Get ready for the boat races — it’s going to be BIG!

The kickoff of the Offshore World Championship experience in Key West with Race World Offshore and the powerboat championships begins this weekend and you do not want to miss it.

Larry Bleil, owner of Race World Offshore, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about the event.

Bleil said, “This will be the 41st year of the Offshore powerboat races in Key West. It started way back when. Back in the old days it was a lot different than it is today. They would get a green flag and they would take off and go out 50-some miles somewhere and turn around and then they would come back and that was the race. If you didn’t have a boat and you didn’t know where they were going, you couldn’t see anything.”

Then the boats would race out of the harbor and go out to Sand Key and back in.

Bleil said, “Over the years, people wanted to see and see what’s going on and that’s when we started the more traditional what we have today racing in front of fans. Key West ended up being the best because you’ve got the rough water when you go out outside of the harbor and then they come back in and they hit an area between turn one and two they call it the wall. It’s where the Atlantic and the Gulf sort of merge right there and it gets pretty rough and the boats bounce around. Then they come into the harbor, which is relatively calm. So it gets the best of everything that they have to contend with. You just don’t set up a boat for high speed and then it won’t go through the rough stuff.”

The event has turned into quite an experience with parties and concerts as well.

There are 58 boats entered so far.

Bleil said, “Key West is the pinnacle of offshore racing. Key West is where everyone in the world wants to race and win a world championship. We have boats coming in from all over the world this year, from New Zealand and Australia and over in Europe. It’s just turned into if you want to win a world championship, you’ve got to come to Key West. It works perfect in Key West because it’s a place where everybody wants to go.”

The schedule starts on Sunday at 4 p.m. with a boat parade.

Bleil said, “(It’s) going to be larger than any other boat parade that anybody’s seen in Key West with the length of these boats. All of them are coming down and getting here in time to go in this parade. That sort of kicks off the whole week of events. We have parties or activities or racing every day, every evening of the whole week, culminating at the Amphitheater on Sunday night after the races with a little concert going on while the tech people and the scorers are compiling all the results for the three days. Then we will award the world championships for all of these classes.”

There are more than 100 sponsors for the event, including local and international groups.

Bleil said, “The presenting sponsor of this event is Performance Boat Center, out of Lake of the Ozarks. They manufacture their own boats. They’re in Fort Lauderdale. They’re one of the largest performance boat dealers in the United States at least based out of the Lake of the Ozarks.”

All sponsors will be honored at a sponsor party on Friday night.

Bleil said, “We can sort of give back and thank them for coming onboard because without their help, it doesn’t happen. It’s just such an expensive race to put on with the safety and helicopters. The list just goes on and on. Without their help and the help of the Tourist Development Council, it wouldn’t happen.”

The event has certainly put Key West on the map internationally.

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM pointed out, “Hats off to you because you really brought this back after COVID and even during COVID and now it is again an international destination event for the racing world and it wasn’t that way for a couple of years thanks to COVID, everything was shut down. But you really fought to bring it back and it’s bigger and better than ever.”

Bleil said, “We got started here and had a big bang starting in 2019 and we’re going to build from that because when I took over and started running the races here, I said I wanted to make every year, make it a little bit better, a little bigger, add a little something. I’ve been to every boat race that there is around the world. My background is racing, so I raced all over the world. The racing is a highlight, but you have to have all the activities that go along with it. That’s what I’ve done. Every year make it better and bigger.”

For more information on the entire event, click here: