Boats are revved up for the return of Point Pleasant Beach Offshore Grand Prix!
The Covid-19 pandemic led to the postponement or cancellation of all kinds of events in 2020 including the Point Pleasant Beach Offshore Grand Prix leaving boat racers flying solo on Jersey Shore waters.
It's back though in 2021 as the boats are full of fuel, revved up and ready to go.
Angelo Juliano, Treasurer on the Board of Directors with the New Jersey Offshore Powerboat Racing Association explains that the adrenaline for the race that take place June 13 has been building up for over a year.
"We missed last years race, the whole season was called off and the racers have just been tooling around with their boats, making their motors better, bigger, faster, cleaner and now they're set to come out," Juliano said.
The Point Pleasant Beach Offshore Grand Prix, a race that's been running for 52-years, is part of a Jersey Shore renaissance in 2021 as more places can open and more events can happen than at this time last year or last summer.
Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra says it's never been more important to have the race back, and at this point in June, because it not only shows the race is back but the borough is as well.
"Coming out of Covid, we've all had some really difficult times. The race is going to bring a big financial boost to all the different businesses and our residents and guests are just going to love seeing one big, huge, spectacular event again and it's exactly what's needed at exactly the right time," Kanitra said.
Known for years as "The Benihana Offshore Grand Prix", the race is something close to home for Kanitra and his family.
"Even before we officially moved here, when I was in kindergarten, my grandparents opened up the Harbor Lights Motor Lodge on Broadway in 1980 and that was really the height of the old Benihana Race's popularity," Kanitra said. "As a new business, my grandfather used to tell stories all the time of Rocky Aoki staying there and all the racers and big personalities and characters, he loved it, but it was more than just that experience, it was the financial boost to our family business and with the pandemic and all the difficulties that local businesses have experienced recently, the loans that they've had to take out to survive...that family story of mine is going to transcend over the decades here to Point Pleasant Beach this year and is going to once again provide a really much needed financial boost."
Race day, which is Sunday June 13th, will be preceded by two days worth of events in Point Pleasant Beach with a "Meet the Racers" block party from 4-8 pm on Friday that'll be held from Arnold Avenue at Route 35 South to the Elks Lodge lagoon with Live music, sidewalk sales and a parade where the boats will march down Arnold Avenue and also include Miss Garden State Jackie DiPasquale.
On Saturday, there will be events including seeing the boats up close before they go on a test run in the ocean.
Then comes race day.
"You come over the bridge, you can hear the engines from Brielle probably and it's just going to be action packed, I mean they've got a ton of great heats coming and I think they've got about 36 boats from all over the country that are planning on coming," Kanitra said. "As someone whose been on those boats before, I can tell you they don't go light, they don't go easy, they go really hard and heavy and everybody's going to love it."
The race used to be a lot longer in length than it is now, Juliano explains, having raced out of Point Pleasant Beach up the Manasquan Inlet up and down the eastern seaboard heading to places like Seaside Heights and all the way up to Fire Island.
"We shortened it for spectators, we run about 7-miles oval and they do about 60-80 miles per hour depending on what class boat they're in, and that's the OPA rules, we follow OPA rules," Juliano said.
These boats go incredibly fast though on the water depending on what class the boat is in.
"It starts at 60 Class 7 and it goes up to unlimited," Juliano said. "Insurance made us slow it down so top speeds are about 160/180 on the big unlimited but you have different class speeds starting at 60, 70, 75, 80, 95, 100 and then upward."
Does it feel like you're going that fast in a boat?
"Even faster," Juliano said. "It's even faster. At 60 and 70 mph, it's unbelievable, imagine going 100-plus....nothing else compares."
Mayor Paul Kanitra and I both tried out the boats for ourselves before the upcoming race and one at a time as we were joined in the boat by an experienced boat racer.
The boat we tested out can top out at about 120 mph....we weren't going that fast but enough to know what it's like in one of these race boats which do require two people, one to steer and one to hit the gas and brakes.
The best spot to see all these boats speed away at the Point Pleasant Beach Grand Prix is pretty much anywhere up and down the boardwalk.
The first race will run at 12 pm and the second race at 2 pm but the boats will begin lining up around 10:30 am.