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The Youngest Guns In The Key West Worlds

Best friends in the same grade and school, Owen Buis and Dalton Palestra had hoped to share the cockpit this year in their Bracket 700-class, but current American Power Boat Association rules for the category didn’t allow it. So the now-15-year-old rookies competed on separate teams in the category.

Owen Buis and Dalton Palestra will be the youngest competitors at the 2023 Race World Offshore Key West World Championship—and they could be the youngest races in the history of the event. Photo courtesy Nick Buis/Statement Marine

Both are headed to the Race World Offshore World Championship, November 6-13 in Key West, Fla., and one thing is certain: Buis and Palestra will be the youngest competitors in the three-race event. The may even be the youngest racers in the history of the Key West Worlds, though such records are not kept.

Owen Buis throttles alongside his father, Nick, of Clearwater, Fla.-based Statement Marine. And it’s safe to say the quiet young man didn’t disappoint his well-known dad.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Nick Buis said. “It is the hardest thing in the world to hold 60 mph and not break out of the class speed limit. That’s not to say we never broke out this season—we did—but he is 100-percent focused and he’s gotten really good. He feels the boat really well.

“The funny thing is, Owen couldn’t have cared less about performance boats until the Tampa Bay Poker Run in either 2012 or 2013,” he added, then laughed. “Now I come home and he’s watching Florida Powerboat Club videos and I get to hear (club president) Stu Jones’ voice all night.”

Though Dean Palestra doesn’t share the cockpit with his son—that role falls to Jerry Hartman—he does work on the team’s crew. Like his friend Buis, Palestra is delighted with his son’s rookie-year progress.

“We are proud of him, the whole team and how they have done in their first year,” Palestra said. “They have been really good out there.

“Dalton has been boating since he was a little one,” he added. “On the water, four-wheelers—he just likes to go fast.”

Though Buis and Palestra currently race with different Bracket 700-class teams, they hope to race together in the near future.

Nick Buis and Dean Palestra are hoping that the members of the Bracket 700 class will vote to allow their sons to race together next season. An age-restriction change for the class in 2024 also would require approval from the APBA Offshore Racing Commission as well as safety approval, per the organization’s current guidelines.

“I talked my good friend and offshore racing team owner Win Farnsworth about it after the Clearwater (Fla.) race,” Buis said. “And Win said, ‘Well, they better not ask me because I absolutely will vote no.’ I was shocked. When I asked him why he said, ‘Because the bond you and your son are developing is so important.’

“That made me think,” he continued. “Dalton’s parents were there and I had them ask Win the same question, and he gave them the same response. And he was right about he bond we have developed with the boys. It’s incredible.”

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