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By ANDY NEWMAN
KEY WEST, Florida Keys Tradition.
For NASCAR racers it's the Daytona 500. For NFL players, the Super Bowl.
For offshore powerboat racers, the Key West World Championship is a priority November ritual that this year will celebrate its silver anniversary Nov. 13-20.
"Key West separates the men from the boys and, in the case of lady racers, the women from the girls," said Mark Rossi, a Key West city commissioner and president of the Conch Republic Offshore Powerboat Racing Association, the event's producer in conjunction with Super Boat International Productions. "This is where true offshore racing is."
Race organizers project that nearly 100 boats will participate in the event that serves as the culmination of the 2005 racing season for Super Boat International and American Power Boat Association/Union Internationale Motonautique competitors.
Events begin with a land-based boat parade Sunday, Nov. 13, with trailered boats and their crews rolling down Key West's famed Duval Street at 4 p.m.
Racing is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 16; Saturday, Nov. 19; and Sunday, Nov. 20. The fleet is to be divided into three separate races each day with starts at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. In between, numerous social events are scheduled for racers and those purchasing special VIP packages.
The 6.5-mile course through Key West Harbor and surrounding waters is what makes Key West one of the premiere racing venues in the world.
"Key West is the only race we have on the circuit where fans can get a real close view," said John Tomlinson, the veteran multiple-time world-champion throttleman for the Bacardi Silver Superboat. "It's a challenging race course."
What racers seem to like most about the course is the availability of both calm and rough water racing.
"You can be doing 140 to 150 mph in the harbor and then all of the sudden you hit the outside (legs) and the waves can knock you down to 90 mph," Tomlinson said. "That can make the race most intriguing."
On Wednesday and Saturday, the Superboats, Super Cats and Super Vees are to complete 7.5 laps. For the final race on Sunday they'll do 15 laps.
A pass for the week, which includes viewing and admission to the race village/pits area at Truman Annex, is $95 per person. Daily village admission on race days and nonrace days is $15 and $5 respectively.
A variety of VIP packages, including lunch during race day and admission to social events, begin at under $200 per person. For complete details and a schedule of events, visit www.superboat.com or call 305-296-6166.
Other recommended viewing areas include Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and various Key West harborfront hotels that line the course.
For accommodations information, explore this Web site or call 1-800-LAST-KEY or 305-294-2587.
Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest Set for Oct. 29 in Key Largo
By BOB SERATA
KEY LARGO, Florida Keys Grinning jack-o'-lanterns, surrounded by yellowtail snapper, queen angelfish, grunts, tangs and beautiful corals, are to make their annual appearance under 30 feet of warm Florida Keys water during the Pumpkin Carving Contest hosted by Amy Slate's Amoray Dive Resort.
The contest, scheduled for the 1 p.m. dive on Saturday, Oct. 29, challenges buddy teams to create a jack-o'-lantern that will impress the experienced eyes of the judges, who double as crew of the Amoray Diver dive boat.
Contestants are to be given a hollowed-out pumpkin to take below the surface. Dive knives are to serve as carving tools, and prizes await the sculptors of the top three pumpkins.
There is no entry fee. The only cost is the regular dive boat fee: $60 per diver for the two-tank dive. The Amoray Dive Resort is offering specially priced multiple-dive and dive-lodging packages.
Contestants are encouraged to sign up early because space is limited and the contest draws divers from near and far. The top three prizes in 2004 were won by teams from Miami Springs, Fla., Atlanta, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla.
For more information on the contest, call toll-free 1-800-4Amoray (1-800-426-6729) or 305-451-3595.
To find out about area accommodations, call the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-822-1088 or 305-451-4747, or click here.
Marathon to Host Pro-Am Wakeboard Championship Oct. 21-23
By BOB SERATA
MARATHON, Florida Keys There's the front flip mobius and air mobe 5, a skeezer and a vulcan, the slurpy and the hoochie glide. For anyone out of the loop, these terms refer to high-point-value maneuvers that professional and amateur wakeboard riders are likely to attempt during the 2005 U.S. Pro-Am Wakeboard Championship to be held at Sombrero Beach, near mile marker 50 in Marathon.
Sponsored by Tigé Boats and slated for Friday through Sunday, Oct. 21-23, the competition is to be held in Marathon for the first time.
"Marathon is the perfect place for an event like this," said Chris Bishoff, tournament director. "The beauty of the island is unique and memorable, yet easily accessible to the families who travel to compete in the event."
The Marathon contest is the final competition of the 2005 season. The standings in the professional men's and women's divisions are to determine the world's number-one riders for the season that began in April 2005. Along with the top ranking goes a $10,000 winner-take-all bonus and King of Wake title.
The three days of competition are to begin Friday, Oct. 21, and run through Sunday, Oct. 23, when champions will be crowned and prizes awarded. The format will be head-to-head rider elimination finals.
Entry fee for the competition is $150 per rider. For more information or to register, call 407-405-0121.
To find out about area accommodations, call the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-262-7284, or click here.
For more travel information on the Florida Keys:
Florida Keys Tourist Development Council
1201 White Street, Key West, FL 33040
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