Offshore Powerboat Racing - A future!
It can Be Done!
Environmental consideration, two 5.8 litre engines, marine industry engagement, commercial marketing engagement – what next, women drivers? Oh…..hang on! (Photo by Chris Davies)
The two preceding posts examined the rise and fall of offshore powerboat racing and suggest its amateur status is a significant factor. The suggestion is, that successful professional motorsport ‘role models’ should be considered, if participation and public interest is to be re-kindled.
Before going further I must mention some recent observations!
I confess I am quite disappointed that my appraisal and suggested path has received no significant reaction – certainly not that I am aware of. I guess I can say the social media channels are not exactly taking the message very far – and let’s face it, the majority read a headline and view a pic, then ‘Like’ (or not) and move on. Actually reading, considering and commenting has become something of a lost art in this ‘instant gratification’ world! Equally, I have to wonder if there are a few people out there, who - considering the present status of the sport - are thinking carefully about this but are reluctant put their hand up and be seen to be controversial. I can make a promise to those people, I want feedback, positive or negative, so please email me – and while I may air the view, I will retain absolute confidentiality and your anonymity.
I find it interesting that there is a huge ‘nostalgia trip’ going on among both past, and a few present, offshore racers in the UK. The feeling is, that the period, perhaps 1970’s to 1990’s was the golden era. It’s hard to detect if the feeling is ‘it will never be the same again’ or, ‘how can that ‘spirit’ be revived’. I am not seeing enough comment from either, those from the past, or those keen to race right now – or even the keen observers – to really get a definitive view.
It’s just purely coincidental, but news from the USA last week stated the SBI ‘Unlimited’ class has seen fit to ‘Limit’ engine power from the existing 1,650 + hp (each) to a supposedly safer and more reliable 1,100hp – to be governed essentially by Mercury Racing. Personally I don’t see much difference between 170 and 150mph – but then I’m not American.
Also this week, I bothered to appraise myself of the Australian Superboat rules, which, it appears, were changed last year after a couple of underwhelming seasons and I suggest, a little discontent. The change aims to reduce cost, by limiting power to a maximum of 750hp per engine. The reduction is achieved by various means including camshaft restrictions and, wait for it: “Induction – One (1) carburettor”… “Carburettor(s) may be of any Holley Dominator style”. “Alcohol content within petrol fuel (i.e. E85) is prohibited”.
The bizarre thing about these moves is that no-one thinks to reduce engine capacity – it’s as if anything less than 8 litres is an attack on macho virility!
Yes, I could rest my case right here!
To consider a way forward for offshore powerboat racing, it may help to go back to the first sentence in this post and maybe read the two preceding posts. The issues reflect the amateur status and suggest a logical way forward would be to follow a professional motorsport role-model. In other words, completely change the present culture!
One thing is certain, the world has changed. The three western democracies we are viewing are in political turmoil, essentially of their own making, and it appears ‘rules’ are there to be broken. Simplistic retrograde solutions, shot from the hip, with no regard for the consequences, are the answer to everything. That’s the way our nations are being run, so why not our sport?
Sorry, I don’t share that view. Your grandfather’s technology may have been right for his era (actually we now realise much of it wasn’t, which is part of the reason our generation is so sick!) but technology has advanced since then. To mandate carburettors and ban alcohol fuel in this era is just plain arrogant, negligent and stupid – even NASCAR, the last bastion of pure testosterone, mandate using fuel injection and alcohol blends – and big-blocks were dumped years ago!
Fortunately, there are people, corporations and increasingly powerful entities that have more sense - my money and my vision of what offshore powerboat racing can be, is with them.
A New Era:
I would like to think we could attract enough young, intelligent, educated people interested in our sport to share my vision, consider engagement and advocate a new era. A cultural change is needed that:
· Is true to its original, authentic ‘offshore endurance’ concept and values.
· Transforms and harmonises the values of a ‘gentleman’s sport’ with commercial realities.
· Creates a sport that is aware, up-to-speed with the real world, and reflects the progressive technologies of ‘today’.
· Presents a sport that has commercial product and image value, and can demonstrate the professional ability to capitalise on it.
I’ll repeat, no, our sport is not F1 or WEC cars. The marine sector has its own character, but it has an ever increasing sophistication and technology profile, spinning off both the auto and aerospace sectors. Offshore powerboat racing can reflect the technology forefront in a compelling sport. I hate to say it again but, just as in yacht racing, we need to generate rich passion, marine industry engagement and a ‘valuable’ public (read: ‘commercial market’) following.
A new profile of true offshore powerboat racing must be presented, illustrating a vibrant sport that can provide serious market value. It must be presented to the industry as a commitment to marketing partner synergy, where return on investment can be substantially multiplied, and where true product-quality and image-value is evidenced. As with professional motorsports, the compelling imagery generates public interest and this value, in turn, attracts further non-marine, lifestyle and media interests.
It’s not rocket science!