ENGLEWOOD — The Charlotte Harbor Super Boat Grand Prix may not be until April, but there’ll be a little taste of what’s to come in Monday’s Pioneer Days Parade.
One of the high-powered boats expected to compete in the race off the coast of Manasota Key will be featured in the parade, which starts at 9 a.m. Monday at Old Englewood Road and Artists Avenue, and comes up West Dearborn Street to McCall Road.
The Watt-Ahh 117, a 36-foot-long catamaran owned by Rob and Dana Gourley and Eddie and Sue Tamberino of Watt-Ahh Offshore Racing, will be featured in the parade, Rob confirmed Friday.
“Eddie’s been in (the racing scene) for 15 years, and I’ve been in it for seven,” Rob said. “I came in originally as a sponsor.”
Eddie and Rob used to race V-Hull boats, before purchasing a catamaran from a retired racer in upstate New York. Their newly acquired boat has participated in three races, winning second place at the Sarasota Grand Prix in July, according to Rob.
“The difference is that the cat rides on a cushion of air at over 60 to 65 mph, while the V-Hull sits in the water,” he said. “It’s almost like a car versus a motorcycle.”
Eddie and Rob hired Nate Hunt to operate the catamaran due to his experience.
“We were asked by Jerry York, several years ago, when he was looking to bring the race to Englewood,” Rob said. “I met some other people and we (came together to make) the Charlotte Harbor Super Boat Grand Prix happen.”
York is president and organizer of the race.
“It will be the biggest event to be put on in this area,” York said. “We’ve been planning for two years, and it was quite a challenge.”
York said the Charlotte County government has been very supportive of the project.
“We’re able to get $250,000 (in) seed money from (the) Charlotte County (Commission) for the races,” York said. “This is a huge event. We have 27 chairpeople who have a hand in this race. We’re organizing all different aspects.”
York said he hopes there are 25 to 30 participants in the race.
Rob and York said fundraising through sponsorships will be key to the race’s success.
“When we launch the boat for a race, it costs us $10,000,” Rob said. “It’s very important for the community to help contribute. We don’t make much at all for the races. We won $2,300 in Sarasota, and that barely covers a portion of fuel, and we operate on two engines, each at $100,000. We’re a glorified billboard.”
York said their planning currently is on track, and the parade will provide an opportunity to attract sponsors for the grand prix.
“It’s huge, and there’s much to do. Support from Englewood and Charlotte County has been overwhelming,” he said. “We’re looking for sponsorships; trying to raise money to make it bigger and better.”