Powerboat Race Distances Raise Concern

OCEAN CITY – Fans and enthusiasts of the power boat races will cheer on another exciting race this year, after the annual OPA Offshore Power Boat Races were approved at the City Council Meeting on Monday night after a discussion about the distance of the races from the shore.

Phil Houck, coordinator of the boat races, came before the Council Monday night to request a special events permit for this year’s power boat race.

This year, the boat races will be held on Sunday, June 17. According to Houck, the boats will begin setting-up at Sunset Marina in West Ocean City on June 15 and 16. The race is sponsored by Sunset Marina, as well as Bull on the Beach and Budget Car-Truck Rental.

The course is set up in the ocean from 4th street to 42nd street. Houck explained that there would be two races, with the first race occurring at 12:30 p.m. and the second race occurring around 2-2:30 p.m. In the case of rain, the starting time of the races will be pushed back a few hours. The race will not, however, be postponed until the next day.

Houck said they are expecting around 55 to 60 boats this year. “We have all the world champions from last year coming here.” Houck also referred to the past success of the Bull on the Beach race team. “We also have a boat here, the Bull on the Beach Race Team, and we were world champions in Key West, Florida last year, which gives Ocean City a lot of good advertising.”

The Bull on the Beach race team will be seen competing out in the water on race day next Sunday. The council voted unanimously with Councilman Lloyd Martin absent to approve the special events permit for the boat races.

Councilwoman Mary Knight added how well the boat races went last year. “I had the privilege of being up there all day with the thought that I wouldn’t enjoy it, and I had the most fun watching those boats,” she said. “It was really, really interesting, and pretty amazing.” She also encouraged everyone to come out and enjoy the races this year.

Houck noted to the council his concern over this year’s required distance. This year the Coast Guard is requesting that the boats be raced at least a half a mile offshore. Houck’s concern is that no one will be able to see the boats at that distance without the aid of binoculars.

Houck said that the Coast Guard’s concern is for the surfers and swimmers and so forth that could potentially be in danger. Houck assured the council that the race distance used in the past is more than safe.

“We normally race 200-300 feet off the shore, which is very safe. We have safety officials, helicopters, and dive teams. We’ve really done an excellent job in safety,” he said. 

Houck urged the Council to help out if they could. He is willing to race 500 feet offshore and thinks that is more than safe. The Council agreed to have Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin and City Manager Dennis Dare meet with the Coast Guard chief and try to arrange a compromise.