The 'SPIRIT' of true 'Offshore' Powerboat Racing
Offshore Powerboat Racing history in pictures!
The start of the second British Cowes-Torquay International Powerboat race in 1962
Start of an early British national offshore powerboat race
1970's and pure raceboats have evolved
1980's and the 'cats' are on the prowl!
1989, the UK cruiser class tries to retain affordability, competition and relevance to the industry, public and boating market
The start of a modern, multi lap inshore 'cat' race at Key West Florida. A challenging course that has seen far too many tragedies!
The enduring - hitherto but now only ostensibly - 'Classic' Cowes-Torquay-Cowes, a true offshore powerboat race - but a bizarre, 'out' of touch' class structure and a concurrent amateur club 'bash', negates any prospect of it being taken seriously by a corporate sponsor or gaining a truly professional motorsport 'image'.
Perhaps it mirrors current societal trends - but if the sport is to ever gain serious attention, it needs to understand the more informed public and corporate expectations. It needs to look to the well financed (European) role models - Formula 1 and the World Endurance Cars (WEC) for inspiration.
It will not be easy but the C-T-C was recognised as the world's premier event. It can continue sliding toward an amateur shambles, or it can stand up and show the leadership its status could command. The sport demands 'World Class' leadership, to 'engineer' a set of rules that fit the economics, technology and environmental responsibilities expected in today's real world.
Understanding the 'Spirit'!
Offshore powerboat racing's spirit was conceived by the compelling urge for men and women to take motorsport to the ocean. It manifested in 'distance’ races – the Miami-Nassau (USA), Cowes-Torquay (UK) and Viareggio-Bastia (Italy).
My profile (See ‘Quay’ page, scroll down) follows a path through some of the experiences that led to the embedding of that spirit in my soul. Eventually I built up my own powerboat engineering business, serving clients and ultimately successfully engineering my own raceboat. This triggered a series of client raceboat commissions, a valuable learning curve, some digressions into more advanced propulsion engineering concepts – and a very successful two boat team.
A core specialisation and customer-service aspect of my business, was supply and application engineering of aerospace-style fuel and fluid components and systems. Essentially, I was adapting auto race-engineering experience to develop systems and components for the marine application. This experience, and maintaining a relationship with the motor racing industry, also gave me an understanding and appreciation of alcohol fuels in motorsport.
Sadly, from my ‘motorsport’ perspective, the authentic sport of true ‘offshore’ powerboat racing subsequently had its spirit hijacked. As an amateur sport it allowed power and speeds to exceed the limitations of the hulls, leading to chaos and a division in the type of racing. Short circuits and enclosed catamaran hulls dominate in the USA and Australia – while overpowered monohulls and remnants of the 70/80’s classic era make up the UK ‘Marathon’ racing fleet.
Public, media and corporate interest diminished as the amateur status allowed a confusing mix of classes and formats - and for egos to run rampant. Wherever you look, the sport is now in a Gas-Guzzling time-warp of its own making.
I believe the true offshore spirit is currently dormant. A culture-change is needed - and change means opportunity. This beautiful sport can be rationalised – and then, just as is happening in 'professional' motorsports - the revolution in renewable fuels can be a catalyst for a marketing dream!
Meanwhile in the Real World:
Accepting the fundamental decline and irrelevance of what was always a minority sport, does not mean that an independent project in biofuel application-engineering, developments and achievements, cannot be a platform, for capturing commercial, media and public attention. A multi tasked venture embracing advanced fuels in harmony with development programs and education, motivated by the passion of a team vested in ‘achievement’, can harness the nation’s collective conscience, presenting immense and unique opportunity! There is no existing bandwagon, no ‘me too’, just a squeaky clean-sheet with massive potential!
When fully understood, a truly smart initiative can clearly reveal to the marine industry and market, that biofuel ‘issues’ scripted by vested interests and keenly disseminated in the marine industry, are in fact, largely propaganda – much of which transcends, through barbecues and pubs, to the auto sector. The technology simply needs to be understood as it applies in the marine environment, rather than feared. It’s called progress! Advances can be demonstrated and the superior performance of biofuels evidenced in modest, newsworthy achievements. In marketing terms, any such result is ‘long tailed’, providing iconic focus for ongoing promotion, marketing and PR. Promoting biofuels in the marine sector – in a ‘boating' nation - stacks up on every level, from the modest budget, to marketing and PR value, through corporate ethics and ultimately, the ‘Pub Test’!
Being aware of developments beyond the issues of today, reveals a new dawn of ‘advanced’ biofuels approaching – such a revolution needs to be taken to the market. We can be ready and truly ‘up to speed’!
Ultimately the invisible force - driving excellence, while capturing attention and admiration - is ‘Sporting Spirit’. An energy recognised in media and marketing as a compelling inertia capable of touching hearts, stimulating passion and instilling loyalty.
Biofuels in harmony with 'Offshore Spirit’ – straight from the heart!
Racing within your means!
A ‘professional’ approach to racing demands rigging a boat to fit the ‘Class’ structure – not rigging at random and then expecting a class to be created for you. While ABPE served teams across the class spectrum with fuel and fluid system components, the engineering specialty was in creating ‘Cruiser’ – later called ‘Production’ – Class boats. The ‘Cruisers’ were capable of providing authentic offshore racing within more modest budgets, while having a direct relationship with the industry. Most notable, was the ABPE fleet of very successful Revengers sportscruisers.
The ‘A’ Class ‘Sweet Revenge’, is shown here racing in Guernsey in a combined A and B Class, two heat championship for the 1988 Guernsey Cruiser Class Gold Cup, in which it came third overall. P77 was a Revenger 25 SC bare hull which I rigged and installed a single Mercruiser 260 / Alpha One drive to comply with ‘A’ Class rules. It was funded by a business overdraft and my ‘driver’ financing the engine. Its record of consistently beating all but two B-Class boats, and its unbeaten national A-Class speed record, enabled a sale at the season end, which repaid the debts and made a small profit – a motorsport unicorn! It also instilled the confidence in two clients to commission me to rig new ‘B’ Class, Revengers.