Just one month had passed since Florida Powerboat Club’s 2012 season kickoff in the Florida Keys, and another wave of poker run teams from around the country set their sites on the beautiful St. Petersburg, for the 2nd Annual Tampa Bay Poker Run. With an impressive fleet that included at least three all-new STATEMENT Suv’s and the head-turning 80 Nor-Tech Roadster “Lady Lisa”, it further illustrated the trend towards “different strokes for different folks” on the poker run circuit. Where performance boats ten years back were easily lumped into one speed bracket that ranged from 60 to 80 mph, poker runs now display a speed gap of almost 100 mph, comparing 50 mph+ center console boats of the Sport Cruising class, to the high-performance catamarans that often cruise at speeds close to 150 mph! But that never gets in the way of having fun on these FPC poker runs, where the event format accommodates these differences, and puts all participants on a level playing field in a game of chance…It’s Lady Luck that determines the winners of these events, and the TAMPA BAY Poker Run was no different.
Friday activities kicked off with a Fun Run from the Vinoy Basin in St. Petersburg to Hula Beach Club, a popular waterfront eatery at the Tampa Harbour Yacht Club & Marina, located along the Gandy Causeway near Tampa’s West Shore. The festivities continued at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, where FPC members checked in with Jackie and Laura, and attended a casual kickoff party on the Vinoy Terrace. This social hour was followed by introduction of teams and new FPC members at the mandatory captains safety meeting.
Saturday morning got off to a roaring start, as the first poker cards were handed off by new FPC gal Angela from the VINOY docks, and within moments the boats were blasting across Tampa Bay, with the Sunshine Skyway in their sights. Passing through the landmark bridge, a poker card checkpoint boat provided by Frank & Jill Dotson at Egmont Key, handed off Card #2, and the pack turned back towards the protected bay waters, with a much-welcomed following sea which gave them a chance to throttle up for the northbound run to the next checkpoint.
Hula Beach Club and Tampa Harbour Yacht Club & Marina provided a touch-and-go handoff for poker card #3, as the boats made the quick exchange, before heading back into the bay waters. With strong winds, the chop had picked up and it certainly required some careful throttling and trimming from these weekend warriors, some of whom suffered mechanical casualties when their equipment succumbed to the hard-pounding of the short chop. A variety of failures from damaged propellers to broken outdrives, took almost five teams out of the running before the mid-day lunch stop, proving that even baywaters can be every bit as rough on equipment as offshore running.
By 12:30pm and right on schedule, lunch at Jacksons Bistro at Tampa’s impressive downtown waterfront was ready to be served, as the sprited poker runners made their way onto the private outdoor dining deck, overlooking the impressive fleet. It wasn’t long before an update on the weather reported a strong storm cell moving eastbound across the Gulf of Mexico, and fast approaching coastal regions. Target…Tampa Bay! With this storm threatening the afternoon agenda and the 5th checkpoint at Little Harbour along the eastern shoreline of Tampa Bay, the choice had to be made.. Stay and be locked in for two hours….or…finish lunch and make a run for the Vinoy!! In less than two minutes, a unanimous decision by over thirty poker run teams took the Fast Track plan….get on the boats, LETS GO!
AWAY they went, and by 2:30pm, as Lady Lisa made her way into the VINOY BASIN, the black clouds moved in quickly and the first drops of rain sprayed the windshield, as Capt Doug put the big Nor-Tech into the dock. Every boat was in, moored safely and the covers were coming out! What next you ask? Like migrating animals with no more than an innate sense about moving simultaneously in a common direction, over a hundred boaters funnelled off the rainydocks to the Vinoy Resort Patio! Where there happens to be, a very large bar. Indeed, unlike the weather, some things are very predictable!
Saturday evening, the festivities continued, as the entire poker run group enjoyed a private evening at the exclusive SUITE SIX nightclub in the heart of St.Petersburg’s downtown entertainment district. With first-class dining from the area’s top caterers, Orange Blossom, the poker cards were played out and the vibe turned chic and sexy, keeping FPC members and poker runners bouncing to the beats until the wee hours! If there was ever a time to let the hair down, this was the time and the place. Thanks to the gang at Suite Six for rockin’ poker run bash!!
Congratulations to John Woodruff and gal Nancy from Team Windship for winning their first poker run, which included FPC poker run vouchers and apparel, Oceanled underwater lights, a heavy duty Odyssey marine Battery, Optix LED Lights…and most of all, bragging rights! Special thanks to John and Nancy for sticking around next day to display the way-to-cool 48 MTI Windship, at the Festivals of Speed Show in Vinoy Park. This was a huge event, and there is no doubt that WINDSHIP stole the show!!
2nd Place honors went to Ed Rieskamp from Team BLOWN INVESTMENT, who attended this event for his second consecutive year, and was very thrilled to see the 47 Fountain on the Tampa Bay Poker Run tee shirt artwork!
Special thanks to event sponsors Statement Marine & Suncoast Powerboats, and Loggerhead Club & Marina for providing event staging facilities. We would also like to recognize Series Sponsors Total Doller Insurance; Ilmor Hi-Performance; Skater Nation and Legend Marine Group of Texas for their continued support!
Stu Jones, Florida Powerboat Club
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