ATLANTIC CITY - Some of the world's fastest powerboats will be seen - especially heard - off the coast this weekend.

The six-time world champion Miss GEICO and approximately 40 other boats in various classes will race along the local beaches for the first time in nearly 25 years Sunday in the Atlantic City Offshore Grand Prix.

"Offshore powerboat racing has struggled for support in New Jersey in recent years," New Jersey Offshore Powerboat Racing Association event chairman and director Dave Patnaude said Thursday during a news conference at The Deck at Golden Nugget Atlantic City.

"But with the help of the Atlantic City Alliance (a marketing coalition that promotes tourism in the city), the Golden Nugget and GEICO, people are going to be looking at one of the best and biggest powerboat events ever on the entire East Coast."

Two races for 20 boats apiece will be held Sunday along a 4-mile course that roughly stretches offshore from Revel Hotel Casino to the Atlantic Club.

Because of underwater obstacles, spectators will have a tough time seeing the races from the beach on the north end of the course. Officials are encouraging fans to watch at the Ocean Reef Bar and Grill on Steel Pier.

The course has been altered on the south end to improve sight lines, however. The south turn of the course will be approximately a quarter-mile off the beach.

The race will be the first of this magnitude in Atlantic City since October 1989, when Trump Castle - now the Golden Nugget - staged the World Championships.

Trump, who also brought several major boxing events and the Tour de Trump bike race to town in the 1980s, dropped out of powerboat racing after 1989.

Powerboat races were held in Atlantic City in 2003-04, but on a smaller scale. The NJOPRA was supposed to host an event in Atlantic City three years ago, but poor ocean conditions forced it to be canceled.

Golden Nugget vice president and general manager Tom Pohlman met with Patnaude a year ago in hopes of bring it back, but wanted to wait until the property had completed its transformation from Trump Marina.

"I'm a fan of offshore racing," Pohlman said Thursday at the news conference.

"I'm a boater myself and (Golden Nugget owner) Tilman Fertitta has been known to bring a little boat (actually a multi-million dollar yacht) here on occasion. Now that everything's in place, we can show everyone why the Golden Nugget wants to host this and make it an annual event for Atlantic City."

The festivities start today with the 16th annual Poker Run from Toms River to Atlantic City.

The non-competitive event requires participating boats to make five stops along the route to pick up playing cards that eventually comprise their poker hand. The top hand will earn a prize of about $2,500.

"I did the Poker Run on the Miss GEICO last year," Pohlman said. "It was the scariest day of my life. We hit storms that I never knew existed. But it's still a fun event."

Saturday's events will include the Wounded Warrior Powerboat rides in which drivers will take approximately 50 wounded veterans and their families out on the ocean.

Sunday's first race for smaller boats will begin at noon. The larger crafts, which can reach up to 150 mph, will race at 2 p.m.

Miss GEICO is among at least four boats entered in the Extreme category, along with Cintron, Broadco Cat 5 and Phoenix Parts. The Spirit of Qatar, which is owned by Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani, will not be racing.

"If everything goes well, I guess you could consider us the favorite," Miss GEICO consultant Gary Goodell said Thursday. "But it's like NASCAR. You can spend millions and a 10-cent piece can sideline you.

"But no matter what happens, this should be a great event. It's the perfect way to start the summer in New Jersey."

Contact David Weinberg:

609-272-7186

Atlantic City Offshore Grand Prix

Today

NJ Performance Powerboat Club Poker Run at Golden Nugget Atlantic City

Race boats on display at the Race Village (Dry and Wet Pits) at Golden Nugget

Saturday

Race boats on display at the Race Village (Dry and Wet Pits) at Golden Nugget

Race boats testing offshore along the Atlantic City Beach

Wounded Warrior powerboat rides – provided by NJ Performance Powerboat Club at Golden Nugget

Exotic Car Show at Golden Nugget

Sunday

Offshore powerboats race at noon and 2 p.m. along Atlantic City's beach from Revel to the Atlantic Club