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These boats got vrooom! Festival coming to Clearwater


Staff photo by PAUL LAMISON”

Between 50 and 60 boats are expected to take part in this weekend’s race.

By NATALIE SHEPHERD | News Channel 8

Published: October 1, 2009

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It’s been called NASCAR on water, and it’s coming to Clearwater Beach.

The Super Boat International Racing Series is bringing its national championship to Clearwater starting Friday. It’s an of-shore racing event involving exceedingly high-powered speedboats.

“It’s probably the scariest sport you could ever do in your life, and I’m just proud to be part of it,” said John Haggin, team owner of Miss Geico Racing. The Geico boat is a 2,000-horsepower beast that can do up to 200 mph.

Haggin admits it’s a dangerous sport.

“Well, heck, you hit a corner at a G and a half, if we flip, there’s a good chance we’ll die,” he said.

Between 50 and 60 boats are expected to take part in this weekend’s race. Teams will start arriving Friday morning at Clearwater’s Coachman Park. The race course consists of a 5-mile rectangle out in the Gulf of Mexico. Boats typically race at speeds up to 185 mph.

Driver Marc Granet said he’s excited to show spectators what the sport is all about.

“The excitement, the speed, the sunshine, the bikinis,” he laughed.

Clearwater City leaders have a more practical reason for welcoming the event to town. Mayor Frank Hibbard said it’s a good way to kick of a string of upcoming events, including Jazz Holiday and the Ironman World Championship. Hibbard said this is a slow time of year for tourism, and he hopes the race will bring business to town.

“It certainly helps the hotels, the restaurants, just to get more exposure at a time of season that’s pretty much our valley for tourism,” said Hibbard.

Teams will test their boats on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., and the first race starts at 11 a.m. Sunday.

“We just love what we do. It’s the greatest thing, I’m hooked. I don’t want to do anything else,” said Haggin.


Natalie Shepherd can be reached at (813) 225-2703.


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