Almost six months—that’s how long it’s been since the Florida Powerboat Club produced its last event, the 2020 Miami International Boat Show Poker Run. That fact alone made last weekend’s Emerald Coast Poker Run in Destin, Fla., special for FPC head Stu Jones and his team.
Emerald Coast Poker Run participants such as Outerlimits owners Jim and Lynn Archambault enjoyed some of the finest water and weather conditions in the history of the event. Photos by Stu Jones copyright the Florida Powerboat Club.
With COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines to follow, it wasn’t quite business as usual for participants in the 70-boat event. The four-day happening had just one group activity off the water, the Saturday night banquet in the Fort Walton Beach/Destin Convention Center. Beyond that, boat owners and their guests were on the own after dark.
And it didn’t matter.
“For the longtime members of the club, that wasn’t an issue at all,” said Jones. “They have developed their friend groups and they stay in contact and get together for dinner. But for some of the newbies or those who haven’t run with the club for a while, the group dinners are especially important. Many if not most of them get into the sport, and the club, for the social benefits and vibe. So the banquet was a great opportunity for them to meet new people and make new friends. People meet people and become friends. It’s almost like a study in human behavior.
Returning to the poker run circuit last weekend, Florida Powerboat Club member Derek Wachob always travels in style.
“Plus, I got to spend a lot more time with everyone that night because only about 200 of the 300 people we expected showed up,” he added, then laughed.
The no-shows, said Jones, were a direct result of a perfect day on the water and the spectacular Emerald Coast beaches. Squalls predicted to hit the area in the morning never materialized and the entire day was flawless.
“The weather was incredible and we were able to run for the whole day,” said Jones. “Everyone stayed out so late that I must have had a dozen calls from club members who said, ‘Play my cards for me. We’re still having a blast on the beach and we’re going to stay awhile.”
Among those who made it to the Saturday night celebration was Bret Laso, who owns a 1988 40-foot Fountain powered by Troy Dennis engines. The Texas-based Laso hadn’t run in a Florida Powerboat Club event for a few years, and as bad luck would have it one of his vintage Speedmaster drives broke during Friday’s fun run.
Bill Wilds, another Fountain owner, towed Laso back to port in his 38-foot Fountain. The following day, Laso rode with Greg Delmonte in his Outerlimits SL 44 and ended up with the poker-run-winning hand.
For Stu and Jackie Jones, the Emerald Coast Poker Run delivered plenty of family time.
“When I saw Bret in the parking lot at the beginning of the event, he yelled, ‘Stu Jones. You’re the reason I’m in the club,’” said Jones. “That kind of stuff is so powerful—it reminds me why we do this. He’s the nicest guy. With his long dark hair, big muscles and tattoos, he looks like he could be a nightclub doorman. His boat breaks, and he still wins the poker run.”
For Jones, producing just one evening event was a nice departure from his usual routine of getting off the water, grabbing a quick shower and then having to “race out to the next function.”
“On a personal level, Emerald Coast was especially great,” said Jones. “It was fun—still a lot of work, but fun. I got to see people I hadn’t seen for a long time. And I got to run my Project 1080 Cigarette with my family, which we haven’t done a lot of this summer. All those great things, plus meeting a lot newbies to the club, came together. It was an overload on my senses.”
Scott James of Greer, S.C. ran his DCB Performance Boats M33R in the event.
Editor’s Note: Look for a complete photo gallery from the 2020 Emerald Coast Poker Run on speedonthewater.com later this week.