It's like NASCAR on water.
Dozens of hot rod boats are moored and ready to compete in the Bright House Clearwater Super Boat National Championship in the Gulf of Mexico off Clearwater Beach Sunday (Oct. 2).
Two heats, slated for noon and 1 p.m. Sunday, feature dozens of boats of all sizes competing in their individual classes based on size and horsepower.
“These boats are going to be traveling down Clearwater Beach at speeds in excess of 175 miles per hour," said Marc Granet, a racing legend driving for Team Geico. "This is is NASCAR on the water."
Super Boat International, the longest running professional offshore racing sanctioning body in North America, is in the final stretch of the season as teams compete to earn a National Championship in their respective classes.
Last year, about 25,000 people on nearly 2,500 boats lined up near the beach along the 2.5 mile track. This year, racers compete on a 4.4 mile rectangular track.
And more spectators are expected.
“Don’t be afraid to come out here, because 50,000 plus people will be on boats watching this,” said one of the event's founders Brian Aungst. “Even though we’re expecting a lot of people, a lot them will be on boats. We have the largest spectator fleet (in Clearwater) of any of these Super Boat races in the world… It’s going to be a great day.”
The weather should be sunny and a little cool for the event, according to the National Weather Service.
There are new parking facilities available at the beach, however trolleys will also run from downtown to the event.
Some of the prime viewing locations of the race, Chivas said, include the entire beach (no charge), a free designated area on , and $10 to $20 tickets for the pier, which also features a VIP section.
“If you don’t have a boat and want to be close to the action, you want to be at Pier 60 on Sunday,” Chivas said.
Sunday’s competitions are the culmination of the three-day super boat festival, which kicked off Friday and includes other events including a block party, concert, and a boat parade.
Vice Mayor George Cretekos said the race is another way to show off Clearwater's water.
“This year and next year, it’s going to be bigger, better, and faster,” he said.
The economic impact is estimated at around $12 million, said Bob Clifford, Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce president.
“The entire area benefits from this and we couldn’t be prouder of the whole community effort that’s been put out,” he said.