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Commentary: Remembering Joey Gratton

Ten years ago today, Joey Gratton of Sarasota, Fla., survived an accident during the first day of the Super Boat International Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla. He did not survive the rescue attempt that followed it.

On November 11, 2011, Joey Gratton ran the last offshore powerboat race of his life in Key West, Fla. Photos by Pete Boden.

That’s a blunt and brutal statement, but then the truth often is. The whole episode reeked of incompetence to me, so I followed and reported on the three-year, wrongful death lawsuit that ensued and ended with a confidential settlement.

That doesn’t make me special or remarkable. It just makes me a reporter, though I admit I was amused and even a little flattered that SBI wouldn’t issue me press credentials for those three years.

Gratton’s death rocked the high-performance powerboating community, particularly in Sarasota where he was a hometown hero and—by all accounts—among the most gracious folks you could ever hope to meet. He left behind his adoring wife, Priscilla, a woman of deep character, and his fine twin sons, Blake and Brock.

Gratton’s legacy lives on in his family, as well as an annual New Year’s Day boating event celebrating his honor.

He was 59 years old. He did not get to watch his grandchildren growing up. But thanks to the efforts of his friend and fellow and offshore racer, Ryan Beckley, his legacy also continues in the annual Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run in his hometown.

The first day of the American Power Boat Association/Union Internationale Motonautique Offshore Word Championships is behind us. Everyone came back alive. But 10 years ago today, Joey Gratton did not.

And that’s something to remember.

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