Roar Offshore National Championship makes splashy return to Fort Myers Beach
With crowds lined up along northern Fort Myers Beach, the powerboats of Roar Offshore National Championship were enthusiastically welcomed back to town with a parade, street festival and ultimately racing itself.
Even the shorebirds lined up along the beach to see what the commotion was about as the sounds of the loud engines blasting away on the Gulf of Mexico Saturday.
If an award was given before the racing for most impressive boat, it would certainly have gone to the catamaran of team M-CON, which captured the Super Cat divisional championship for the Kansas-based team with its performance Saturday following an early afternoon downpour which briefly delayed the racing.
Dressed in pink, the crew and team paid tribute to team owner Tyler Miller’s late sister Jaimie, whose name is featured prominently on the boat. She died in December after a bout with breast cancer.
“We’re racing in memory of her,” Miller said. “We’re trying to keep her alive through offshore racing.”
Matt Tillman, who was part of the large M-CON team attending the races, brought his two children to the competition. He said the group was a “bunch of friends that all like boating and racing and we all help out.”
Miller, who owns an underground utility company, said “it takes a big crew to get it all together.” The new boat the team is racing this year cost more than $1 million to build along with pricey upkeep. The crew carries a spare engine with them to the races.
“There is a lot of logistics. It takes six to eight people to keep this running,” Miller said. “We’re blessed to have a great group of people with us.”
Miller was last in Fort Myers Beach for the races in 2019. He said he enjoys the “fans and the crowd” on Fort Myers Beach. “It’s a beautiful town.”
Tim Hill, who helped bring back the Roar Offshore power races with his wife Cyndee to Fort Myers Beach in 2019, and again this year, said the championship racing was just as well attended as last time.
“We picked up right where we left off in 2019,” Mr. Hill said. Hill said the turnout was the largest of any race site for the year in the Roar Offshore competition. “The attendance was just as good or better (than 2019),” he said.
Brian Guy, the driver of Team Jackhammer’s Class 7 boat, brought his daughter Kora to the races with him. Guy’s team second in Class 7 and third in the super stock division Saturday of the Roar Offshore National Championship on Fort Myers Beach.
Guy said the conditions on the Gulf of Mexico were “a little sporty” due to the waves from the oncoming rainstorm. Guy said the last turn was particularly tight, leading some boats to roll over. “A lot of (drivers) took it harder than they should have,” he said.
A native of Palmetto who runs an irrigation and landscaping company, Guy said he just started racing three months ago. “I grew up around boats my whole life,” he said.
Grant Greytok, co-owner and driver of the GNS powerboat, finished second in Class 4 Saturday. The Texas-based team brought a large contingent with them to Fort Myers Beach, including crew chief and throttle man Bill Reeves who has been partnering with Greytok on powerboats since the 1990’s.
“To me, it’s the biggest thrill in the world,” Greytok said.
He and Reeves bought their current boat in 2019 and rebuilt it. “Every race has gotten better and better,” Greytok said. Greytok said his boat got into a tight spot on the first turn Saturday while in between powerboats. “We got hosed down,” he said. Greytok estimated 200 gallons of water landed on his deck off the turn. “I thought I was going to down,” he said. He and Reeves recovered, though their intercom and GPS went out from the water deluge.
Greytok, who is a senior construction project manager, said it’s expensive to race. “It’s a lot of money and a lot of time. I’m extremely lucky.” Eddie Jacobs, who has helped support the team with transporting the boat and working on repairs, said Greytok “has a lot of good friends” to help. “I know enough about engines to be dangerous,” Jacobs said.
Greytok said the powerboat racing community is like “one family. They will give you the shirt off their back. They will you give you anything in their pits to help you.”
Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce President Jacki Liszak said the championship was a big deal “after what we’ve had to go through over the last year and a half. It’s been kind of a crazy year.”
The festival of racing was the biggest event on Fort Myers Beach since the pandemic hit last year and canceled a host of parades and festivals.
“It’s super phenomenal to welcome it back again,” Liszak said. “It’s great to see everybody out and enjoying each other.”
As for the organizers of the event, they have their eyes set on next year already. “We look forward to doing this next year, and the next year and the next 20 years,” Mr. Hill said.
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