There were several classes of boats competing in different races, but perhaps one of the most exciting races was the Turbine Class match race in which Aqua Mania, Miss Geico and JBS Racing competed.
“The only thing that I have that they don’t have is the best throttle man and driver,” John Haggin, owner of the Miss Geico racing team, boasted before the races. Miss Geico had an incredible 2009 season, racing six out of nine races, but Aqua Mania led in points, with Miss Geico having skipped several races. Miss Geico crossed Sunday’s finish line with a half mile lead, finishing first in the Clearwater races. However, Aqua Mania, finishing second in Clearwater, closed their season as both the Florida and National Champions.
“We’ve had a great race season. We’ve had a lot of great success. Our team has worked very, very hard to get us where we are,” said Greg Rosen, Aqua Mania’s driver.
“It’s like a marriage,” Haggin said, describing the success of his team, consisting of driver Marc Granet and throttle man Scott Begovich. Granet elaborated, saying that despite their opposite personalities, he and Begovich just work well together. “The second you get out of sync, it’s glaring,” he said. “When we’re running in sync, it’s like a ballet out there.”
Miss Geico, like all Super Boats, is manned by two men, a throttle man who controls the speed, and a driver who handles the steering. The throttle man and driver are assisted by an off-boat crew whose duties include keeping count of the laps for the on-boat team.
With boats traveling up to 200 miles per hour, safety was an important factor. Spectators on the water were monitored by the “Race Patrol,” volunteer vessels acting as a buffer between the race course and recreational vessels. John Pickens, charter member of the Indian Rocks Beach Boat Club, volunteered his vessel the Sea Spirit for the patrol. “One of the missions of the boat club is to assist our community and support safe boating throughout the area,” explained Pickens as the reason he volunteered. “The races gave me chills and goose bumps,” he said. He had seen races before on TV, but did not appreciate the spectacle until he’d seen it first-hand. “[It was] well worth the time.” Through the work of volunteers like Pickens, alongside police and coast guard, the event was kept safe, with no injuries or arrests, just good clean fun.
The Super Boat races came to Clearwater during a traditionally slow period for tourism; inconsistent with the beautiful weather of the season. “It’s another opportunity to expose this great area we all call home,” said Mayor Hibbard of the races. Miss Geico’s John Haggin raved about how much he liked the city and its cleanliness, and was especially appreciative of the hospitality his racing team received. “With any luck, the mayor and the Chamber of Commerce would like to have us back next year,” he said, “because this is a beautiful place to be.”
Super Boat was founded in 1989 by Josh Carbonell, and has an estimated 20 million fans, including celebrities like Chuck Norris, Kurt Russell and Don Johnson. The 20th anniversary of the Super Boat World Championship will take place in Key West this November.