Jack Landers, a disheartened racecar driver, finds himself involved in an offshore speedboat racing challenge with a girl who tests his limits in ways he never thought possible.
A magnificent sunrise greets the morning over the Gulf Coast of Florida. Cute and confident, 13-year-old Karen Casey maneuvers her family’s classic red 22’ Donzi racing speedboat ‘The Kathryn Grace’ out for a fast joy ride that ends when she flips the boat and embarrassingly is thrown into the water herself. Twelve years later, Jack Landers, 20s, has always been a loner. He never knew his mom, and his dad was constantly working hard to make ends meet. On the outside his bad boy looks make him appear confident, but inside he desperately wants to fit in and belong to something. The only problem is he thinks there is only one way to do this and that is to be the fastest and win. Having recently lost his sponsor, he has a few drinks at a local bar and decides to ride his Harley south to try to change his luck in some other town. By chance in Naples, Florida, he meets offshore speedboat owner Robert Casey and his daughter Karen, now in her 20s. Since her near fatal accident on the water followed by the death of her mom five years later, Karen has tried to honor her dad’s wishes and suppress her free spirit, even dating the young man he approves of, and doing her best to play it safe on the water. When Karen and Jack first meet, they immediately get started on the wrong foot. Jack boasts, “If it’s got an engine I can drive it,” and against Karen’s better judgment, her father allows Jack to try out as the replacement driver for the next “Hamilton Harbor Classic.” Robert has a bet pending that he can teach anyone to be a winner, and now, Jack fits the description of anyone. Jack and Karen remain at odds while she reluctantly attempts to teach him the ins and outs of speedboat racing. She does not understand the attraction when sexy yacht club socialite Elizabeth Marks comes on to him. Elizabeth coaxes him with expensive gifts, further annoying Karen. But although Jack and Karen rub each other the wrong way constantly, an inevitable affection ensues. As feelings secretly grow between them, her upscale boyfriend Herbert unexpectedly visits from college, and that creates uncomfortable moments for both couples. Jack qualifies to race in The Classic, and various overconfident bets are made, including one for his Harley against blowhard driver Bobby Jacobs’ Corvette. Jack moves on from the relationship with Elizabeth, and Karen admits that she has broken it off with Herb. The two playfully become closer during his qualifying celebration, but Jack keeps his focus on the race, not Karen. He wants to perform well enough for a chance to race the Casey’s bigger 37’ Donzi next season. On the festive race morning, visually stunning powerboats are lowered into the Gulf waters and the sound of perfectly tuned engines thrill everyone with anticipation. The race is very tight, especially between Jack and Bobby, and has its share of dangerous close calls and accidents. Bets are won or lost, but Jack and Karen finally win each other, cruising off together into the Gulf Coast sunset on that big Donzi speedboat.
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