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APBA Officially Terminates OPA Sanctioning Ability

In an email sent yesterday, the American Power Boat Association informed its offshore racing category members that it has officially terminated the ability of the Offshore Powerboat Association—an APBA member-organization for eight years—to sanction events with the Detroit-based organization.

The letter was authored by APBA president Chris Fairchild.

The Offshore Powerboat Association produced last weekend’s LOTO Powerfest races. Photo by Jeff Helmkamp copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

“It has once again come to my attention that there is misinformation and grossly incorrect statements being made about APBA and our Offshore chairman,” Fairchild wrote in the letter. “I am now officially out of patience. This behavior has been tolerated far too long. And this is a continuing problem, seemingly originating from the same source.

“Therefore, as of the date of this letter, and under the provisions of APBA bylaws 15.1 and 5.5.2, I am terminating OPA’s ability to sanction events with APBA,” he continued. “The statement, ‘APBA is difficult to work with’ is massively inaccurate. The historically prevailing theme is that if an entity wants to work with APBA, they must show up at our meetings. Every APBA member is encouraged to attend our annual national meeting. It is at this meeting where APBA does the majority of our business. We welcome participation at this meeting.”

Fairchild then added, “Due to the negative information spread by OPA and their lack of willingness to participate in any way, shape or form, I am forced into taking this action.”

Reached yesterday afternoon, Rich Luhrs, the APBA Offshore Racing Commission chairman, said, “I have nothing to add other than what the APBA president has communicated via email to our Offshore (category) members.”

The president of the Offshore Powerboat Association, which is based in New Jersey, Ed Smith offered his take on yesterday’s announcement and the situation in general. The organization applied for sanctions for last weekend’s LOTO Powerfest event at the Lake of the Ozarks and the Great Lakes Grand Prix in Michigan City, Ind., in March, but did not complete the process before the deadline passed.

Ed Smith, OPA president: “So why then should OPA teams pay fees to APBA if they are not recognized?”

“We had already removed ourselves,” Smith explained. “Last week, I had a call with the APBA president to discuss the LOTO Powerfest events, APBA or not. My question was, ‘If OPA sanctions with the APBA, do our points count towards anything?’ The announcement in Key West stated that only the five Florida races count toward the National points and the Hall of Champions. So why then should OPA teams pay fees to APBA if they are not recognized? So until I got a clear answer we decided not to sanction with APBA.

“Hopefully, after the season is over, talks can be held to correct the situation,” he continued. “OPA has been sanctioned with the APBA for the last eight years. Times change.”

Despite the current conflict between the two organizations, Fairchild remains optimistic.

“It is and has always been APBA’s business strategy to promote ‘all things boat racing’ through positive, productive and respectable practices,” he said. “We will always strive to work with everyone in our sport. Currently that has become difficult, but we look to a better future.”

The most immediate downstream effect of the controversy involves the Great Lakes Grand Prix, August 3-6. Both the Super Cat and Super Stock team owners groups put the Indiana event on their internal schedules, which differ somewhat from the sanctioned APBA series events. But the Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 World Championship Series being produced and marketed by Powerboat P1, another APBA member-organization, also has the OPA-produced Great Lakes Grand Prix on its schedule. (Though older than the UIM, the APBA is actually part of the international organization.)

Said Fairchild, “APBA is working on a plan based on the needs of Class 1. History has taught us that anything is possible if you want it badly enough.”

Despite the intensity of the current conflict between the two organizations, APBA president Chris Fairchild (left) remains optimistic about resolution.

Editor’s note: The APBA Hall of Champions was not mentioned in speedonthewater.com’s reporting on the 2023 APBA Offshore National Championship Series.

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