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Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run Looms Large

While New Year’s Eve could be the most overrated night of the year for pretty much anyone with nominal brain activity and a pulse, New Year’s Day and the week leading up to it—at least for performance boat owners and their friends willing to trek to Sarasota, Fla.—is anything but. And the go-fast boating community has veteran Super Stock-class offshore racer and Kinetic Animation graphics business-owner Ryan Beckley, the founder of the Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run, to thank for it.

For performance boat owners from around the country, the Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run has become a welcome winter escape. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

Following the death of Gratton in November 2011 during the Super Boat International Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla., Beckley launched the event, which got it roots from an uber-casual Sarasota get-together of powerboat owners in the area.

Last year, the 10th annual event attracted more than 100 boats—as it has for the past few years—with participants coming from as far as California and Washington. What’s more, the Gratton happening, has evolved into a multi-day opportunity to escape hard winter weather and enjoy boating in Southwest Florida.

Given that the entire event happens on a weekend this time around, the run could well see its largest fleet to date.

“I expect all the usual suspects,” Beckley said. “I know a few boats are down, but I also know there are at least a couple new boats trying to debut at the run.”

Newcomer or veteran, those in town for the Gratton run won’t lack for casual group activities on the water.

“We’ll do our run to Tampa on Friday, our Gulf of Mexico run around Lido Key, Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island on Saturday and, of course, the 11th annual Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run on Sunday,” Beckley said. “As usual, the Gratton run departs at noon from the 10th Street boat ramp in Sarasota and heads to Caddy’s for lunch.

“I’ve been in contact with Tarpon Pointe Marina, which has been awesome in allowing us to use their docks,” he continued. “They received some damage to the docks from Hurricane Ian and are making repairs now. I’ve also been working with Caddy’s to make them as prepared as possible.”

(From left) Blake and Brock Gratton will join their friend, Matt Rice, in Rice’s Skater 438 catamaran for the run.

As they have since the event was launched, the Gratton family will be there for the New Year’s day happening.

“We always look forward to the event because it’s a great way for our racing family to celebrate my dad and also a great way for new event-goers to learn more about him and continue an awesome event in his name,” said Blake Gratton, who will enjoy the run with longtime friend Matt Rice and company in Rice’s 43-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran. “We love it.”

As for what to do on New Year’s Eve, participants will be on their own. But for those who dare to venture out, “There will be stuff going on all over Sarasota and Bradenton,” Beckley said.

Look for updates on the 11th annual Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run as they become available on speedonthewater.com. Pete Boden, speedonthewater.com’s chief photographer who is based in Sarasota, will be on hand to capture all of the action.

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