So what do you see happening for the poker run world next year?
“I’m looking forward to 2015 with cautious optimism. If that sounds confusing, allow me to expand. Our recent Key West Poker Run just a month ago produced a strong roster of nearly 175 boats, and a lot of new blood for Florida Powerboat Club. Those numbers indicate that more people are getting back into boating and ‘newbies’ continue to be attracted to our sport. It’s great for the recreational performance marine industry, great for Florida tourism and certainly great for FPC. That gets me revved up, I’m excited about 2015 and I love what I’m seeing from our performance industry manufacturing colleagues. Gas prices are substantially lower than they were a year ago, and all these things contribute to my tremendous optimism for the coming year.
Said Stu Jones (pictured here with his wife, Jackie): “If we want to see 2016 and many more great years ahead for our sport and for our performance marine industry, I think we just need to start slowing down in 2015.” Photo courtesy/copyright Florida Powerboat Club
“The ‘cautious’ reference comes with the territory. For a poker run organizer, larger poker run events require substantially more management in all areas, particularly safety. We can always do the obvious prevention measures and pour more money on the threat by using the safety fees to hire more patrol boats, more fire-rescue paramedics, and perhaps recruit volunteer boats to help manage poker run logistics. But that does not stop the threat, and there is only so much an organizer can do.
“Sometimes I really feel powerless and frustrated when I see all the things that are ‘wrong’ with our sport. I won’t go into great detail because we all know exactly what I’m talking about. But to simplify, a typical scene is a boatload of people with no life jackets on cruising at triple-digit speeds. I see it over and over again. The real threat in 2015—not just for FPC but for ALL poker runs across the nation and even for John Q Public who is out sharing the same waterways—is that far too much power is often put into the wrong hands.
“Unfortunately, most poker run organizers aren’t in a position to make the determination as to ‘who’ should or should not be driving a particular boat—unless we see something and react with a disqualification or stiff warning. All events are driven by participant fees, and we run our events like a business. So in most cases, simple math means ‘more is better’ and it remains a fact that everyone likes attending the big events.
“Capping the entry numbers on events is not always an easy solution. Have you ever told a powerboat owner he can’t go on the poker run because it’s sold out? It’s not a pleasant outcome. As a business owner, you do whatever you can, to find a room or a dock to get that crew in. Because if you don’t they’re coming anyway, and then they are more of a threat because they have no safety program, no captains’ meeting, etc. On the safety front, we do whatever we can to secure detailed registration information, insurance declaration documents and conduct mandatory captains meetings. And for the most part, we have been successful in recruiting responsible, safety conscious owner operators who really want the same thing—a safe and memorable poker run.
“If we want to see 2016 and many more great years ahead for our sport and for our performance marine industry, I think we just need to start slowing down in 2015. Now! Enjoy the scenery, take some photos, re-set the GoPro so the girls are all in the same shot, turn up the tunes, think about how great life is and how much fun the days ahead are going to be. You can’t do any of the above at 150 mph.
“I would like to see an accident-free, fatality-free 2015 poker run year across the nation, and I invite anyone and everyone to call me or email me with their best ideas on how we together might achieve that result. I hope the boat and engine builders read this and understand the message, because our sport is on borrowed time if we don’t slow down in 2015.”