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Offshore Racing’s Youth Movement Continues With Buis And Palestra

Owen Buis, the son of Statement Marine owners Nick and Priscilla Buis, and Dalton Palestra—Owen’s best friend—wanted to enjoy the second race of their rookie Bracket 700-class race tomorrow in Cocoa Beach, Fla. But though their single Mercury Racing 300R outboard engine-powered boats will be on the racecourse in the five-team 1 p.m. contest, they will not.

Buis and Palestra are 14 years old. Both are in eighth grade and have a school function this weekend. So their fathers will run with their boats for them. Nick Buis will throttle his son’s 22-foot Activator dubbed Statement Marine. He’ll be joined by driver Rick Harmeyer, his son-in-law. Dean Palestra will take over for his son as driver in Statement Marine/Bad Decisions—a 22-foot Velocity—with regular throttleman Jerry Hartman.

Hartman is a longtime Buis family friend and customer who Nick Buis credits with being one of Statement Marine’s staunchest supporters during the years and one of the keys to its success. Hartman also was pivotal in getting the boats ready to race.

Quipped Statement’s Nick Buis about his son, Owen, who competed in his first offshore last month: “Now, all he cares about is boats.” Photos from the 2023 Race World Offshore 7 Mile Offshore Grand Prix by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

The teens originally wanted to compete together with Buis throttling and Palestra driving. But that plan fell apart when they learned that although 14-year-olds are allowed to compete under the rules for the Bracket 700 class, they need to be accompanied by an adult.

“Boating didn’t interest Owen at all for most of his life,” Buis said. “For many years, he was like, ‘Yeah, well, whatever.’ But that changed when he turned 11.

“That was three years ago,” he added, then laughed. “Now all he cares about is boats.”

Produced by Race World Offshore, the late-April 7 Mile Offshore Grand Prix in Marathon, Fla., was the first contest for both teams. The lumpy conditions were rugged for the Saturday contest. That was especially true for the Bracket 700 group, which has the smallest boats in the Bracket ranks. All are limited to a top break-out speed of 60 mph.

“I forget what position we finished, but Owen did well in his first time throttling in a race,” said the pre-high-schooler’s father. “It was quite an eye-opener for him. Running up and down the coast in Clearwater is one thing. Running on a racecourse with other boats is another. But he loved it.”

Owen Buis was unfazed. And he’s ready for more.

“It was really fun,” Owen Buis said. “We landed on our side a couple of times, but it was not that bad.”

Dalton Palestra won’t be in the cockpit of the Statement Marine/Bad Decision Velocity tomorrow, but his father will substitute from him in the driver’s seat.

His best friend is ready for more as well.

“It got a little rough in some parts of the course, but I had a blast,” Dalton Palestra said. “Even though we didn’t place high, I was just glad to be there. It’s super-cool how some of the big boats fly by you at a much higher speed.”

At some point, as in when they’re old enough, Buis and Palestra, would like to race together and progress through the sport’s various classes. That dream remains, but in the meantime there is much to learn on the racecourse in the Bracket 700 ranks. Their current plans have them at every other race as their academic lives rightly take precedent over their fledgling offshore racing careers, as well as competing at the Race World Offshore Key West World Championships, November 5-12.

“I am looking forward to Key West,” Owen Buis said. “I mean, it’s the biggest race I know and a lot of people will be there.”

Though they’ll compete in separate boats for the immediate future, Buis and Palestra still plan to share the cockpit of an offshore raceboat someday.

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