Bradenton Bracing for Racing



Powerboats will return to the Manatee River in February for the Bradenton Area River Regatta, but many of the racers were already in town this week in anticipation of the event. Following a press conference in Bradenton, many convened at the corporate offices of SRQ for a meet-and-greet while gawkers looked at the powerful machines parked along Pineapple Avenue.

Among the racers ready to hit the water will be Ashton Rinker, of Blackhawk Rinker Racing, who won the regatta last year and went on to win the series and national championship race. He has traveled the county racing for sponsor Amsoil, but said the Bradenton event remains one of the high points of the year. “It’s a huge venue,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing how many people were here watching the race last year, and now we are expecting even more people.”

The inaugural regatta last year turned out to be the largest spectator event ever held in Manatee County. Now community leaders are expecting similar excitement this year. Michael Dongilli, senior vice president of event organizer ISM/USA, said the entire event this year will take over the shores on both the Bradenton and Palmetto sides of the river. He expects more than 100,000 spectators at the free event, schedule all day Feb. 6, and noted that the race has become incredibly important within the powerboat racing sport very quickly. The race in Bradenton will be the first sanctioned Powerboat Superleague Racing event of 2016. “This is one of the best events outside, probably the best outside of the big event in Pittsburgh,” said racer Tim Ludwig, a racer based in St. Petersburg who came in second in last year’s race. “It’s amazing to have this here.”

 The event will also include the Action Kawasaki Suncoast Grand Prix for jetski racing and freestyle competitions, as well as flyboard competitions. All of the competitions draw out thrill seekers with world-class skills. Powerfly’s Kristin Smoker, who in just a year in competition is now ranked the No. 3 flyboarder in the world. “I feel like I’m a superhero when I’m doing it,” she said.

Defending SkiGP champion Kirk Britto, who will hit also the water at the event in February, says the excitement of the event will surely entice many to the sport. What draws him? “Horsepower, speed, danger, chicks,” he said. “It’s everything that makes this life exciting.”

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