From the early 1970s to the mid 1990s, Richie Powers was a hero to offshore powerboat racing fans—and a formidable foe to his competitors. Though the gifted throttleman, who claimed four consecutive Union Internationale Motonautique Offshore Open-Class World Championships from 1973 through 1976 in his storied career, exited the sport in 1994 after an accident in Key West, Fla., led to the death of his teammate Tom Gentry, he never strayed far from the high-performance marine industry.
Legendary offshore powerboat racing world champion Richie Powers (left) signed a replica Dry Martini model handcrafted by Phil Morris aboard the actual raceboat during the 2017 Cowes-Torquay Classic endurance race in the United Kingdom. Photo by Malc Attril copyright Malc Attril Photography
Now 74 years old and living in Myrtle Beach, N.C., Powers is the director of business development for South Florida-based FB Marine Group. For company principals Randy Sweers, himself a veteran offshore racer and a longtime Powers admirer, and his wife, Kim, Powers is family. Most recently, Kim Sweers interviewed the self-described “hired gun’ in offshore racing, who for the better part of two decades was paid handsomely to throttle boats for celebrities from European royals to Hollywood movie stars, on her hot new Boat Boss video show.
“Before Kim had me on Boat Boss I sent her my bio,” Powers said, then chuckled. “She said, ‘Oh my god Richie, you’ve got to write a book.'”
In Key West, Fla., for the Florida Powerboat Club poker run earlier this month, Sweers called it early one night and headed back to her hotel. A “nonfiction junkie,” she began researching Powers and became engrossed in the stories she was able to find about him. Later that evening, she discovered she was researching Powers 26 years to the day after his accident with Gentry. Sweers, who has journaled daily for years, began writing what will be the forward for Powers’ biography, which she will co-write with him.
“Randy posted what I wrote that night on Facebook and it went viral,” she said. “I called Richie and said, ‘If you tell me your story I’ll help you write a book. What do you think?’ And he liked the idea.
“It was crazy how ridiculously well Richie got paid to race—and who flew him all over the world to do it,” she continued. “There are a lot of stories in offshore racing, particularly the Don Aronow story, that highlight the dark side of the sport. But there also was a glamorous side to it, and Richie’s story has a lot of that. But really, with all of his fellow racers like John Tomlinson, who actually jumped in the water to help save Tom Gentry, it’s the story of a brotherhood.”
Richie Powers and Kim Sweers plan to have his biography completed in late 2021.
For Powers, the project isn’t about grabbing attention. It’s about capturing history.
“Other than John Crouse, who wrote Searace, there hasn’t been much written about the history of our sport,” he said. “Offshore racing and the people involved have hardly any written history to support what they accomplished.”
Powers paused then laughed. “Brownie wrote a book last year,” he said, referring to high-performance marine industry legend Alan Brown’s Tales From Thunderboat Row. “Brownie set the example. If he can do it, so can I.”
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