MOREHEAD CITY — A hand up helped Jeff McCann bring the Crystal Coast Grand Prix back to the area for the first time in eight years.
The county provided a $20,000 jumpstart to bring the attraction to his Jack’s Waterfront Bar starting Friday and ending Sunday, Sept. 11-13.
“(Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority Executive Director) Jim Browder helped me out,” McCann said. “That money is what I needed to make it work, cause normally it takes about $60,000 to pull it off. It was instrumental.”
McCann, a county native, developed a passion for powerboat racing as a young man, and after years of racing at other venues, he decided to invest his personal time bringing the sport to Morehead City, not only due to his love for it, but also to help generate revenue for the area.
He did both.
During a seven-year run (2006-2012), the Crystal Coast Grand Prix, a three-day event that hosted the country’s most competitive powerboat racers, drew big crowds and generated huge revenue.
“I’ve wanted to do it ever since, but I haven’t been able to afford it,” McCann said. “But the county came through huge for me with this grant. They’re about bringing tourist attractions here. We need something like this here, so I had to do it. I miss it. I really miss it. I think the county misses it.”
Boats will begin to arrive Friday at Jack’s Waterfront Bar at 513 Evans Street with registrations and inspections taking place from noon-6 p.m. A race meeting will be held at 7 p.m.
There will be more registrations and inspections on Saturday with boat testing taking place from noon-4 p.m.
The races will occur from noon-5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 13 on a boomerang course starting and finishing in front of the N.C. Port of Morehead City. There is no admission for the race.
The awards presentation will follow at 7 p.m. at Jack’s.
McCann said pre-registration numbers have already surpassed any numbers seen in previous Crystal Coast Grand Prix races.
“Everyone is excited about coming to the race,” he said. “I had to have a boat race here. People kept asking me when I was going to bring it back. I think it will be good.”
Proceeds from the race will go to the Carteret Health Care Cancer Foundation and Pretty in Pink Foundation. McCann’s wife, Keri, is currently battling breast cancer.
The special cause will see McCann race in a 42-foot Fountain named Cuss N Fuss.
“They named it for me,” he said with a laugh. “They say that’s all I do over at the shop, cuss and fuss, cuss and fuss.”
He hopes to auction off four seats in the six-seat boat for the good cause.
“That would be a big deal,” he said. “I think that would be good. That is what I want to do, but I’ll have to talk to the sanctioning body to make sure it is OK.”
If he is allowed to auction off the seats, McCann said he wouldn’t be as determined to win the race, perhaps slacking off from 120 to 115 mph.
“I’ll compete, but it will be fun,” he said.
He hasn’t raced since crashing his 22-foot Donze Jack’s Waterfront in 2016 at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout.
The open-cockpit, black v-bottom had an unstable run down the race course, and as it approached the finish line at 100 mph, spun out, throwing McCann into the water.
Rescue crews responded quickly with one responder leaping from a Missouri State Highway Patrol boat to secure McCann, who was wearing a life jacket and helmet but floating facedown and unconscious in the water. He suffered fractured ribs and bruised lungs.
“I haven’t raced since the accident four years ago, so I’ll probably be a little rusty, but hopefully it will all come back to me,” he said.
The Crystal Coast Grand Prix will kick off and likely end the Offshore Powerboat Racing season after the other races in the series have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Among the highlights of the weekend will be the arrival of the 47-foot Victory Miss GEICO.
The boat will sport new racers in the driver’s seat.
Action and extreme sports icon Travis Pastrana will split driving time with American Powerboat Association Hall of Champions inductee Brit Lilly.
Boat racing legend Sir Steve Curtis will control the throttles for the 11-tme world championship team. Curtis has more than 20 world championship titles of his own and has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth for excellence in offshore racing.
The Miss GEICO will compete in the recently formed Class One racing division. Class One is comprised of the biggest and fastest race boats in the world.
All the boats in the class weigh 11,750 pounds with identical race engines sealed and governed by Mercury Racing to ensure fairness. The Miss GEICO is made of carbon, Kevlar and S-glass for high performance. The boat sports a pair of Mercury sealed 1,100 horsepower twin turbo engines and can reach top speeds of more than 160 mph.