BRADENTON -- Sam Winer began speaking shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday with a calm Manatee River as a backdrop and the Green Bridge just off to his side.
From his position on the patio at Pier 22 Restaurant, the co-owner of the Powerboat Superleague started with pleasantries as engines started in the distance.
"We've done 171 events," Winer said. "In all those years, No. 1 has been San Diego, '99. No. 2 Pittsburgh, 2009. And No. 3, Bradenton-Palmetto, Fla., in terms of total attendance. So congratulate yourselves."
Quickly, his train of thought changed. Behind him now was a full aquatic display -- a pair of the F2 Powerboats that will race on the river as part of the second Riverwalk Regatta on Feb. 6, a handful of jet skis and one acrobat on a hydro-powered set of jetpack shoes.
The first boat behind him was the yellow No. 10 plastered with the Amsoil logo captained by Terry Rinker, who Winer explained is the winningest racer in the history of the American Power Boat Association.
In less than three weeks, Rinker's son, Ashton Rinker, will take the helm of his No. 20 boat on the river to begin his Superleague title defense.
Ashton Rinker finished second at last year's inaugural Riverwalk Regatta. He returned to Bradenton on Tuesday as part of a press conference at Pier 22 to promote second event. To an extent, the Riverwalk Regatta is the Rinkers' home race -- he, his brother and his father run a race shop in Riverview. The short trip to Manatee County is their only chance to take part in a Powerboat Superleague race in Florida.
"This is the closest thing we have," Ashton Rinker said.
The trip to Bradenton last year was special for the Rinkers. He wasn't around for the races in San Diego and Pittsburgh that Winer mentioned. Racing along the crowd that packed the Green Bridge was a unique experience.
The course, which runs about three-quarters of a mile, is laid out between the
bridges. The Green Bridge is shut down for the day of the event and is used to hold some of the 75,000 or so spectators. As racers run alongside the Green Bridge at top speeds of about 110 mph, the rush is unparalleled in the Superleague.
"When you're driving the boat from the Palmetto side going to the Bradenton side and you see all these fans going across the bridge it's pretty amazing," Rinker said. "It kind of gets you pumped up and excited, so you drive the boat a little bit harder and go as fast as you can."
Racers follow the square-shape course for 30 laps, and last year a pair of Rinkers swept the top two spots. Ashton finished second behind his brother, Rob, who spent Tuesday running the family shop in Hillsborough County while the other two made the trip to Bradenton.
With the start of Superleague season approaching, a chance to repeat at one of the year's biggest events has the Rinkers' anticipation building.
"Once you see those people out there you wanna win," Ashton Rinker said, "so the drive is to come back and win it again."
David Wilson, Herald sports writer, can be contacted at 941-745-7057 or on Twitter @DBWilson2.