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Commentary: Time For Answers From Qatar

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With the change in leadership at the Qatar Marine Sports Federation more than two months ago, official information on the future of the country’s marine sports programs from Unlimited hydroplanes to offshore racing has been nonexistent. Yesterday’s announcement by Qatar team tunnel-boat ace Shaun Torrente that the team has been disbanded does not, according to multiple sources, bode well for the future of the Qatar-backed Oryx Cup on the H1 Unlimited hydroplane series and the Spirit of Qatar offshore racing team. At present, no official word has been released from the organization.

Frankly, it’s time. Strike that, it’s overdue. Nature abhors a vacuum—any vacuum. Leave people without information long enough and they will fill the void with their own, and in most cases that information will have more to do with mean-spirited, agenda-based speculation and nasty rumor rather than fact.

If Qatar is abandoning or continuing its marine motorsports programs, that announcement needs to be made. Sure, fans will be disappointed and a few—the really ignorant and hateful ones—will put an anti Middle Eastern spin on it. But the truth is that once-huge powerboat-racing benefactors of all kinds eventually bail out when they become tired of throwing money at the sport or simply get bored with it—or experience a power shift in check-writing leadership. If the Qatar folks say “We’re done” today or tomorrow, they’ll be in good company.

But they need to say something. Now. You can’t court publicity and media exposure and then suddenly vanish and expect people, especially passionate fans, to forget you ever existed. (OK, well, you can, but it’s a horrible public relations strategy.) The longer it takes for an official announcement, the worse it gets. Simply disappearing without a word would be a bad move for a country hosting a FIFA World Cup and hoping to snag an Olympic bid.

I have spoken to Steve David, the legendary retired Unlimited hydroplane driver and the interim chairman of the H1 organization. I have spoken to Steve Curtis, the renowned offshore racer and manager the Spirit of Qatar offshore racing team in the United States. Both are optimistic, as is their nature. And both have received zero official and final word on the future.

If Qatar is done with marine motorsports, most fans—this one included—will be disappointed to see them go but grateful for what we had, when we had it. Under the leadership of Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani, the country pumped millions of dollars into its F1, H1 and offshore racing efforts. That’s a substantial legacy, one that gets tarnished with each passing day of the information void.

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Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix

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