- The first race of the 2018 38th Annual Superboat International Key West World Championships kicks off on Wednesday, Nov. 4 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 11 in Key West, Fla.
- There are three to four races, each with multiple classes, per day. The premiere Superboat and Superboat Unlimited classes usually run in the last races of the day.
- If you have a need for speed, a love of high performance powerboats and you're ready to party, head on down to the Florida Keys during the second weekend in November to catch all the action in Key West.
- See all high performance powerboat listings.
During the second full week of November, Key West, Fla., will once again become Mecca for high-performance powerboat enthusiasts thanks to the concurrently running, through entirely independent, Super Boat International Offshore World Championships and Florida Powerboat Club Key West Poker Run. Of course, both will have to compete with the endless distractions of Duval Street, which is why nothing powerboat-related happens in the early morning hours in Key West. But despite the nonstop party that pretty much defines the place, both the boat racing and the 150-plus exotic poker run boats that run there from Miami manage to attract their own healthy shares of attention.
What follows is a quick guide to both—and a little more.
While it may seem a tad early for late-night revelers in Key West, the offshore races begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. There are three to four races, each with multiple classes, per day. The premiere Superboat and Superboat Unlimited classes usually run in the last races of the day. For specific races and times, you can take a look at the SBI Key West Worlds schedule now but you’ll also want to check it early during Speed Week as things can change.
If you happen to have a hotel room with a waterfront view of Key West Harbor, you already have a prime viewing area—and to augment that view SBI will provide a free Livestream of the event on its website
If you don’t, you can find (and in some cases pay for) a table at any of a numbers of waterfront restaurants with killer views (the Key West Pier is particularly coveted) of the action. Or you can head to the spectator area on the Outer Mole (not a rodent but a breakwater).
Catching the action from the Outer Mole is pretty cool as it forces you to walk by the dry pits, which is where the teams keep all their hardware. But unless you’re staying in Truman Annex, it’s a long walk from pretty much anywhere and parking isn’t cheap. Also, if you’re in a hurry to be anywhere after the races, the Outer Mole probably isn’t the best place to be. As in life, trade-offs abound.
As for what to watch, as in race teams, certainly Performance Boat Center has to be seen as the odds-on favorite in the Superboat class, having taken back-to-back world titles in 2016 and 2017. As present, the partners behind the 2017 Unlimited-class world champion Miss GEICO team are saying they won’t compete in Key West this year. That could change, of course, as often happens in offshore racing, but if Miss GEICO stays home it’s hard to see the Wake Effects team, world champions in 2016, of Rusty Rahm and Jeff Harris not dominating the Unlimited-class ranks. The wild cards are a pair of Victory teams from Dubai competing at the Key West Worlds for the first time and a team from Norway, as well as a returning team from Australia.
One more class to watch? Superboat Vee. This single-engine canopied V-bottom class likely will have six to 10 boats in the field for every race, and on any given day almost any boat can win—that’s how closely matched they are. While defending class world champions Brit Lilly and Ron Umlandt of the LSB/Hurricane Of Awesomeness have to be considered favorites this time around, the season so far seen Sunprint Management the checkered flag at the SBI season-opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla., and Boatfloater.com claim first place at the next race in Michigan City, Ind.
Of course, there are other classes to watch, but the most noteworthy of them is Stock class, which consists of outboard engine-powered catamarans. The Stock ranks should see six to eight entries per race, and favorites include last year’s world championship-winning Shadow Pirate team as well FJ Propeller, CR Racing and Team Allen Lawncare and Landscaping. Which team will prevail? Well, Shadow Pirate hasn’t competed on the SBI circuit this season and FJ Propeller took first place in both races held so far, so the FJ Propeller team of Gary Ballough and Jimmie Harrison has to be considered the favorite.
The Poker Run
OK, unless you are part of it you can’t actually “watch” the Florida Powerboat Club’s annual Key West Poker Run. You can try to catch the boats as they idle into their various stops along the way, but why would you bother when you can wait to see them all arrive—in various stages—at the docks in front of the Conch Republic restaurant on Thursday? (Yes, there is a Wednesday run but most of the FPC fleet heads down on Thursday.) Grab a dockside table at the restaurant and at 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., you can see the finest exotic go-fast catamarans, V-bottoms and center consoles arrive as you enjoy a cold beverage. Though the 150-plus poker run boats find dockage all over Key West Harbor, the Conch docks are reserved for sponsors, which means that’s where you’ll find the latest and greatest hardware.
The other advantage to posting up at the Conch Republic is that it’s literally next door to the Florida Powerboat Club’s Poker Run Village, which opens early Thursday evening. The village typically boasts elaborate displays from Cigarette Racing Team, MTI, Sunsation Boats and other builders, as well as Mercury Racing and CP Performance and Hardin Marine. It’s not a bad place to hang out late Thursday afternoon.
Having a party in Key West is like bringing sand to the beach, right? Well, yes and no. True, the ongoing party at the watering holes of Duval Street stops just long enough each morning to get them cleaned up for the next round of revelers, but if you’re looking for an event that caters specifically to the go-fast boating crowd then you don’t want to miss the third annual Speedonthewater.com/Offshoreonly.com Key West Bash on Thursday evening at the Sandbar Sports Grill. Of course, there are drink specials and giveaway items, and if you want to rub elbows with marine industry notables and offshore racing legends there’s no better place to be during Speed Week.
But the event serves a greater cause. Proceeds from its live auction and raffle go to benefit Key West-based Samuel’s House, which is “a safe haven in a sober setting for women and intact families that have no home,” according to the nonprofit organization’s website. Last year, the event raised $10,400 for the charity. This year, the organizers say they expect to double that amount.
If you’re into high-performance powerboats, it’s safe to say there’s something for everyone in the city at the end of the road come the first full week of November. But the only real way to find out is to show up. Members of the boats.com and speedonthewater.com team will be there. So come join us.
Before heading down, be sure to read our Florida Key's Boating Guide. Also, feel free to check out all our listings on high performance powerboats.