Thanks to a little help from a friend via social media, the Stock-class fleet will have one more competitor in Key West next week.
With less than a week to go before the Superboat International 36th Annual Key West World Championships in Key West, Fla., veteran Superboat Stock class racer Lee Austin had resigned himself to having to miss the event.
“I had pretty much put the worlds out of my program,” said Austin. “It just wasn’t coming together.”
He thought he had lined up some sponsors, but they had fallen through. “It’s pretty expensive to go there without backup,” Austin explained.
Austin had been helping fellow Superboat Stock class competitor Ryan Beckley get his 30-foot Skater ready to upgrade to Mercury Racing 300 XS motors and Austin mentioned his financial predicament. In addition to being a veteran offshore competitor, Beckley is good at securing sponsors. He put out a message on Facebook, simply stating that Austin and his self-designed 30-foot LA Marine catamaran needed a sponsor or the team was going to sit out Key West.
Enter James Mills, the owner of Specialty Marine Center in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. “He saw my post on Facebook and he contacted me and I put him on the phone with Lee,” said Beckley.
Mills and Beckley have been friends for a few years and Mills is a performance boat enthusiast who owns a 32-foot Skater. After Mills and Austin started talking, Beckley, who owns Kinetic Animation in Sarasota, Fla., a company that does vinyl wraps and decals, sent Mills a rendering of Austin’s boat with the Specialty Marine Center logo on it. “I did a couple of renderings with their name imposed on the side of the boat,” said Beckley. “It helps a lot.”
Austin and Mills reached an agreement and when I called Austin, who is based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., earlier today, he was in the process of getting his boat and its new 300 XS outboards prepped for the trip to the Southern-most city in the United States. Austin throttles the boat and Damon Marotta drives.
“I saw a guy who wanted to get his handmade raceboat out there,” said Mills. “If I can’t do it and I can help somebody else do it, that’s the way I live my life.”
In the past, Mills and his company had sponsored Scott Porta with parts and good deals on motors. Mills enjoys the sport and is possibly looking forward to sponsoring Austin for the 2017 season as well. The boat will be in Key West for the parade that kicks off the week of racing on Sunday and it will be towed by a Specialty Marine Center truck.
“We want to give him the best we can,” said Austin. “He’s excited about going into the parade.” Added Mills, “We need to show off the boat and get the fans riled up.”
Beckley is just happy that he was able to help get Austin to Key West. Once they get on the water, of course the two competitors will race hard to beat each other and afterwards, if one team needs some help with a repair the other will most likely be there to help. That’s what friendly competition is all about.