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Powerboat P1 USA: What’s the Plan?

Those of you who visit speedonthewater.com and Boatermouth.com know that I’ve followed the story of Powerboat P1 attempting to establish itself in the United States—and the demise of its Evolution and Super Sport classes for 2010 and the foreseeable future—since January. Most recently, Powerboat P1 USA announced that it will put up $90,000 in prize money this year for the Super Vee Light series—run under all domestic sanctioning bodies—established by the SVL racers.

That’s relatively serious money for offshore racing (though chump change compared to what Powerboat P1 head Asif Rangoonwalla invested in the series overseas). So I called Martin Sanborn, the director of operations for Powerboat P1 USA, to try to get a clearer picture of where the organization is headed. Here’s what he had to say.

1. Is Powerboat P1 USA seeking to establish itself as another sanctioning body in the United States?

No.  We are an element of the UIM (Union Internationale Motonautique) and as such are subject to the sanctioning of APBA, since they are the national federation for the UIM in the USA.

2. So what is Powerboat P1 USA’s role in offshore racing?

P1 USA’s role is that of a premier event producer for three specific classes of V-bottom boats. Our initial role is that of a facilitator to consolidate classes from the current class structure that has evolved in offshore over the past decades.  There are simply too many classes for any spectator—or sponsor for that matter—to follow and comprehend.  When there are only 15 boats on a racecourse, and there are eight checkered flags awarded, that is somewhat hard to take seriously.

Our next role is to bring the existing organizations together under a common international sanctioning organization with recognized international authority and a common set of rules, meaning those of UIM.  All of the existing organizations in the U.S. are valuable and important, but for the sport to be credible there needs to be a single overall governing body so that fans—and again sponsors— can understand the sport and justify an investment of their time in the case of fans, and their resources in the case of sponsors.

There are already discussions with the various Super-Vee categories to come together under a single class and race together.  That effort will mirror the efforts of the SVL class to increase their level of competition, provide a professional and unified platform for sponsors to understand, and will ultimately bring more competitors into the sport with equipment that can ultimately compete under a horsepower-to-weight ratio format.  A level playing field, increased participation, consolidated classes, and a more professional presentation.  That is good for everyone even if we accomplish nothing else.

3. Despite putting on competitive and compelling events in Europe, Powerboat P1 could not make it financially overseas. What makes you think it will succeed here?

There are several primary reasons from my perspective.

First and perhaps most significantly, we do not have the infrastructure and logistical issues that teams—and a racing series— face in Europe.  Every race there requires crossing international borders, as opposed to us having to travel from state to state.  This is a huge barrier to team participation and series growth.  Consequently, our cost to put on competitive and compelling events of the magnitude of the events held in Europe is significantly less.  With a focus on fewer classes that are easily distinguishable and an event format that creates a festival atmosphere, we could put on comparable events at a lower cost, ultimately providing an event platform that generates genuine opportunity for sponsors/marketing partners to reach their objectives.  The model was right in Europe from a competition and event point of view.

We have a viable potential fleet of boats, if we continue with the consolidation of the fleets into a few well-defined classes with rules that create competition that is fair and exciting.  In Europe, they started with no boats, and had to build from scratch.  We can generate boat counts that are relevant featuring a few premier classes.  That is a huge advantage over the European series.

Finally, we have existing and established race venues and communities with a history of holding races.  It is our goal to work with existing series to elevate the level of event production for several key existing event venues, while allowing the host series to maintain their autonomy.  This is a lofty objective to be sure, but I believe that the way in which the SVL class has organized themselves as a P1 format class is a good sign that we are on the right track.

4. Offshore racing has gone through tremendous fragmentation here in the past 10 years, alienating fans in the process. Is there a viable fan base left in the United States?

Yes there is, but we have to regain their loyalty.  The sport has been it own worst enemy and there is no doubt that we have impacted the fan base.  This is going to be a process, not a light switch.  It took time to get it to this point and it will take time to get it out.  The key is going to be a consistent message, a single sanctioning authority, and the determination of all involved to move this forward as a sport without individual agendas.

Related Stories (from most to least recent)

1. Pay Day Coming for Super Vee Light Racers

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

3. Sanborn On Powerboat P1 USA: “No Change in the Plan”

4. Powerboat P1 Done for 2010

5. Breaking News: Super V Lite Establishing National Series for 2010

6. Exclusive Interview: Sanborn Sees “Unlimited Potential” in U.S. Expansion of Powerboat

7. Powerboat P1 Expanding Stateside for 2010 Season