For the past six years, Azam Rangoonwala has overseen all aspects Powerboat P1 SuperStock racing in the United States. But with the 2019 six-race Powerboat P1/Offshore Powerboat Association APBA Championship series, the 31-year-old Powerboat P1 chief executive officer is about to step onto a much larger and higher-profile stage.
If the Powerboat P1 and the Offshore Powerboat Association secure the five-year Key West contract, the event will be separate from its six-race 2019 APBA Championship Series. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Adding intensity to the upcoming spotlight, Powerboat P1 and OPA recently announced they will bid for the now-open, five-year Key West, Fla., race promoter contract. Rangoonwala and Ed “Smitty” Smith, his OPA counterpart, will be competing for the contract with Key West-based Larry Bleil of Race World Offshore and fellow Key West neighbors John and Deana Carbonell of Super Boat International, which produced the early November, weeklong event for the past five years.
On scene at the Miami International Boat Show, which closes today, I sat down with Rangoonwala and asked him a few questions at the Victory Team display in advance of tomorrow’s planned P1/OPA press conference in Key West. Here’s what he had to say.
You have decided to put in your own Request For Proposal for Key West rather than working with Race World Offshore as originally planned. What drove that decision?
Our initial plan was to partner with Race World Offshore and almost go three ways with Key West. A few weeks ago we went down to Key West and had some further discussions, and we couldn’t agree exactly how we were going to go on the RFP together. So I spoke to Smitty and a lot of the teams we work with. We were hesitant to go for the RFP in the first place actually, just because it’s such a big event and we’re doing a lot already. To take on another event like Key West is not a small task. But we essentially said, “We are doing so much to bring together all these races in our series and maintain consistency within the sport and you can only do this once every five years, so let’s just go for it.”
We are confident. We also know there are a lot of politics involved. We understand that we don’t 100-percent have it, but you know what? We are going to put our best foot forward and see how it goes. You never know what is going to happen but we feel like we have a good opportunity and, hey, let the best man win.
Powerboat P1 entered the U.S. powerboat racing game producing SuperStock races. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Powerboat P1 and OPA are two different organizations with very different organizational cultures. Has that presented challenges?
Interestingly enough, we have jelled in a way you wouldn’t have thought two such different organizations could. Obviously, we had to work out a few kinks and find our feet in the beginning. On our side, we have a little more expertise with TV, marketing and social media. On the OPA side, they have a long history of producing offshore races and working with APBA. Having a good team requires different skills from different members of the team. Obviously, we don’t always agree on everything but we talk about it and work it out—it’s about being patient. We understand that and would ask everyone in the sport to understand that.
Hey, this is the first time we are working together. It’s going to take time for us to figure out exactly how this is going to all work. But we have a really good chance to bring everyone together this year. This is a great opportunity that has not come around for a long time. Let’s use it to make the best possible series for the sport.
The Offshore Powerboat Association has a long history of producing multi-class races. Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images.
Not only here in the U.S., but globally the sport needs this. You can see that with all these international teams coming in. Why are they coming here? Because really there’s nothing going on anywhere else. Powerboat P1 is not doing as much as we used to internationally, but neither is anyone else. The market is here.
What kind of response have you been getting so far from the offshore racing teams?
We’ve been getting a great response. Everyone wants to race in something consistent. Some racers might not have be able to make all six races—OPA has a lot of racers who won’t—but I think everyone just wants to race. And we are making a platform where everyone can race. It’s not easy, as you know, with all the classes and different elements and sites involved. But by bringing it together under the ABPA, we link back to the UIM (Union Internationale Motonautique, powerboat racing’s longstanding international sanctioning body) and start with a fresh slate.
Said Rangoonwala (right with speedothewater.com’s Matt Trulio), “We have a really good chance to bring everyone together this year.” Photo copyright Jason Johnson/Speedonthewater.com.
Are you getting pushback from the offshore racing community?
No, from what we’ve heard everyone is really excited. In the boat racing world and even the marine industry, there has been so much negativity in the past four or five years. Now we are really seeing a lot of positivity. Smitty is a super-positive guy. So am I. We want everyone to have a good time. The racing is going to be good. It’s going to be more consistent and more competitive. Everyone is like, “Go for it. Let’s do it.”
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