In terms of producing poker runs, Stu Jones of the Florida Powerboat Club is done for the year, a year that saw no participant fatalities not just in his events but in poker runs around the country. And at least for the Pompano, Fla.-based poker run organizer and his crew, which just two weeks ago produced a 214-boat run to Key West, Fla., that result—in an activity with undeniable inherent risks—was not an accident.
Shortly after the FPC Key West event, the club’s signature happening, I caught up with Jones, and found him in an upbeat yet contemplative mood.
“This year’s Key West Poker Run was nothing short of a full-scale military operation with respect to our safety management program,” he said. “Our safety program included Florida Wildlife Commission law-enforcement boats, Miami-Dade fire boats and FPC member-volunteer boats.”
Rather than avoiding discussion of tragic poker-run incidents—including the death of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats president Joe Sgro during last year’s FPC Key West Run—during the past several years, Jones actually addressed them in the club’s drivers’ meetings.
“The dialogue I chose for all four of our captains’ meetings focused around incidents that occurred last year at poker runs around the nation,” he said. “We spoke about some of the worst incidents, not to hang a dark cloud over the event but rather to remind everybody how safety is something that is a top priority—and that our guard should never be let down.
“Safety in any poker run begins with rhetoric, with dialogue that constantly reminds all participants that not just this sport, but rather an entire lifestyle choice, could easily go away if we continue to have serious incidents,” he added. “All of our efforts are pieces in a puzzle we put together that always presents safety as our responsibility and top priority. That is why we had a safe Key West poker run with 214 registered boats and no incidents. That is why we never stop talking about safety. I am so proud of all of the FPC members who took part with us this year.”