Brit Lilly, left, and his father, Art Lilly, rep the Lilly Sport Boats (LSB) racing team in a photo Brit shared as part of a tribute to Art.

Bay Remembers Offshore Powerboat Racing Legend Art Lilly

The Chesapeake Bay powerboat racing community is remembering one of the most influential racers on the Bay, Art Lilly, who recently passed away at the age of 77.

Lilly, who founded Lilly Sport Boats, is also one of the “founding fathers” of the Chesapeake Bay Power Boat Association (CBPBA). The Association says it all began around 1987, when a group of powerboaters would meet on Stoney Creek in Pasadena, Maryland, racing each other from the Stoney Creek Bridge to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and back.

Eventually, the Stony Creek race tradition prompted Lilly and the others to officially form CBPBA, hosting offshore race events, poker runs and other boat club events in Maryland. By the mid-1990s, Lilly was a well-known winner on the Chesapeake Bay racing circuit and beyond.

This video, posted on YouTube from the 1992 World Championship Race Series in Key West, shows Art Lilly and his Heartbeat Racing Team in an all-out battle with the Buckshot Racing Team:

Lilly raced several boats built by Reggie Fountain and they became friends. Lilly “was very smart about boats, especially the engineering and design,” recalls longtime CBPBA volunteer Keith Kelley.

Racing team legend Fountain, now 83, says of his friend, “Art Lilly was a winner at everything he did in life. Not only was he among the most accomplished boat racers in TEAM FOUNTAIN history, but he was a masterful businessman, a setup genius and, most importantly, a lifelong friend. From the day we met all the way up to his checkered flag finish, Art truly lived life at Wide Open Throttle.”

This photo, shared by Offshore Vintage on Facebook, shows the Carlos N Charlies racing team Art Lilly raced with, among others.

Lilly opened his own shop, Lilly Sport Boats, fine-tuning performance boats to get the most potential out of them. Kelley says, “Art was almost always driving one of the fastest boats and winning races. With all of Art’s racing experience and contacts in the industry, it would not surprise me if his knowledge and experience have been a contributor to some of the technology and engineering we see in many pleasure boats today.”

Performance powerboat owners came to Lilly Sport Boats from all over the region. Today, his son Brit runs the shop in Arnold. CBPBA’s Kelley notes, “We have a short boating season here in Maryland. If something was ever wrong with my boat, he and Brit would make it right and they’d go the extra mile to get me back in the water as soon as possible.”

Lilly was recognized with several others as one of the founding fathers of CBPBA in 2012. CBPBA Vice President and Race Director Ted Ginnity tells us, “No one ever got to ride in a boat with Art that didn’t learn something, he was the ultimate teacher, without really trying.”

Even as Lilly’s Parkinson’s disease took hold in recent years, his son Brit has continued to carry on the passion and experience that Art Lilly had brought to the sport. Chesapeake Bay Magazine reported on Brit’s victory at the 2021 Race World Offshore World Championships. In all, he has eight World Championship titles and four National Championship wins. Just this month, he announced he’ll be joining XINSURANCE Class 1 raceboat team as throttleman.