub’s owner, Randy Riggins, at a Roar Offshore mixer to promote the race,” said Clyde. “Tim Hill, one of the race organizers, put out the call that we were looking for a local sponsor, and Randy approached me and said he was interested, so we had a good chat. Not only did Randy become our sponsor, but we struck up a really good friendship and are in contact with each other all the time, and are working on a deal where the Shamrock will be a main sponsor of ours for the entire next season!”
Clyde and his team will arrive in Fort Myers Beach the early part of Race Week. “At some point, probably that Wednesday, though we have yet to finalize that, we will have a meet-&-greet at the Shamrock Irish Pub,” he said. “Thursday evening is the ‘Race Parade & Street Party,’ Friday is full of activities but for us the main aspect is the powerboat testing, and of course Saturday is race day!” Clyde explained that this is the standard schedule at most venues, “but it never gets old to the race teams! The best way I can describe the reaction from the people we meet at the various host locales is that it is like when the carnival came to town! Everybody wants to meet you and shake your hand and kids look at us powerboat drivers in absolute awe and – to be absolutely honest – that is a pretty cool feeling! We are a small but growing sport, so in our position, interacting personally with the fans is the best way to grow our sport, and I see that growth now in leaps and bounds over the past year, especially with our races on NBC Sports, as well as getting much more coverage in newspapers and magazines.”
It takes a three-person team to operate Rollin’ Dirty Offshore, Clyde related. “In addition to myself as the driver, we have a professional throttleman and our navigator is a friend of mine for 20 years, because when you’re motoring out on the water at 85 miles-per-hour, it takes a real trusting team to compete safely and successfully. Remember that not only is each race course unique and different, but conditions on it can change radically from one day to the next. We may conduct race testing on Friday on water as flat as a sheet of glass, but race day may bring 8 to 10-foot waves. You never know what will come your way, and this makes our teamwork crucial, especially when you want to win as much as I do – I am almost willing to sink the boat to get a win!”
It was Clyde who christened his powerboat, “Rollin’ Dirty Offshore.” “When I first bought it, the boat did not have a name or even a license plate,” he recalled with a hearty laugh! “When I pulled into my very first race in Cocoa Beach, people saw how sparse we were and asked what we were going to do, and I just answered that we would be ‘Rollin’ Dirty Offshore’ and I liked the sound of that so much, I made it the permanent name and people love it!”
Best Seats For the Races
Clyde provided newer powerboat racing fans a few helpful suggestions to best enjoy the races. “When it comes to watching from the straightaway or turns, I absolutely recommend the turns, as that is where all the action is! Boats are coming out of the straightaways as fast and as hard as we can go, so once we get into the turns, that is where most of the passing takes place, and that is a really cool visual. Turns are also where the boats are most likely to catch some air, and that always elicits a reaction from the crowd, and it seems like we are going out of control at these times, so it really is organized chaos in the corners, as we are running a very fine line there to stay competitive. My other recommendation is, if you can get on a boat in an approved safety area, that provides a much better look than from the shoreline, giving you a different perspective, with as close of a view as you can get.”
For Clyde, the most enjoyable part of powerboat racing is that “you know what you are doing is really helping to grow the sport, and we often do this one fan at a time! People who love powerboat racing really love it, and those who experience it for the first time tend to become permanent fans after just one race. Like any other sport, if you do not have dedicated fans, then you really don’t have a sport, so if I can help make ten new fans at every race, that does my heart good, because I have a real passion for powerboat racing and I love to pass that passion on to others, knowing that I did all I could do to grow the sport. I do everything I can to promote powerboat racing because of my own passion for it – it is certainly not all about the money, because we do not make tons of cash; I was on the podium in all eight races I entered last season and won $300 in prize money for the whole year!”
Clyde would like to personally invite everyone from Fort Myers Beach and Southwest Florida to attend Roar Offshore. “Come out and experience it for yourself, and I guarantee you will have a great time! Not only are our events fun and exciting, but they are great for hometowns like Fort Myers Beach, not only to help put you on the map, but to boost your economy during what is traditionally a slow time of year. Once you experience the Roar Offshore, you will want the event to return year after year, and you will come back again year after year, with great anticipation, and that is for sure!”
By Gary Mooney