It’ll be a trial by fire — but the Collins brothers think they can pull it off.
Chris Collins and his brother, Jack Collins Jr., have been in the dog-racing business since the 1980s — the Collins family has owned the Sarasota Kennel Club since 1944. But recently, the boys decided to try their hand at another facet of the racing arena — boats.
A few years ago, Chris Collins bought a white 30-foot Phantom boat from Will Smith, of Phantom Boats. Even with a 600-horsepower Big Block Merlin engine, Chris Collins never raced it.
“We didn’t think Chris was using it as much as he should, so we captured it off the lift and towed it back,” said Jack Collins Jr. “Will got it up and ready to go, and now it’s doing what it was meant to be doing.”
The once-white boat has been painted with a sunny yellow-and-red wrapping of dogs, poker chips and cards, courtesy of Cheryl Iorio, of Pro Marine.
“It was solid white with nothing until a week ago,” said Jack Collins Jr. “We thought it would be good advertising for the track, so now it’s got color and greyhounds.”
Phantom boats have won numerous national championships for their speed, setting the Kilo record at least five times. Smith says this particular style of boat has never been flipped, even though it’s had plenty of opportunities, and that’s one record the brothers aren’t trying to break.
“It’s a safe and reliable boat,” Smith said. “But it’s also a very fast boat. We will be doing our best to maintain the speed limit because, if not, we’ll be kicked to the back.”
Chris Collins is more concerned with having fun than anything else.
“We’ll have a good time, learn and get home safe,” Chris Collins said. “We’ll get the feel of what it’s like to be in a competitive race. It will last a lot longer than dog racing.”
The Collins’ little ones are excited for their dads to race, too.
“We did a mock race on Sunday,” Jack Collins Jr said. “I was in my Scarab boat with my 5-year-old, Noah, and my 4-year-old, Dallas. Chris and Will were in his boat, and I took a huge headstart, but Chris went by us, and you would think we were on a bicycle and he was on a motorcycle.”
The brothers will also have to get used to racing flair, such as safety clips, special anchors, orange flags, orange smoke and helmets — yellow helmets.
“Neither of us has ever worn helmets,” Chris Collins said. “I swear I’ll drown quicker in that safety equipment.”
Watch the Collins brothers compete in the Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix Sunday, July 5. Visit www.suncoastoffshore.org for more information.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.