2011 Key West Super Boat World Championship
In Memory of Big Thunder 100 and Page Motorsports 31
Only tough competitors taking risks are successful in the extreme sport of Offshore Powerboat Racing. Their passion for the sport while speeding on the edge between water and air, can sadly turn fatal. Three seasoned racers, Robert Morgan, Jeffrey Tillman, and our home-town resident, Joey Gratton of Sarasota, Florida, lost their lives during the 2011 Race Week in Key West, Florida.
Emergency response divers launched from helicopters and patrol boats have extracted racers from capsized boats without any fatality since the mid-1980’s. Unfortunately, deployed medical care could not overcome the trauma of the two boat accidents this year.
Morgan, Tillman and Gratton had families and were members of the close-knit Professional Racing Family. They were greatly admired by fellow racers for their respective skill, sportsmanship, zest for life, and willingness to give their best for race fans. The race team members gathered for memorials at the pit, and placed memorial stickers of “100” and “31” on their respective boats. Poker Run boat owners showed their condolences by coming out in their boats between the races on Sunday. Stihl and Motley Crew boats, huge competitors in the same Super Cat Class, completed three circuits in memory of the three fallen racers on the final race day. The Human Factor overpowered the mighty power boats for the 2011 Race Week.
Watt-Ahh® has been a super sponsor for one of the competing race boats for three consecutive seasons. We admired the tenacity of the Gasse Team in working overnight to patch a severely cracked transom and they were able to complete the final race the next day. We were saddened to see the demolished canopy of Warpaint but it is a blessing that their team came back without permanent physical injury from the accident. We delighted in witnessing the smooth and fast-running Cintron boat, fresh from engine replacement done in the pit, to advance from fourth place to become the Superboat Unlimited World Champion on Sunday.
Key West 2011 will be long remembered by the brave racers doing what they loved best and their families and crew who supported their passion for racing.