Though participants in yesterday’s Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run in Sarasota, Fla., woke to a blanket of fog—not uncommon in the area this time of year—the 11th annual happening celebrating the life of the beloved offshore racer put the exclamation point on three fine days of boating in Southwest Florida. Friday’s lunch run to St. Petersburg, Fla., dovetailed into Saturday’s fun run around Longboat Key before Sunday’s main event, a relatively short trek from the 10th Street launch ramp in Sarasota to Caddy’s restaurant on the Manatee River in Bradenton for lunch.
The Gratton brothers caught a ride in the 11th annual event celebrating their father with Matt Rice and a friend in his Skater Powerboats 438 catamaran. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Event organizer Ryan Beckley wisely delayed the start of the event to let the fog burn off. Still, it remained thicker in some areas than others and created some attrition in what turned out to be a 50- to 60-boat fleet, roughly half of what it was in 2022. A number of participants opted to the leave their boats at the docks—or put them on their trailers—and come to Caddy’s by car.
“Man, it was a good day, but the fog was sketchy,” said Beckley, who for the second time this week rode with Greg DiRenzo in his restored 28-foot raceboat. “Many people turned around or got fogged in and never departed. Most of the crew out of St. Pete and Tampa couldn’t cross Tampa Bay because of the low visibility. Lots of people just drove to the restaurant.
“As always, the staff at Caddy’s and Tarpon Pointe Marina was awesome,” he added.
Event organizer Ryan Beckley left his catamarans at home and enjoyed the day with Greg DiRenzo in his impeccably restored raceboat.
The twin sons of the famed racer, who died following an accident during the 2011 Super Boat International Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla., Blake and Brock Gratton caught a ride to Caddy’s with former offshore racer Matt Rice in his Skater Powerboats 438 catamaran. Like their fellow participants they were delayed by the fog, but they made it to Caddy’s in plenty of time to celebrate their father.
“I didn’t have a boat of my own to run this year, but you can’t beat driving with Matt Rice in a badass 43-foot Skater with twin 1100s running in the 140s,” Blake Gratton said, then laughed. “We ran into some fog on Sarasota Bay and had to back it down until it cleared out. But overall, it ended up being an awesome day spent with some familiar faces and a ton of new ones.”
For Justin and Erin Lucas and their two children in their new 36-foot Statement cat, a family getaway to Southwest Florida was their Christmas gift to one another.
For the first time in almost two years, Tennessee’s Justin and Erin Lucas, and their children Emma and Jackson, did have a boat of their own, a Statement Marine 360 catamaran. The kids wanted a trip to Florida with the family’s new 36-footer as their “Christmas present”—and their hardworking parents didn’t need to be asked twice.
For Justin and Erin Lucas, it was their third Gratton event—but their first road-trip with their brand new boat. Justin Lucas, who organizes the annual Lake Cumberland Thunder Run, described the long weekend as “an awesome and much-needed vacation with the boat and family.”
“The Gratton run was a really good time and we had a great few days boating and celebrating New Year’s in Sarasota,” he said.
Enjoy more images from the 11th annual Joey Gratton New Year’s Day Memorial Fun Run in the slideshow above.
Local to the area, former offshore racer Billy Glueck has missed just one Gratton run—last year’s event—since it began. Glueck didn’t bring a boat of his own this year but instead rode with a friend in a 39-foot Cigarette center console.
“It was pretty foggy till around 12:30 p.m., but we had a great time,” he said.
The founder of the Keys Island Runners Instagram-driven boating group, which has its next event set for February 24-25, Daniel Garcia, III, of Key West also had to contend with the fog in his 24-foot Progression V-bottom. But he and his girlfriend, Kristina DeSantis, were in good company. They were joined by their fellow Key West residents and friends, Troy and Chasity Curry, who ran their 28-foot Skater catamaran, and Lee Murray in his 30-foot Spectre cat.
“I was little worried about being the smallest boat docked at the hotel but everyone welcomed me and made me feel right at home and it was definitely a good time,” he said. “There are a lot of great people in this boating community. I had a lot of people walk up to the 24 Progression with nothing but compliments.”
The founder of Keys Island Runners, Daniel Garcia, III, of Key West, Fla., tackled the weekend in his 24-foot Progression V-bottom.
Asked why the Gratton event continues to thrive despite that many current participants, maybe even most, never knew the man it’s named for, Glueck put his finger on it.
“I think it’s just something cool for people to do at a time when there’s normally not a whole lot going on,” he explained. “I mean, when you think about it, there’s usually not much happening on New Year’s Day. And that’s what I think keeps people coming back.”
Of course, three days of boating in Southwest Florida—a little fog be damned—also has something to do with it.
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