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Commentary: Powerboat P1 Class Disintegration Isn’t the End of the World

Before you start launching nasty emails at me for using the word “Disintegration” anywhere near “Powerboat P1,” please let me explain. I am not saying that Powerboat P1, which announced last week that it is bailing on its Super Sport and Evolution offshore racing classes for 2010—at least—is disintegrating. I am not saying that at all, although Powerboat P1’s new “business plan” based on Aquabike, SuperStock and Rigid Inflatable Boat racing may well take care of that.

(OK, now you can start launching nasty emails at me.)

What I’m saying is that the demise of the Super Sport and Evolution classes just isn’t that big of a deal. First, it’s not as if offshore racing lost the keys to economic viability. Not even close. Despite tight competition and decently sized fleets in both classes, as well as extravagant events in exotic locales, the entire Powerboat P1 circuit existed because one guy—Asif Rangoonwalla—continually pumped silly amounts of money into it.

Sure, the racing was great, the venues were cool and the bars in the hospitality suites were well-stocked. But don’t kid yourself. Powerboat P1’s events existed because Mr. Rangoonwalla wrote big checks—lots of them—for seven years. So while the Evolution and Super Sport classes do present excellent, in my view, competition models based on power-to-weight ratios, they clearly were not offshore racing’s economic solution.

And here’s the thing: I’m not sure that offshore racing has an economic solution beyond the principals—meaning team owners and promoters— footing the bills. The closest I’ve seen the sport come to economic viability was in the first three years of APBA Offshore LLC in the late 1990s and early 2000s. For reasons we can all argue about forever, APBA Offshore was “replaced,” if that’s the right word, with all that led to what we have now, which aside from the Offshore Powerboat Association, is pretty damn weak.

So while like most of you I’m saddened that Mr. Rangoonwalla and his team at Powerboat P1 couldn’t make it work, I do not think it spells the end of offshore racing. Again, we did not lose a viable economic model. We did lose a cool circuit, but we gained two equally cool classes that are now in the Union Internationale Motonautique rulebook. Even more positive, the demise of those classes—and I know, I know, they may come back—in Europe has sparked healthy discussions here on what the sport needs to do if it wants to survive and grow.

I don’t have the answers. I just know that we didn’t lose two of them.