Performance-boating enthusiasts headed for this weekend’s Florida Powerboat Club Tampa Bay Poker Run will experience a few firsts for the event, starting with its mid-March date. In previous years, FPC head Stu Jones scheduled the event, which currently has 43 registered boats, for April.

“I changed the date because I have been getting more pressure from club members who are down here for the winter and want more events to do with their boats,” said Jones. “In previous years, after the Miami Boat Show Poker Run we left March out of the picture and waited till April to run our Tampa Bay event. But the common thread among members here for the winter was they wanted more events. They spend a lot of money to be here for the season.

tamparunpreview17

Participants from last year's FPC Tampa Bay Poker Run (above) have positive changes to look forward to at this year's Tampa event. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

“So we moved Tampa to March and brought the Fort Myers run back for late April—we’re returning to the Pink Shell Resort,” he continued. “With the Key West-to-Cuba run in May, that means we're offering six events, starting with the Key West run in November, before summer.

Thanks to the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel, the host venue for the run, the longtime dock space shortage that has plagued the event has been resolved, Jones said. The hotel provided 25 large slips with enough space to snugly accommodate the entire fleet of center consoles, high-performance V-bottoms and more.

“That includes the 80-foot Nor-Tech, Lady Lisa,” said Jones. “One of our club members has a Viking yacht and three powerboats registered for the run, so his boats alone occupy a pretty big footprint. Sponsors like Deep Impact and Midnight Express are coming with new boats. The 25 slips give us just enough space to carefully accommodate them all.”

Unchanged for 2017, the poker run course will take the fleet up the Hillsborough River to Jackson’s Bistro for lunch in downtown Tampa. In honor of the local St. Patrick’s Day festivities happening during the weekend, the river will be dyed green, Jones said.

Saturday night’s dinner and awards party is set for The Birchwood, an 18-room boutique hotel that is on the Registry of Historic Places. The venue features an entire banquet floor, plus a rooftop hotspot called The Canopy, and the party will occupy that floor. Jones said that in previous years for the event, he’d been able to find great spaces with not-so-great food and great food in not-so-great spaces, but in The Birchwood location he's found both.

“We are setting an FPC record for a function,” he said, then laughed. “We’re spending $120 per person for the party on Saturday night. We’re not charging anyone extra. It’s a way of saying thank-you to the longtime loyal club members who have supported our Tampa event.”

Jones added that boats have started to arrive for the weekend. “It’s a little chilly here—it was 48 degrees when we woke up this morning,” he said. “Long sleeves and pants are the order of the day. But it will get in the 75-degree range tomorrow and Saturday, perfect weather for boating.

“I can already hear a few boats out there testing on the bay,” he continued. “This is such an incredible place to be on the water. It’s going to be beautiful.”

Related stories
Florida Powerboat Club ‘Mixing It Up’ for 2017
Image of the Week: A Little Faster Please
Image of the Week: Coming and Going from the Tampa Bay Poker Run