SARASOTA -- "NASCAR on the Beach."
That's the phrase Sue Hanson of Columbus, Ohio, coined to describe Sunday's 2013 Super Boat Grand Prix Boat Race held between New Pass and Big Pass in Sarasota, which drew a record crowd of 50,000 to Lido Beach.
"It's loud," said Hanson's daughter, Caylee Hanson, 20, who joined her mother and roughly 10 other friends for what turned out to be, as is typical, a huge party as well as an intense sporting event.
By the 11 a.m. start of the races, tents were set up seven to eight deep from the Lido Beach shoreline and roughly 4,000 spectator boats idled nearby, said Rodrick Cox, spokesman with Super Boat International, governing body of the race.
"The crowd was phenomenal," Cox said. "It was a record at 50,000. There were spectators as far as the eye could see."
The magnitude of the party stunned vacationing Peter and Lynne Billing from Essex, England, near London, and their children, Dawn, 19, and Glenn, 16.
"In England, an outing is a box of sandwiches," Lynne Billing said.
"But here they actually had the barbecues going and coolers and huge boxes filled with tents, chairs, everything," said Dawn Billing.
The Billing family was so excited by the races they purchased shirts and will try to make it back sometime.
"Excellent races," Peter Billing said. "Especially that second race. Three boats were contending and there were four lead changes."
Billing was talking about the 1 p.m. Superboat Unlimited Race, which became a three-boat battle between the silver Cintron No. 21, the red boat Team Gasse No. 8, and the yellow boat Miss Geico No. 113.
Team Gasse won the hotly contested unlimited class.
"They swapped lead changes all day," Cox said.
Cintron incurred a penalty for running into a buoy, Cox said.
The race course was approximately 85 miles in a triangular shape with 5-mile legs.
The race had only one mishap when Phantom 9 spun out, Cox said.
"No one was injured but the boat was severely damaged," Cox said.
Team Instigator won the Super Boat Extreme class and Team Stihl won the Superboat class.
The Billing family received an excellent tip to set the alarm early Sunday.
"We woke up at 5 a.m., got here at about 7:30 a.m. and almost all of the best parking was gone," Peter Billing said.
A Manatee High School graduate was part of the big party on Lido Beach.
Becky Rodriguez, Manatee High Class of 2003, dominated the limbo contest as a guest of Real Fitness Sarasota, a cross-fitness gym that erected its own cabana.
"There's nothing like the races," Rodriguez said, squeezing under the limbo pole.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, Ext. 6686.