Sarasota businesses hope Powerboat Grand Prix brings economic boost during downturn

P1 Powerboat Grand Prix in Sarasota

Look closely and try not to blink. If you're on the beach off Sarasota, more than 60 of the most powerful boats in the world will fly by this weekend during the 37th annual Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix.

"These boats go 160 miles an hour, they can go in six-foot seas, and it's a great spectacle," said Cole McGowan, the director of digital operations and communications for P1 Offshore powerboat racing.

Lido Beach provides a front-row seat for the action. The powerboats not only attract racers from across the world, they also bring back visitors year after year.

"The beach is open to the public and chose your own adventure and all that it has to offer," said McGowan.

P1 Powerboat Grand Prix in Sarasota

Visit Sarasota County's president, Virginia Haley pointed out that the race is a 4th of July tradition.

Haley said it's coming at the right time for the area. 

"Every time somebody stays at a hotel or buys something from a grocery store, we as all as shareholders get the benefit of that, and we can use those funds to invest in our infrastructure people and micromobility," said Sarasota Mayor Erik Arroyo. 

This is the first summer slowdown experienced by Sarasota business owners since COVID began. Hotels have seen a 5% drop in occupancy. 

P1 Powerboat Grand Prix in Sarasota

"It's definitely a big weekend, we definitely see a pickup," said Josh Shear, the manager of Old Salty Dog on City Island. "It's definitely an opportunity to make money for everybody. You get people from all over and the people from the boat races are always an interesting group of folks that come through, it’s a great time."

The Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix kicks off Friday, July 1 with a downtown block party, on Gulfstream Avenue from 6-10 p.m., giving fans the opportunity to meet the teams and see the boats up-close.

Attendees will enjoy live music and drinks, and can interact with the drivers in front of their race boats.

Racing will begin at Lido Beach on Saturday, July 2 with P1 AquaX personal watercraft racing at 8 a.m., followed by P1 Offshore powerboat testing from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

P1 AquaX will stage its second race before the UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship. Teams compete for pole positions from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Sunday will feature a full day of racing with P1 AquaX, P1 Offshore and the high-speed Class 1 boats all in action. There will be a new P1 Village fan zone in the Lido Beach parking lot on Sunday, complete with vendors including food trucks, a beer garden, merchandise, fun activities, and live music.