Local Howie Nichols in Orange Cup Regatta
Posted on February 29th, 2012 by Emily Leineweber
Categories: Powerboat Racing
Tradition is one thing not lacking from the sport of powerboat racing, not only here but throughout the United States. One local racer has had a family history full of Orange Cup Regattas and racing that stems all the way back to his great great grandfather. Howie Nichols a name familiar to many here in the Polk County racing scene began his career in 1978 at just 9 years old, and attended his very first race in his mothers’ arms at just one month.
Currently racing here in Polk County in the Orange Cup Regatta are Howie, his father Pete, and daughter Becky. Howie and his father have participated in racing itself as well as officiating, chief refereeing and also as race chairman.
When listening to Howie speak about racing itself and his family’s participation, it was evident that this has been, and always will be, a passion of his, if passion could even describe his love for racing. Having his father on one side and daughter on the other make it all the more special. Throughout his racing career to date, Howie set and currently holds the world record in Lakeland in the SST-60 Class which he gained in 1999, and in 2006 he was the North American Champion in the same class.
Though his entire family does not currently reside in Florida, as they live in various states up and down the east coast, some still come down to cheer on their fellow racers, but most importantly family. Howie’s uncle, who previously raced, still comes down to watch, along with his brother, brother-in-law and nephew, all racers themselves.
When asked about his daughter’s racing experience, one story that came to mind was her first heat race. Howie reminisced about his anxiousness, nervousness, yet pure joy that he felt when watching Becky race for the first time. “I was petrified and paced back and forth but I was overcome with joy watching her. I knew deep down that I had taught her enough about racing that she would be just fine, which she was”. He said that to this day he still gets nervous watching Becky race, but loves to cheer her on.
To the Nichols family education is everything, especially when it comes to daughter Becky. As a sophomore in high school, this is their number one priority, with racing second. Howie said that they may travel all over the country for various races, but they do whatever it takes to make it back for Becky’s classes, even if it means driving through the night. If a race is on the weekend, once she is out of school, he will sometimes fly her out just to make sure that she is not missing any valuable class time.
Racing is not just a sport to participate in or watch, but it became a family that connected Howie with so many people throughout the United States. He spoke of having not only his biological family but also about the racing family that he has created through the sport of powerboat racing. It has been a network which created opportunity no matter where he and his family may be. These race participants could be on the water one minute competing and fighting for the same titles, but once they are off the water it is back to being a normal family, joking around.
Trying other sports has crossed Howie’s mind and he tried out go kart racing, cars, motorcycles, but something was still missing and he was continually drawn back to boat racing. No matter where he has to travel, Howie will be there, from California to Michigan to Florida, and will continue to pass down the tradition of boat racing to generations to come.