ENGLEWOOD — Anita Hagen best describes powerboat racing as the person in the driver’s seat operating the gas pedal while the passenger steers.
“The only thing is — there are no brakes on a boat that’s going 75 to 100 miles per hour,” said Hagen who co-owns the Mean Streak No. 555, a powerboat in Class 5, with her husband Vance. “This is our first time racing in this circuit.”
Vance is the throttle man for Jeremy Hellems the driver. They raced Saturday at Englewood Waterfest on Englewood Beach, and plan to return Sunday for the finals of the Offshore Powerboat Association’s World Championship finals off Manasota Key.
Vance boated with his father. At 9 years old, he knew he’d race boats one day.
“That day is today,” said Anita. “They say the only other person a throttle man and driver trust more than each other is their wives.”
The team travels with about 40 people from Weston, New York.
“They all come to watch us race,” Vance said. “They are our support system. We also have a great relationship with other racers. We’ve broke down twice and other racers offered to help each time. We are like one family here, it’s amazing. Englewood is a very nice place for racing.”
While team Mean Streak was on the beach, Lyla Benson, 9, and Arianna Colucci, 7, captured monarch butterflies inside a tent on the beach. They were visiting from Ocala.
Inside the family conservation tent 5-year-old Corbin Weaver learned about fossils and sea creators from Alison Goldy of Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota. The Myakka River Elementary School student spent more than an hour exploring sawfish, sea turtles and other sea life that live in local water bodies.
Mila Osypian, 7, and her sister Mila, 10, were visiting from Orlando. They made Thanksgiving crafts after they got their face painted.
“This is the only place I would move to,” said their mom Rowina. “This is such a family orientated town. We like it here. We like the boat races and Englewood Beach is so pretty.”
Doug Izzo, Englewood Chamber of Commerce executive director, said things were going so smoothly Saturday.
“There are thousands of people here having a great time,” he said, adding there’s free activities including a kid’s photo booth, sand art, build-a-boat crafts and other endeavors for children, along with food trucks and vendors in the Race Village at Englewood Beach.
Englewood Beach Waterfest board director William Lutz of Throughbread Golf Carts in Englewood said the event brought in more than $35 million into the region in the past six years.
“We’ve sold more tickets this year and have more sponsors now,” he said. “We also have 20 people that flew in from Ohio just to volunteer. They aren’t snowbirds, they just come here to help us. They use their time volunteering as their vacation. They are great people.
“If we have even half the crowd we did today on Sunday, that would be incredible.”
Racing will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Englewood Beach with the finals of the Offshore Powerboat Association’s World Championships, featuring several classes of powerboats. Gates open at 9 a.m. Visit englewoodbeachwaterfest.com and www.facebook.com/englewood beachwaterfest to find out more about tickets, offsite parking, transportation to and from Englewood Beach, and updated information on the races.