A lost 'Spirit'!

            Environmental responsibility - two 5.8lt diesels.

The lost spirit of Offshore Powerboat Racing!

At last! The long awaited blog post and my apologies again for the hiatus. If there is an upside, it’s that a whole new, younger generation, is taking interest. So for anyone new to the website and the blog, here is a quick history recap and an update on the way I see the sport - and the future.

The true heart of authentic ‘Offshore Powerboat Racing' was forged by the compelling urge to take motorsport to the ocean. Its soul was forged in 'distance’ races during the 1950’s and ‘60’s in the original Miami-Nassau (USA), Cowes-Torquay-Cowes (UK) and Viareggio-Bastia-Viareggio (Italy). The contest was as much about seamanship as it was competition, boats were 25-35ft and engines 250-350hp each. A trend was set for a unique Spirit to evolve.

True sporting spirit embraces passion, aspiration, preparation, determination and achievement - authenticated within a structure that is disciplined, fair and comprehendible to both competitor and spectator! By the 1970’s offshore powerboat racing was showing those qualities. Many of the pioneers upheld the direct relevance and benefit the sport contributed to the development of fast seaworthy leisure craft. The class structure reflected the logic of the technology, availability, economics and marine adaption of engines derived from the auto industry – in harmony with designers and boat-builders capable of creating fast, seaworthy hulls. This was how the ‘spirit’ was forged.

Much like the preceding equine and auto sports, it was evolving from being a classy but amateur ‘Gentleman’s’ sport – toward respect as a true authentic international motorsport. Properly understood and managed, ‘Sporting Spirit’ is an unparalleled force that captures attention and admiration. It is recognised in commerce and media as a substantial and valuable force that can be leveraged to touch hearts and evoke passion and loyalty.

Sadly, the beautiful and authentic sport of 'offshore' powerboat racing had its spirit hijacked by a subsequent generation. 

In the USA the cats and the short, circuit-sprint style of racing, essentially created a different sport. To apply the auto metaphor, US Offshore is now NASCAR rather than Le Mans, but it remains an obscene indulgence in an era where the realities of global warming are known and recognised – as acknowledged and acted on by their professional motorsport counterparts and respective corporate partners. To its credit, it has been able to demonstrate a sufficiently professional image, to attract some degree of media and commercial support. But again, it must be acknowledged - the US is a different planet in respect to the wealth demographic that may show interest.  

Meanwhile, authentic offshore ‘distance’ racing, as upheld in the UK, has struggled through economic roller-coasters, but both the culture and the structure has remained totally amateur - ultimately fully succumbing to the temptations that are the hallmarks of that status. Inevitably the attraction for commercial support diminished as it presented a confusing array of classes - and ego's running rampant, including power avenues allowing wealth or perceived social capital to dictate.

The consequence for the actual racing, is that a very small minority, affording a ‘biggest gun’ mentality, dominates – when they don’t break and fail to finish. While a fleet of restored antiques from the 1970’s/80’s make up an equally bizarre nostalgia parade of ‘gas-guzzling’ indulgence.

With the mercifully exception of a sane - but minute – minority, seeking to make sense with smaller engines and modern technology - it appears there isn’t a brain capable of even remotely connecting the sport with the actual concept of motorsport!

Put simply, two 9ltr supercharged petrol or four 6+ltr diesels engines are clearly obscene in an era where Formula 1, the biggest TV sport in the world, announced as far back as 2014, that it was reducing engine capacity from 2.4ltr – which was down from 3ltr previously – to 1.6ltr-turbocharged. That announcement stated the reason being: “In order to make Formula 1 more environmentally aware and to attract more commercial partners”. This was a professional decision, not a USA view or an ego driven view - and it says everything I would want to say about the current paradigm and lack of interest in offshore powerboat racing!      

To further emphasise that view, the current debate regarding future Formula 1 engine technology, is focussed on relevance to the auto industry and optimisation for biofuels. 

Should it be assumed that I’m avoiding Australia’s place in the scheme of things, I should firstly add that – despite having some great friends and acquaintances in the sport - I no longer follow the action. I am aware that Australia has a couple of teams that are world class – if the ‘World’ is the USA. However, my feelings in respect to the national championship, were expressed in a blog post back in January 2019, under the heading ‘Accepting Fuel Responsibility’ – repeated here for convenience: 

For reference: and confirming just how effective propaganda, plus naїvety, can be. The most recent Australian Superboat (cat) rules, state an aim 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) carburetor”… “Carburetor(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!

To mandate carburetors and ban alcohol fuel in this era is just beyond comprehension – even NASCAR, the last bastion of pure testosterone, mandates using fuel injection and alcohol blends – and ‘big-blocks’ were dumped nearly 50 years ago!

I guess it’s no surprise that one of the ‘Superboat’ race sponsors is a coal mining company!

As a postscript to ‘my feeling’. The last Australian Superboat event that was held here in North Queensland, didn’t exactly make much in the way of local news. My degree of curiosity extended only to the fate of a couple of guys I know and respect. So the casual question ‘who won’, to someone I knew had watched the action – brought the reply, “No idea, but two boats crashed and one caught fire”! With the greatest respect, when a ‘race’ has simply become a half-hour spectacle of bravado and destruction – and the winner is irrelevant, it’s no longer a sport - and it certainly isn’t offshore powerboat racing!

Take it to the top:

It is deeply unfortunate that in a totally amateur sport wealth and power – regardless of ignorance and arrogance – will prevail. The past couple of years has enlightened me to the fact that, even at the highest levels of authority, ‘the tail wags the dog’. Influence, or even authority, placed in hands that don’t actually understand the parameters in which they are working, simply creates chaos. Human nature at its worst, manifests in the temptation to support a vested interest rather than the good of all.

As I have said many times before, we should not be surprised. Offshore Powerboat racing is but a microcosm of the society we now live in. It doesn’t have to be that way, but ‘power’ - be it in an authority, government or religion - opens the door to temptation. Of the three evils: Lust, Money and Power – it is the misuse of power that does the greatest damage!

Meanwhile in the real world:

Mercifully, some in the marine engine sector of the industry acknowledge that the ‘world’ is not confined to the USA and smaller engines are the responsible global trend. Two manufacturers of petrol/gasoline marine engines have stopped ‘big-block’ (8ltr+) production, choosing to go with smaller engines and progressive auto engine technology, developed in harmony with the inevitable transition to biofuels. Diesel engines, also now compete on level terms, both in racing and in the market, and are the obvious choice in the wider leisure sector at higher power levels. The final hurdle, however is ‘Biofuels’!

The future and Superior fuels:

Fuel systems have always been a speciality of my business and alcohol-based fuels have long been familiar in auto-motorsports. This clearly reveals, when fully understood, that the so called ‘issues’ scripted by vested market interests and keenly disseminated in the marine sector, are in fact, pure propaganda – much of which transcends, through media, barbeques and pubs, to the auto sector. The fact is, much of the technology to handle these fuels was applied in your car 20 years ago and now simply needs to be understood and applied in the marine environment, rather than conveniently demonising the fuel. It’s called progress!

To revive its true ‘Spirit’, offshore powerboat racing needs: a disciplined authority, an understandable class structure - and perhaps above all, the realisation that:

                               Environmentally aware, attracts commercial partners!

FYI: Please feel free to put the world right on the facebook page or message / email me personally (See ‘Contact’ under ‘Quay’ menu heading.)