Your go-to source for performance boating.
HomeMattBlogCommentary: Embrace Powerboat P1 North America

Commentary: Embrace Powerboat P1 North America

As you know if you’ve spent a little time reading my stuff on speedonthewater.com, I like to end the week with good news. And this week’s good news in the world of performance-boating isn’t hard to find—I even wrote about it in my last two blogs. Powerboat P1 plans to bring its racing classes and several events to the United States in 2011.

The news is good for a several reasons. First, the Powerboat P1 competition model has proven successful overseas. The racing is tight and competitive on any given race weekend. Second, the Powerboat P1 event model, which includes everything from tiered hospitality areas to fireworks displays, is successful. The P1 events draw big crowds at all their European venues, and there’s no reason they couldn’t have the same pull here. Third, there’s an entire fleet of boats in the United States—Powerboat P1 North America’s Martin Sanborn calls it an “instant fleet”—that could easily fit into the Evolution and Super Sport classes with minimal modification.

But for me, the biggest boon of Powerboat P1 North America kicking off in 2011 is that any existing offshore racing organization that wants to add P1 classes can—as long as that organization is sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association. So in a small way, the stateside move by P1, which falls under the Union Internationale Motonautique Umbrella (APBA is the domestic arm of UIM), “forces the hand” of unification, but does so in a non-threatening way. Organizations such as the Offshore Super Series and Offshore Performance Association can still exist under the APBA banner—the incentive to run under that banner is being able to offer Powerboat P1 classes.

What makes that incentive so compelling, beyond the reasons above, is Powerboat P1’s “grand plan” for international offshore racing. It’s fairly simple: Regional extensions of APBA, such as the Pacific Offshore Racing Association, add P1 classes to their events. Powerboat P1, in turn, puts on a “large scale event,” in the words of Sanborn, in each region during the 2011 season. At the end of the season (it may happen at the end of the 2012 season), there is a Powerboat P1 North American championship. Every couple of years or so, top finishers from North America face off against top finishers from other continents in a true world championship.

Is it ambitious? Yes. Could it fail? Yes. While Powerboat P1 seems to have solid competition and presentation models, it just started “breaking even” on a “event basis” this season. In other words, the series has been heavily subsidized by Asif Rangoonwalla, it’s chairman and owner. The economic model, though showing promise and growth, is far from fully formed.

But I believe that a United States series could be the final and most essential piece in the Powerboat P1 puzzle. And I also believe that fragmentation we have now simply isn’t working. Of course the current recession isn’t helping, but it’s hard to look at offshore racing in this country and say—at least with a straight face—that it isn’t dying.

Powerboat P1 North America presents, at least if I’m reading correctly, a rare opportunity for unity—mandatory APBA sanction for organizations that want to run its classes—and autonomy—those associations can continue to exist and run their own shows.

Good news? Absolutely.

After all, it’s Friday.