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Bimini Ocean Challenge: Old School In the New World

Here’s the thing about “real” offshore racing, you know, the kind that’s done offshore: It’s a lousy spectator sport. You see the start. You see the finish. Between the two, you struggle to stay awake.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not spectacular, as countless Freeze Frame and Big Seas Productions videos have proven again and again. And when you think about it, a lot of spectacular motor sports are not particularly friendly to spectators. Yet they still have value in and of themselves.

With that in mind, you might want to consider checking out the Bimini Ocean Challenge June 10-13 in Sunny Isles Beach, Miami, Fla.

Though the actual race, which runs from Haulover Park to Bimini and back, is on Saturday June 12, the festival-like event features parties before the run to Bimini, as well as a more fan friendly Offshore Powerboat Assocation race on Sunday, June 13.

Last year, Aqua-Mania, a turbine-powered 50-foot-long Mystic catamaran completed the 102-statute-mile run in 43 minutes and 43 seconds. The boat averaged 145 mph.

OK, that blows me away because the last time I returned to Miami from Bimini I was in a 28-foot Formula performance boat with Formula’s Scott Porter, and we got pounded by 4- to 6-foot seas until we reached the Intracoastal Waterway. I’m guessing we averaged about 20 miles per hour.

It was brutal, especially when a flying fish—I kid you not—rocketed out of the water and hit Porter flush in the face.

“That’s one of the reasons why we hold the event in early June,” said Brad Schoenwald of Offshore Events LLC, the organizer and promoter of the Bimini Ocean Challenge. “The weather conditions are conducive to having a race and getting there and back in one piece. We also do it at then to celebrate the birthday of Sunny Isles Beach, our main sponsor, and to promote tourism at a time of year when it is traditionally soft.”

This year, Miss Geico, another turbine-powered 50-foot-long Mystic catamaran, joins the fray.

But the fleet for the event, which Schoenwald estimates will have between 20 and 30 entries, won’t just consist of hefty, big-buck offshore boats. The field will include everything from a diesel-powered Phantom and an outboard-powered Powerplay to a few Deep Impact center consoles. There’s even a 28-foot-long Skater catamaran in the mix.

“The Bimini Ocean Challenge is the real deal, and that’s part of the fun,” said Shoenwald. “Plus, it gives pleasure boat guys a chance to rub shoulders with the racers.”

And for those fans who take the pre-race party as—or more—seriously as the racing, Schoenwald said the Friday night barbecue, complete with live music and an exotic car display, will not disappoint.

“Last year, the Friday night party was be incredible,” he said. “It will be even bigger and better this year.”