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Top Stories Of 2020, Part I

For the go-fasting world, the bad news of 2020 revolved around event cancellations from the Desert Storm Poker Run to the Race World Offshore Key West Championships. The culprit, of course, was COVID-19. Event permits were exceedingly difficult to come by this year. Without permits, there is no event insurance. Without insurance, there are no events. The math is pretty simple.

But to see 2020 as a lost year is in high-performance boating is to miss the bigger picture. My speedonthewater.com colleague Jason Johnson and I have spent the last few months producing our 2020 Speed On The Water Year In Review print magazine—and you need to order yours now if you haven’t already—and trust me, there were plenty of positive, feel-good stories this year. And we have a beautiful 196-page magazine coming your way to prove it.

What follows are my five picks for the stories of the year. Johnson’s picks will follow tomorrow. By design, we did not include any of the many people we lost, from Super Boat International head John Carbonell to New Jersey catamaran-lover Jeff Ackerman, in 2020. All are paid tribute in our Year In Review issue. Instead, we chose to focus exclusively on positive stories—not necessarily listed in order of importance—this time around.

The Industry Rises

Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats and other high-performance marine businesses stepped to help their communities face the COVID-19 pandemic.

Call any high-performance powerboat builder from DCB Performance Boats to Mystic Powerboats to place an order and you’re going to find yourself on a waiting list. With its emphasis on social distancing—long embraced by powerboat owners—the pandemic fueled sales of go-fast center consoles and sport catamarans like never before. But the industry itself rose up to face COVID-19. Mercury Racing created 3-D-printed safety masks. Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats also made its own masks and acquired more for frontline healthcare works, while launching food drives throughout the year. Fountain Powerboats also went into the mask-manufacturing world. The list went on and on.

Kuttawa Cannonball Run Claims A Big Spot On The Map

The second largest single-weekend event of 2020, the Kuttawa Cannonball Run attracted an event-record-setting 140 boats in its third year. Photos by Stephen Miles copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

Organizers Jeff Hoefling, Terry Martin and Stephen Miles never veered from their course in producing the third annual Kuttawa Cannonball Run in Kentucky in June. The result of their positive attitude and considerable effort was a 140-boat turnout, which made the Kuttawa happening the second-best-attended go-fast boating event in 2020 behind the Florida Powerboat Club’s long-established Key West Poker Run with 163 boats. Miles described the participants as “American’s just being Americans.” He couldn’t have been more correct.

The Offshore Powerboat Association Refuses To Surrender

Against all odds, the Offshore Powerboat Association produced three events this year

With something like 10 events on the 2020 Offshore Powerboat Association schedule, OPA head Ed “Smitty” Smith was pretty confident the outfit would pull off at least a few races this year. And while most fell prey to cancellations beyond his control, that’s exactly what he got—a few, thanks in part to Mark Waddington at Performance Boat Center in Missouri and organizer Jeff McCann in Morehead City, N.C. Abbreviated as it was, the three-event season was a triumph of the spirit, at the very least, for OPA and offshore racing in general.

Sarasota Pivots To Success

The inaugural Sarasota Blast On The Bay Fun Run was an instant hit.

Lucy Nicandri, the driving organizer behind the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival and the executive director of Suncoast Charities For Children, wasted no time in creating a replacement fundraising event of sorts for the weeklong festival after it was cancelled. With lots of help from her friends, including Simon Williams of Shore Thing Storage, she produced the first Sarasota Blast On The Bay Fun Run. The event attracted 120 boats and raised $50,000 for the charity, and Nicandri and company plan to bring it back in 2021.

Performance Boat Center Rounds Out Wright Performance Powerboats Line

The new Wright 320 catamaran will join Performance Boat Center’s 360 and (above) 420 models.

Reported earlier this month, the news of Performance Boat Center adding a 32-footer to its Wright Performance Powerboat line flew mostly below radar. But without question it’s one of the biggest stories of the year. With the addition/creation of the Wright Performance 320, the Osage Beach, Mo., dealership’s exclusive outboard engine-powered catamaran line now has three offerings of its own from 32 to 42 feet.

In roughly three years, Performance Boat Center has established its own catamaran brand and while putting Wright-designed cats, long a dominant force in Super Stock-class offshore racing but relatively rare outside of it, on the map in the high-performance pleasure boat market. When was the last time a powerboat dealer did that?

The answer is never.

Editor’s Note: Speedonthewater.com co-publisher Jason Johnson’s picks for the top stories of 2020 will appear tomorrow on speedonthewater.com.

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Top 10 Stories Of 2019, Part I
Top 10 Stories Of 2019, Part II
The Biggest Stories Of The Decade
2018 Stories Of The Year, Part I: Another Memorable Year
2018 Stories Of The Year, Part II: More Memorable News
2017 Stories Of The Year, Part II: Almost All Positive
2017 Stories Of The Year, Part I: Triumph And Tragedy
2016 Stories Of The Year, Part II
2016 Stories Of The Year, Part I
Ongoing COVID 19-Related Coverage
Commentary: Kuttawa Is The Weekend Hit Of 2020
Rangoonwala Foundation Boosts Sarasota Blast On The Bay Fundraising To $50,000
OPA Planning Most Ambitious Schedule Ever For 2021
Performance Boat Center Adding 320 To Wright Performance Catamaran Line