(Sneak Peek at the new 255 VTX)
As we are nearing the end of "Regatta Row" (the busiest month of the season for us here at RDP), we come to the second to the last regatta on our calendar. I have said it for years and this one is no different, the Howard Regatta is easily in my top three events of the season. It primarily stems from the vibe of the weekend which derives itself entirely from Gene Willen himself.
(Mike Willen and Shawna passing us on the way back up to three dunes)
The regatta each year is organized by themselves and it's kept to a pretty simple and very laid back itinerary. There's a Friday night registration party at the pool of the Nautical, followed by a lunch run down to the Springs the following day ending with everyone going to Steamboat. Later on Saturday night they have a nice dinner in the tent up on the bluff and Gene will get up there with a microphone and a little tiny battery powered guitar amplifier and gives away a ton of pretty cool prizes, but that in itself still isn't what makes it great.
What makes it great is Gene knows every person in the room personally, and whenever somebody wins he invariably gets sidetracked into some story of how they met, or when they purchased their first Howard, or any number of avenues that his 40+ years in the industry may take him. Some of the stories are great and take everyone down memory lane (whether you know the people or not), and you can watch the crowd lean forward in their seats listening intently. Some of the stories are mere seconds long and it's off to the next prize, and they kind of leave you wondering where it was heading before he chopped it off and moved on.
(Howard's hanging at three dunes after the lunch run)
Every year I spend quite a bit of time with Gene (and his lovely wife Pam), and I listen to him complain about doing the regatta. It's one of those things though where it's like listening to the popular kid complain about the stresses of being popular in high school. He says "I don't know if my customers want me doing these damn things... Every year I say it's gonna be my last year, I'm telling you Dave this year is the year." Except while he's saying it, if you look close he's smiling and has that shimmer in his eye where you can tell he's really looking forward to seeing all of his clients on Friday and Saturday night. He says he hates being up on the stage and doing the announcements, but in all the years that I have known him I can honestly say that's when he's at his best.
(Andy Anderson his new to him 28 Bullett with Teague Power)
This year was no exception, and once again it was one of the most fun and laid events of the season. The crowning point of this years regatta had to be the run down to the Springs. I had the honor of Hosting Gene, Pam and friends on the Pontoon boat with Mike (Fishing Fool) and Shawna on board for the ride. It was a great time, and as we headed south bound down the lake you could see Gene perk up as one of his customers would go roaring by, and he would say "Oh there goes _____ he bought that boat last year and it's got a 600 in it, super nice family that..." His friend Mike was sitting next to me whom is a retired mechanic and was explaining how he could call out the various Merc power plants by the sound of the exhaust. (He was surprisingly accurate in case you are wondering)
There's no question the belle of the ball was the new 255 VTX. I had the opportunity to go out with Mike on it Friday afternoon, and everywhere we went in it people were asking about it, and complimenting it. When we arrived to the Springs it was the same scene with a small crowd of Howard owners surrounding it on the dock, and you could hear the murmurs of the 288 owners talking about getting one as a second boat for the kids.
The Springs absolutely killed it with their lunch, and honestly that was the smoothest running program of any catered event I have ever been too. When we do our event lunch run for the RDP Regatta I'm going to ask them to basically just mimic exactly what they did for the Howard Regatta. Instead of the usual buffet that is setup, they had a short menu that consisted of A,B,C,D,E,F, and everything on it was 10 bucks. I didn't take a head count but I would guess there was 70'ish people in the room, and every person had their food in front of them inside of ten minutes, and it wasn't the normal "regatta chuck wagon", It was really impressive!
After the regatta I was talking to Gene and he asked me what I'd like to see in next years regatta. I was quick to point out that Howard Boats has been in business since 1957 and it seemed like the vast majority of the 33 boats that showed up were built in the last five to six years. Personally I'd like to see some of the wood deck flat bottoms, and old River Cruisers show up to the event, and while retaining the same vibe that it has now I'd like to see it as an event grow while not only being fun for the new customers, but paying Homage to the companies past. We talked about that at some length and I think I might have actually bent his ear on the idea.
Stay tuned for a complete write up on the new 255 VTX! After you go for a "virtual ride" in the boat, I think you will be as impressed with it as I was!