After spending much of of his life involved in offshore powerboat racing—without ever having actually raced a boat—marine industry ambassador and entrepreneur Dave Patnaude will take a checkered flag on his 36-year career during the Atlantic City Veterans’ Offshore Grand Prix, June 17-19. Patnaude, whose first race was as an 11-year-old volunteer with his father, Ray, on a “sweep boat” in the 1980 Benihana Grand Prix, will be focusing on his “first love,” the New Jersey Performance Powerboat Club. The 47-year-old Garden State native also be working on his marine consulting business and with full-time client Coty Marine, as well as developing new projects involving military veterans.
Dave Patnaude and friends John Parks and Gary Goodell of the Miss GEICO offshore racing team.
As a volunteer with the New Jersey Offshore Powerboat Racing Association, Patnaude eventually worked his way up to director of water operations and was responsible for overall coordination of all on-water activities. In 1997, Patnaude stepped away from active participation in NJOPRA and, along with his dad, Bob Cleveland and Rick Engstrom, formed the NJPPC, a regional boat club that produces rallies and other boating-related activities for special needs kids and military veterans.
The club was one of the first to adopt the “Poker Run Ten Commandments” and an “embrace-all” concept of membership, welcoming boaters of all stripes; even producing events for personal watercraft. Patnaude also was among the founders who in 2002 created ‘Shore Dreams for Kids,’ a day of boat rides, a picnic and a carnival for more than 900 physically and mentally challenged children and their families.
With the 2008 Point Pleasant Beach Offshore Grand Prix, Patnaude returned to race production and operations, as well as took a seat on the NJOPRA board of directors and has been active in both for the past dozen years.
“I’ve been blessed to meet some amazing people —and characters —along the way,” said Patnaude. “I owe so much too so many including all of the generous volunteers. But, along with my father, three other men greatly influenced whatever success I may have enjoyed: Gary Goodell of Miss GEICO, along with Augie ‘The Godfather’ Pensa and Ed ‘Smitty’ Smith of the Offshore Powerboat Association.”
Patnaude pointed to 2015 as his high-water mark year, when he produced three OPA sanctioned events for NJOPRA: The Seaside Heights Veterans’ Offshore Grand Prix, Atlantic City Veterans’ Offshore Grand Prix, and Manasquan Veterans’ Offshore Grand Prix.
In 2014, he began working with the Wounded Warrior Project in conjunction with the Atlantic City Race in 2014. The event includes a NJPPC Rally from Tom’s River, N.J., to the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino, where a car and motorcycle show also benefitting Wounded Warriors is held. NJPPC members and racers alike take the veterans and their families out on the water, which provides an often needed adrenalin rush many of these men and women haven’t experienced since active duty. The weekend concludes on Sunday with a full day of offshore racing excitement close to the beaches of Atlantic City.
While this will be Patnaude’s final year of race production and operations, he will continue to produce the Grand Prix weekend’s related events.
A lifelong Jersey Boy, Patnaude grew up in Union but moved to the Jersey Shore—where he spent his summers—more than 20 years ago. He currently lives on the waterfront in Toms River, and often can be often found on Facebook checking into “Big Poppa’s Backyard” enjoying a bourbon and cigar while watching the sunset from his patio.
Editor’s Note: A longtime friend of Dave Patnaude, Tony Esposito is a frequent contributor to speedonthewater.com.