With an 80-plus boat turnout and participants who came from as far away as Sweden, yesterday’s fifth annual Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run in Sarasota, Fla., once again proved how a casual event with a laidback atmosphere can become an ongoing winner. Organizer Ryan Beckley and friends started their New Year’s Day tradition of heading to lunch by boat roughly 12 years ago, but began honoring Gratton—a beloved offshore racer who lived in the area—with the event shortly after his death in November 2011.
“There are boats still in the water,” Beckley said, then laughed. “We tried to go out today but the weather turned and it’s 10 degrees cooler than it was yesterday. Some of the guys who ran yesterday left earlier today for the Fort Myers Offshore New Year’s run down the coast.
For a closer look at some of the boats from yesterday’s Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run fleet, check out the slideshow above. Photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
“There were boats that came I had no idea we’re coming,” he continued. “The Perdition raceboat came from Massachusetts. There was a 32 Skater from Connecticut. Someone towed his boat down from Lake Cumberland, Kentucky. There people from Michigan and New York all over the place. It’s hard to keep track of everybody who’s there.”
As they have in years past, Gratton’s widow, Priscilla, sons Blake and Brock, and sister, Kim, attended the event held in celebration of his life. The 26-mile run ended with its traditional lunch stop and social gathering at the Tarpon Pointe Grill and Tiki Bar on the Manatee River.
Beckley said that he believes the event, which was preceded this year by a well-attended New Year’s Eve Party at his Kinetic Animation graphics shop, succeeds every year because it is easy and uncomplicated—and open to all comers regardless of vessel.
“It’s just fun,” he said. “It’s no hassle. We don’t ask for anything. You can buy a T-shirt if you like but there’s no ’20-dollar-per-foot’ docking fee or anything like that. You just pay for yourself, your lunch, whatever. It’s a fun group of guys with tons of smaller boats, center consoles, pleasure boats and raceboats. Todd Werner of Statement Marine was here with his green center console and all his kids on board. It’s just fun that everyone comes here for this.”