Britt Lilly, the 25-year-old son of offshore powerboat racing great Art Lilly and his wife, Renee, pauses for a moment when asked about the four times he shared the cockpit with his famous father in 2008 and 2009. He’s searching for the right words to describe the experience—one that probably won’t happen again.
“I wanted to race my whole life, and I got to do it with my dad,” he says. “I was around offshore racing my whole life, around the team my whole life.
“I still want to do it,” he adds.
Not surprisingly, Renee Lilly, a good-humored woman who openly adores her son (“I can’t tell you enough good things about him—he’s perfect,” she says and laughs) has a different perspective.
“I am sure racing with his dad was the thrill of his life, an experience that nothing will compare to ever again, and I would have yanked him out of that boat in a second,” she says. “I would not have hesitated to ruin his fun. But as with everything Britt does, I don’t have that much influence.”
And yet in reality Renee and Art Lilly have had a poweful influence on Britt’s life, for he will eventually take over Lilly Sport Boats, a high-performance boat service, restoration, rigging and boat brokerage outfit in Severna, Md, where Britt has worked for the past eight years. The family has another nearby business called Indian Landing, an 80-boat marina that also is their home. (Rodney, Art’s Lilly’s 46-year-old son from a previous marriage, works at the marina.)
“Absolutely, Britt will eventually take over the sportboat business,” says Renee. “You have to be very outgoing in this business. Brit goes on all the poker runs, he’s out there every weekend. He’s able to talk to 100 people in a weekend. I think he brings in a lot of business just doing that.
“Rodney is more laid back,” she continues. “Britt is a mini Art. He’s very passionate. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree on that one.”
For his first six years at Lilly Sport Boats, Britt primarily worked as a mechanic. But for the past two years, he has worked on the restoration side of the business as a painter. And it’s fair to say he has discovered his passion.
“Two years ago, we lost one of our painters and my dad said, ‘Step up, now’s the time,” says Britt. “I just happened to be good at it. But I have the best crew anyone could ask for and everything I do wouldn’t be possible with out them.”
By his own account, Britt Lilly can’t draw a decent picture, much less create his own intricate graphic designs. He is simply good with an airbrush.
His father disagrees.
“Britt can draw much better than he lets on,” says Art. “What he thinks of as ‘can’t draw’—I’m not even close to where he is. I can’t even draw a stick man.”
To date, Britt has either painted or been involved in the painting of about 50 boats. And he says he loves it.
“No ifs, ands or buts, this is what I do,” he says. “I am definitely happy painting right now. It’s pretty cool to walk the docks during a poker run and see all the boats we’ve done.
“I turned wrenches for six years before I started painting,” he continues. “Every day is still a learning process—I’m learning every day. I have to. My dad is leaving me some big footsteps to follow.”