ENGLEWOOD – It was a triumphant return for the Englewood Beach Waterfest and Offshore Powerboat Association World Championships over the weekend.
Intermittent showers couldn’t dampen spirits for thousands of spectators who came to Manasota Key to watch the seventh annual event.
“Our numbers for Saturday, we were thinking were around 10,000 present at the beach and we’re expecting similar numbers for Sunday,” Waterfest vice president Ray LaBadie said. “We have the largest field this year in racing – 69 teams – and being the world championships, we are the only place where there are two days of racing.
“It’s a point system for the winners,” he continued. “They have half-points for the first day and double points for the second day, so it gives everybody a chance to be a world champion.”
Trophies were awarded in 13 classes from six races held each day. Taking home championships were:
• Class 7: Hangin N Bangin
• Class 6: Rum Runner
• Class 5: Mean Streak
• Class 4: Old School
• Class 3: Team Woody
• Class 2: Team Woody
• Class 1: Bat Boat
• Stock Vee: LSB/Rev X
• Modified Vee: Sun Print
• Super Stock: JackHammer
• Vee Extreme: Knucklehead
• Unlimited: DF Young
• Factory Stock: MTI.
Factory Stock was a new category, the biggest outboard class, and the winning boat from MTI was piloted by first year driver Taylor Scism.
“This course is one of the more challenging we’ve done this season,” Scism said. “It’s also a lot of fun with that dogleg in it, so we’re really enjoying it. This has been a great venue and we’re looking forward to coming back next year.”
The 25-year-old from St. Louis, Missouri, also took home a trophy for Rookie of the Year.
The economic impact for the area from the last event in 2019 was estimated at $5.8 million dollars.
“This is my first Waterfest event, but I immediately wanted to get involved because I knew how much it did for our local economy,’” said Doug Izzo, Englewood Chamber of Commerce executive director. “We’ve got 30,000 people over three days that come out. It’s a family-friendly event, everybody gets along and has fun. It gives us one more thing to do and another reason to love Englewood.
“After the year that we’ve had with Covid, the more we can do to generate a positive economic impact is best.”
Cape Haze Marina is one of the local businesses that sponsors a boat on the OPA circuit.
“I was president of the chamber of commerce when the first endeavor to bring offshore racing back to our area did not go so handsomely,” said Ken Stead, the Marina’s general manager. “But several of our board members thought it would be a perfect fit for Englewood, so we went to work. It was difficult in the early days, but Englewood embraced the event, the county has embraced the event, and it brings a huge economic impact to the area.
“Each of these events brings in over $5 million in economic impact and that’s huge for Englewood,” Stead add3ed.
“The most important thing of all is our over 400 volunteers,” LaBadie said. “Without them, we have nothing. It takes an army to put this thing on.”