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Reflections On The Emerald Coast Powerboat Poker Run

When close to 100 boats came together two weeks ago for the Florida Powerboat Club’s Emerald Coast Powerboat Poker Run headquartered at the Emerald Grande Resort in Destin, Fla., Stu Jones, FPC’s founder and president, knew it was his opportunity to prove to the club members that the updates to the poker run were for their benefit.

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The Black Diamond team out of Oklahoma brought its canopied 52-foot MTI catamaran and its matching MTI 340X to this year’s Emerald Coast Powerboat Poker Run. Photos courtesy Florida Powerboat Club

Based on the feedback from several attendees who attended the five-day event (August 15-19), Jones and the team at FPC got the desired result they were looking for when 90 registered teams to took the Emerald Coast a week after the previous foundation FPC was involved with hosted its own run.

According to Jones, the changes provided a less crowded and safer poker run course, less congested lunch stops, more intimate parties and an improved VIP experience that his members have come to enjoy at FPC events. Presented by Mercury Racing, the run continued the traditions FPC had in place with the event before, including a truck and boat parade, a Miss Powerboat Week bikini contest, a fun run to Juana’s, a Friday evening captain’s party at AJ’s and, of course, Saturday’s eight-check point poker run followed by an awards party and fundraiser at Emerald Grande.

“I think FPC did a great job with the event this year, and I think Stu had a bigger crowd than he expected,” said Jerry Swanson, a Mississippi performance boater who brought both of his Skater Powerboats catamarans (a 46- and 50-footer) and his 41-foot AMG-inspired Cigarette Racing Team center console to the event. “This year’s poker run was dramatically better, but I think the event had a confused purpose over the past few years. Stu and the FPC team definitely changed that around this year by putting together a first-class event.”

When asked how he could possibly use three boats in the poker run, Swanson, who owns a home in the area, said, “I have a lot of friends,” and then laughed.

Check out the slideshow above for more images from the Florida Powerboat Club’s Emerald Coast Powerboat Poker Run.

Jim Archambault, who brought his newly acquired Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats SV 43 powered by twin Ilmor Marine 725 engines to the run and took home the award for Best V-bottom, said he had an awesome time at the poker run.

“This year’s run seemed to be more on a level that FPC members are used to,” said Archambault, a longtime FPC member who owned a Nordic Boats 42-foot V-bottom and a Sunsation Boats 34 CCX center console before purchasing the sit-down-style Outerlimits. “We had a great time. The dinners were excellent, the parties were awesome and there was such a great group of people contributing to the entire experience.”

VIP treatment is a must when it comes to any members, so Jones wanted to be sure FPC did all it could to bring that VIP experience back.

In all, Jones, who showed off the club’s soon-to-be-complete “Project 1080” Cigarette Racing Team 38-foot V-bottom project boat featuring twin Mercury Racing 540 engines, said the event raised $70,000 for local charities, which he stressed is what the event is all about. That—as well as keeping his club members safe and giving them the best experience possible.

“This was the best safety management team ever assembled for an FPC poker run,” Jones said. “We had six local fire departments and more than a dozen safety boats on the course representing 50-plus first responders on duty.”

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