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HomeEvent CoverageJoey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Run Tops 100 Boats

Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Run Tops 100 Boats

The finale of four fine days of high-performance powerboating in Southwest Florida, the ninth annual Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run attracted more than 100 boats from new sport catamarans to vintage V-bottoms. That was the estimated turnout from Ryan Beckley, the event’s Sarasota, Fla.-based organizer, as well as multiple participants.

The 26-mile run started in Sarasota and ended at Caddy’s restaurant in Bradenton.

“It was so crowded we ended up going to another restaurant,” said Stu Jones, who as the president of the Florida Powerboat Club is no stranger to producing large events. “But it was such a great day.”

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Reigning F1 H2O world champion Shaun Torrente and his wife, Flavia, treated friends to a ride today on Unicorn, his unique 31-foot Skater catamaran (click image to enlarge). Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.


Jones, who actually traveled across the state by boat—his Project 1080 Cigarette 38 Top Gun—with his wife, Jackie, and their two teenage sons, for today’s event and last Saturday’s Fort Myers Offshore New Year’s fun run to Marco Island, is one of several well-known members of the go-fast boating community at the event. Lake Cumberland Thunder Run organizer Justin Lucas, his wife, Erin, and their children hauled their 32-foot Spectre catamaran all the way from their Tennessee home for the happening. Spartan Powerboat Club founder Del Flores hauled his 37-foot Velocity all the way from the Garden State to be there. Chris and Quinn LaMorte, who live in New Jersey and own a 36-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran they keep in Florida during the winter, celebrated their third wedding anniversary at today’s event.

Super Cat Fest impresario Alvin Heathman and his friend Slug Hefner came all the way from Central Missouri to run Hefner’s Mystic Powerboats C3800 catamaran, which he recently had repowered with Mercury Racing 450R outboard engines. The list of well-known attendees today goes on and on.

Last year’s event was hampered by a less-than-ideal dockage situation. In 2017, the bad weather knocked most of the boats off the water—most of those who came to the lunch venue arrived by car. No such challenges arose this year.

“What an awesome first day of the New Year,” said photographer Pete Boden, who captured all the action today as he has throughout the week. “We had temperatures in the 70s and blue skies.”

“Last year we had a perfect day but there was no place to dock,” said Bob Christie, who participated in the Gratton happening with his wife, Madelyn, in their MTI 340X catamaran. “This year is better.”

With more than 100 boats and 500-plus people participating, the Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run reached a milestone.

As in years past, members of the Gratton family came to celebrate the well-loved and respected offshore racer, who died following an accident in 2011 during the Super Boat International Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla. With Beckley as the tip of the spear, what had long been a casual get-together of local Sarasota powerboat enthusiasts became something bigger on New Year’s Day 2012.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Blake Gratton, one of Joey Gratton’s twin sons. “It’s hard to believe he used to do the run with only eight boats or so. Now there are hundreds. He’d be in awe to see all of this. I’m very happy we can honor him in such a fun way.”

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The Grattons were well represented today in the ninth annual event celebration of their family patriach.

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