Given the effects of COVID-19 on organized go-fast boating events from poker run to offshore races so far in 2020, nothing is certain. The entire second-year, six-race American Power Boat Association Offshore Championship Series has been scrubbed and Race World Offshore was forced to cancel its contest in Dunkirk, N.Y. Though the Offshore Powerboat Association has either rescheduled or cancelled contests under its own umbrella and still has three races on its schedule, the organization has yet to run a race.
Most significantly—at least in terms of marquee value and racer and fan devotion—the fate of the 2020 Race World Offshore Key West Championships scheduled for November 8-15 hangs in the results of an August 4 Key West City Commission meeting.
But Race World Offshore has another Florida race on its roster before Key West, the 12th annual Clearwater Hooters Nationals September 25-27 in Clearwater, Fla. And though no one involved is guaranteeing it will happen, all are guardedly optimistic.
“There is lots of uncertainty, but I’m full speed ahead,” said Frank Chivas, the Clearwater-based businessman/entrepreneur behind the Southwest Florida happening.
Larry Bleil, the president of Key West-based Race World Offshore, said he completed the American Power Boat Association-required insurance paperwork for the Clearwater event last week. Bleil said Race World Offshore plans on producing the event—if permitted—even if the organization’s three-race Key West happening gets cancelled.
“We’re still a go so far,” said Bleil. “We’re all set unless something changes.”
Added Race World Offshore chief operating officer Rodrick Cox, “We just really have to let some time go by and make the best decisions. And we would make smart changes as needed.”
For local racers—and there are many in Southwest Florida—the Clearwater event presents no significant travel and logistics issues. But for those coming from other states, pandemic quarantine guidelines present hurdles no matter how desperately they want to compete.
“We would race in Antarctica if they had a race there this year and we could afford to get to it,” said Vinnie Diorio, the Wisconsin-based throttleman for the second-year Supercat-class SV Racing team.
Tyler Miller, the owner of the Missouri-headquartered M-Con team, echoed his fellow Supercat-class competitor’s sentiments but expanded on the challenges of participating.
“We are ready to race anywhere we can,” he said. “That being said we would only go to Clearwater if it’s no longer a hot zone for COVID and the majority of the Supercat-class agreed to race there.
“It’s very tough to make a good decision, because the racer in me says, ‘Let’s get to racing’ and the business-family side of me says, “Make certain you are remembering the possibility of 14 day quarantine and health implications after the event if normalcy is still not reality for when the race is scheduled.’”
Said Diorio of SV Racing, ““We would race in Antarctica if they had a race there this year.”