Yesterday’s announcement that Powerboat P1 will bring its V-bottom racing series to the United States in 2011—marketing and promotion will happen in 2010— under the American Power Boat Association sanction could be a major step toward offshore racing unification. Of course there will be significant hurdles, but the Powerboat P1 announcement, combined with APBA’s recent and ongoing dialogue with other domestic racing bodies on unified sanctioning under the APBA umbrella is the most compelling news the sport has had in a long time.
Earlier this morning I caught up with Martin Sanborn, director of North American operations for Powerboat P1 USA. Here’s what he had to say.
How long has Powerboat P1 been planning to bring its series to the United States?
For a couple of years, but the original direction was to bring one or two “stops” to the U.S. as part of the Powerboat P1 circuit. That made sense. But because of Powerboat P1’s relationship with the UIM (Union Internationale Motonautique), which sanctions all of its events, we thought, “What if we brought the entire series here?” That made even more sense. We use the local federations of the UIM in the all the countries where we have races. So to bring Powerboat P1 racing here, we’d be dealing with the APBA, the official arm of the UIM in the United States. Everybody over there thought it was a great idea. So far, everybody over here also seems to think it’s a great idea—if we can get past the politics.
Powerboat P1 races on several continents. Each continent could eventually have its own continental championship. And every two years or so, the champions from each continent could compete in a true world championship. But for a genuine world championship, you’d also need a North American champion. So bringing the series here makes perfect sense—and it’s huge.
And there are three classes in the plan for 2011?
Yes. We’d initially have the (twin-engine, canopied) Evolution and Super Sport (twin engine, open cockpit) classes, which basically translate to Super V and Factory 2 here, and then we’d add a third class that, for lack of better name at the moment, we’re calling “Pro Am.” That would be the equivalent of Super V Light (single engine, canopied) here.
According to Powerboat P1 head Asif Rangoonwalla, the APBA sanction is particularly important. Why is that so critical?
APBA is only offshore racing sanctioning body in the United States with recognized international credibility. When you set a speed record with APBA, for example, you have to use its internationally accepted criteria for speed records. The structure of APBA and its relationship with the UIM establishes credibility. Also, because of Powerboat P1’s connection with UIM, we have to work with whatever federation represents UIM in whatever country we have a Powerboat P1 event. In this country, that’s APBA.
How are other offshore racing organizations reacting to Powerboat P1’s domestic plans?
For the most part, we’ve been received very well. POPRA (Pacific Offshore Powerboat Racing Association) has agreed to bring on Powerboat P1 classes in 2011 and the people I’ve spoken to at OSS (Offshore Super Series) and OPA (Offshore Performance Association) are amiable to the idea.
Based on Powerboat P1’s relationship with UIM, if a racing association isn’t APBA-sanctioned it can’t have Powerboat P1 classes. So racing bodies looking to add Powerboat P1 classes in 2011 first need to be sanctioned by the APBA, right?
That’s correct. And the reality is that APBA Detroit, because the offshore category was leased out in the past 10 years, still has to rebuild some of its credibility with newer racers who might not know the value of officially kept records, the Hall of Champions or an international association. But the value is still there.
The competition model and class structures for Powerboat P1 employ power-to-weight ratios. Will racers and prospective racers in the P1 classes need to build new boats or will they be able to modify existing race boats to fit into those classes?
That’s the magic of the power-to-weight ratio model. If you look at the current fleet of V-bottoms in the U.S. as well as so many of the old Super V and Factory 2 boats, there so many boats that, with weight or horsepower adjustments, that could fit into the Powerboat P1 classes. The opportunity to have an “instant fleet” is there. When racers see how simple it is to ensure parity with the P1 formula, we think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.
How many Powerboat P1-specifc events can we expect to see here in 2011?
A minimum of three, a maximum of five, but they have to be major. The racers and fans have to go to those events and say, “Wow, this is incredible.” Powerboat P1 has race site criteria—the pits, the wet pits, the hospitality areas all have to be integrated. They can’t be miles away from each other.
From a competition standpoint, Powerboat P1 has been successful overseas. Has the circuit succeeded financially?
Last year, the circuit started breaking even at the event level, and that’s a really big achievement. But one of the key reasons to expand into the U.S. market is to open up the opportunities for sponsorship. One of the questions that’s come up with major sponsors overseas is, “Do you have the U.S. market?” In 2011, Powerboat P1 sponsors with a true international need to promote will be able to do that in the United States. And future Powerboat P1 sponsors in the United States with a true international need to promote will be able do that in Europe and beyond.
This model of a centralized offshore racing with series, continental champions and a true world champion offers unlimited potential. It’s so much bigger and grander than anything that’s been considered in the past.