With the exception of hurricane season, Key West, Florida, is a fine place to be any time of year. Even in mid-July when the humidity is crushing, the daily breeze, combined with casual clothing requirements, make it tolerable in the southernmost point in the United States. Plus, for heaven’s sake, you’re in Key West. If it was good enough for Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, a bunch of rogue roosters and a herd of feral cats, it’s good enough for you.
Key West is particularly fine during the second week of November when Super Boat International holds its annual Offshore “World” Championships. I place “World” in quotation marks because, frankly, without a true international field it’s more of national championship than a world championship (then again, that doesn’t seem to be a concern in Major League Baseball’s World Series). Regardless, if you go to one offshore racing event in your lifetime, the Key West Worlds is the one.
There are races Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Go Monday to Monday and you’ll catch enough racing action and Duvall Street craziness to carry you through the winter. Maybe all of your winters.
Sorry to say I missed the Key West Worlds this year. No matter, colleagues and friends were there fighting the good fight, and I know I’ll be back. But it got me thinking about other events that you—if you’re into high-performance boating—shouldn’t miss. Excluding the Key West Worlds, here are my top five highly subjective—as is the nature of a column—picks, ordered by their likely 2010 dates.
Miami International Boat Show (Feb. 11-15): You’ll see a few new models at regional boat shows, but to see them all you’ve got to be at the Miami event. You can see everything on Thursday and Friday even if you roll into the show at noon each day. (At least that’s what I’ve heard). Then you have two days in Miami to play before you catch your Sunday flight—think early afternoon—back home.
Miami Boat Show Poker Run (Feb. 18-21): Starting Thursday, one week to the day after the Miami Show opens, the Miami Boat Show Poker Run is not the biggest poker run organized by the Florida Powerboat Club. It’s not even the longest, as Miami to Islamorada is a relatively short run, even with a lunch stop. But for top-notch hardware and a truly cool easygoing crowd, the Miami run is my hands-down favorite.
Desert Storm Poker Run (Apr. 22-25): I have to be honest: I’ve never covered or attended the Desert Storm Poker Run. But I know many people who have, people whose opinions I trust, and they swear by it. On Friday night in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, a boat and product show takes over the street, and by all accounts it makes for one incredible evening. The event attracts the finest go-fast fleet west of the Mississippi, but here’s the kicker: Desert Storm has become so popular it’s pulling heavy hitters from the East Coast high-performance scene as well.
Atlantic City Poker Run (June 24-27): From Springsteen to “The Sopranos” (yes, I know it was a TV show … sort of), New Jersey has its own style. With its limited 50-boat fleet and “everybody knows everybody and it doesn’t matter if you know anybody” vibe, the Atlantic City Poker Run epitomizes go-fast boating in the Garden State. You will make friends at this run. Or else.
Lake of the Ozarks Shootout (Aug. 23-29): A throw-back to the days of hometown drag races down Main Street—but a whole lot safer and more organized—the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout is the world’s premiere speed event for high-performance pleasure boats. For two days in front of huge spectator fleet, participants pilot their boats down a 1-mile course, shooting for top speed. The fastest boat—one ran 209 mph a few years back—is dubbed the “Top Gun.”
If I could cover or attend all these events next year I’d be in heaven. If not, I’ll gladly take Key West alone and be fine. Just fine.