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Interview: Catching Up With Powerboat P1 Head Azam Rangoonwala

For the next three days, all eyes in the offshore powerboat racing world will be on the 37th annual Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix. The Southwest Florida event is both the third contest in the eight-race American Power Boat Association Offshore National Championship Series and the second of 10 races in Union International Motonautique Class 1 World Championship Series.

That puts Azam Rangoonwala, the 35-year-old chief executive officer of United Kingdom-based Powerboat P1, squarely in the spotlight. As it did in Cocoa Beach, Fla., in May and will in St. Petersburg, Fla., in September, P1 Offshore—the offshore-racing production arm of Powerboat P1—is handling the Sarasota event with Visit Sarasota County as its presenting sponsor.

Powerboat P1 chief executive officer Azam Rangoonwala sees plenty of momentum for Class 1 and the sport itself. Photo by Cole McGowan copyright Powerboat P1.

By overwhelming accounts, the Cocoa Beach race production was exceptional, just as the Sarasota production needs to be. In 2021, both events struggled to stay on schedule. And though many of the issues were beyond control, the buck stopped with Rangoonwala—who is in Sarasota this weekend as he was Cocoa Beach two months ago—and his team.

Reached by phone this morning, Rangoonwala, who arrived in Florida last night from London, is feeling positive and ready for another successful event.

Coming off a solid Cocoa Beach event, you must be energized enough to ignore your jet-lag this weekend.

(Laughs) Yes, absolutely. After Cocoa Beach this year, I feel like we are almost back to where we were at the end of 2019, which really was a high point for us.

Your Class 1 efforts also appear to have good momentum.

This weekend is looking good for Class 1 with four good teams and we should have a couple more coming this season—Steve Curtis, who is working on the Defalco team boat, tells me it should be ready in time for St. Pete. Everyone is learning. There’s kind of a retraining process with Class 1 because it always pushes the limits of things. For example, we’re bringing back pole-position qualifying this weekend. Now all the other classes want it (laughs). I’m excited. It’s definitely growing into something and we have a lot of global, long-term interest.

This has to be the first time a UIM Class 1 world championship will be decided entirely by a series of races in the United States.

Yes, absolutely is it.

Your group faced a lot of criticism after last year’s Sarasota event. Does that add pressure?

Yeah, I think we are definitely under pressure. With the weather and all the races teams, it’s always challenging. A lot of things worked really well in Cocoa Beach this year, especially working with Race World Offshore for technical support. It’s exciting. You can feel the pent-up demand for offshore racing. But I will be relieved when the weekend is over (laughs).

I have been in touch with (Suncoast Charities For Children executive director) Lucy Nicandri. Even though she and the charity are no longer involved with this event, this is still her baby and she still has an emotional attachment to it. So there’s pressure there. But as much as I want to deliver and for Lucy and our team, I want to deliver for Sarasota.

Azam Rangoonwala (center): “After Cocoa Beach this year, I feel like we are almost back to where we were at the end of 2019, which really was a high point for us.” Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

The Cocoa Beach outcome must have boosted your confidence.

Actually, I think it added more pressure because it went so well (laughs). The P1 team did really well, and while it was nice to be back in Cocoa Beach again, I can’t take credit for it. It takes months and months, sometimes years, of planning for an event like Cocoa Beach. Same with Sarasota. I’m already talking about next year with Visit Sarasota County. We actually met this morning.

Your group has been on a roll lately with new sponsorships such as those with CELSIUS sports/energy drink and Good Boy Vodka, XINSURANCE, as well as returning backers Mercury Racing, CMR Construction and Roofing and more. That has to be gratifying—and motivating.

Absolutely. If you read all our press releases, they always mention “business partnerships.” Our partnership with Mercury Racing is great. Our partnership with Race World Offshore is great. And having non-endemic partners such as CELSIUS and Good Boy Vodka isn’t just great for Powerboat P1 because it helps us build our team, it’s great for the sport. We are building long-term relationships.

One of our pushes is building “activation experiences” on land for fans through our sponsors. We all love watching the races, but what happens on land is another place to build. And in the long run, it’s great for the sport.

You and your wife, Hurriyah, have an infant daughter and another baby girl coming in October. It must be bittersweet to be stateside these days.

(Laughs) Yes, definitely. When I was living in Florida before I was married and had kids, everything was Powerboat P1. I lived it. Having a family has taught me about time management and finding work-life balance. It’s difficult to manage all of this from abroad, but a lot of it is about establishing processes and having the right people in place. And I am really impressed with our team.

Heidi Bartlett (left) and Lucy Nicandri flanked Azam Rangoonwala during the 2019 Thunder on Cocoa Beach offshore race.

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