Thunder on Cocoa Beach returns to Brevard County this weekend

Powerboats will speed along the Brevard County coast this weekend, with some approaching speeds of 200 miles per hour. 

"Nervous. Adrenaline. Just all different kinds of feelings. A lot going on in your head, nonstop," said Francis Vellutato, a Rum Runners powerboat team member.

Vellutato and Tom Crowley together pilot their powerboat. Vellutato controls the throttle while Crowley steers. Crowley said the water added another layer of difficulty to the challenge. 

"Depends on the day, depends on the course, depends on the weather. Conditions always change."

They're just one of the 67 teams participating in this weekend's Thunder on Cocoa Beach. The powerboat races will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. Saturday and Sunday. Kerry Bartlett founded the race 15 years ago. 

"Last year, the Tourist Development Council told us we had over 95,000 people on the beach. We expect a larger turnout for this year," he said.

Bartlett said the race starts and ends at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach, but there are plenty of places to see the action. 


"So the liquid racecourse is seven miles long. It's anywhere from Highway 520, a restaurant called the Sand Bar, all the way down to Minuteman Avenue, a restaurant called Coconuts on the Beach."

Bartlett said a 2021 study showed the race had a $15 million economic impact on Brevard County. Organizers also hoped to raise around $20,000 for the group I Am a Freedom Fighter, a local nonprofit working to stop human trafficking.

Race director Kevin Pruett said they were proud to do their part. 

"I think our first year we were excited. We had twenty boats, and we were ecstatic, so now we're at least three times that. I'm not sure we can fit many more in Port Canaveral and the City of Cocoa Beach, but there's always the goal of hitting seventy!"