Back at home in Pompano Beach, Fla., Florida Powerboat Club head Stu Jones can finally exhale. With the exception of club members extending their stays in Key West, Fla., most of the owners of some 280 powerboats that made his outfit’s final event of the year had arrived back at their Miami-area starting points two days ago. No major incidents on the water were reported during the 29th annual run, which began last week with poker-runners departing from Haulover Marine Center, TNT Custom Marine and Grove Harbour Marina.
Jones returned with several personal highlights from the event—all made possible by the week’s forecast-defying weather. Despite intermittent rain during Thursday’s departure wave and morning showers in Key West on Friday and Saturday, conditions turned out better than what was predicted.
“Much of the predicated rain held off, temperatures remained warm and Saturday was—by far—the best day of the event,” he said. “That was much to the delight of Florida Powerboat Club members who headed to Woman Key for our raft-up off the island. With the light breezes nice temperatures, a lot of our members told me it was the best Florida Powerboat Club raft-up they’d ever seen in Key West.”
A veteran of Florida Powerboat Club events, Vermont’s Brian Hoar—one of the organizers of the Lake Champlain Poker Run—tackled the event in his Statement 360 catamaran with wife, Sandra, and his friends Jeremy Dewyea and Lynsey Palmer. The mostly good weather and water conditions for the week were not lost on him.
“For the last 50 miles, the run down was a little rough but the entire trip back to Miami was epic,” he said. “Saturday at Woman Key was amazing and there were so many amazing boats. It was an epic poker run.”
Jones described the club’s Poker Run Village outside its traditional Conch Republic Seafood Company host venue as “possibly the best ever as every exhibitor and sponsor pulled out all the stops” to create an environment that attracted thousands of visitors during the weekend. Not surprisingly, Thursday night’s body painting exhibition proved to be a hit, as did the Friday night sponsor appreciation party in advance of the Saturday evening awards ceremony and dinner celebration.
“Cigarette Racing Team, our presenting sponsor, assembled perhaps one of the most magnificent displays in the history of the village, not just with a stunner 42-footer but with an elaborate truss systems supporting giant-screen televisions,” said Jones.
Among the 52 MTI owners—by brand the largest owners group in the run—were Alan Wise, who took delivery of a new V-42 center console in advance of the event and ran it from North Miami to Key West, and Michael Ciasulli, who tackled the run in his colorful new 390X catamaran.
“It went well,” said Ciasulli. “Everyone enjoyed themselves.”
By 10 p.m. Saturday, the poker tables had been closed and the party was roaring, said Jones. Five winners were announced, but the grand prize of $10,000 went to North Carolina club member Bret Laso from the event-sponsor trio of Blackwater Boats, Deep Impact and Plantation Boat Mart, the Florida Key’s based international dealer for both brands.
Saturday’s raft-up at Woman Key was among the best in the history of the Key West Poker Run, according to Jones. Photos by Jerry Wyszatycki copyright Avatar Productions/Florida Powerboat Club and contributing Florida Powerboat Club members.
For Laso, who owns a 2008 model-year Nor-Tech 3600 catamaran powered by 1,200-hp supecharged engines, simply completing the poker run was among the highlights of the week.
“Our last three runs were ended short by two blown motors and one blown drive,” he said, then laughed. “Winning was nice as well.”
Key West departures started Sunday morning and continued well into Monday. Now Jones has a break—albeit a brief one given the club’s first 2022 event will be in January—from his organizer role.
“We had a great mix this year of seasoned Key West Poker Run veterans and a strong contingent of ‘bucket-list’ newcomers who made this their first Florida Powerboat Club event,” he said. “Many of them told me it exceeded their expectations.
“The 29th annual Key West Poker Run is a wrap,” he added, then chuckled. “Now, it’s time for all the individual stories from the event to begin.”
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