All nine teams—with one possible exception due to a sponsorship commitment—that run in Super Boat International’s premiere Superboat catamaran class are opting out of the offshore racing producer’s season-opener May 18-20 in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Organized as the “750 Owners Group,” the team owners voted via conference call this morning to take the race off their nine-event “internal points schedule,” according to Mark Small, the owner of the Cleveland Construction team.
Based on a group decision reached today, teams that compete in SBI’s Superboat class will not run in the organization’s season-opener in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
“We reached out to the Cocoa Beach promoter 10 days ago to let him know how concerned we are with SBI’s technical, safety, race control and course marshaling elements, all of which are changing or in the process of changing,” Small said. “None of those folks in those four elements have worked together in the past with SBI. All four of those components are what make up a race site, and everything in them is new. We are gravely concerned about that. We are not addressing the competency of the people, just that they have not worked together before. It just doesn’t pass muster.
“So 10 days ago, we asked the promoter of the Cocoa Beach race to write a letter to SBI asking who they were going to put in those positions,” he continued. “When have these people worked together in the past? What training have they done together to make the environment safer? Give us something to make us feel good. As it turned out, he did not write the letter to SBI. So we had a conference call today and our class voted unanimously to take the Cocoa Beach race off our list of venue sites for the season.”
“I think it’s very unfortunate that they have chosen to do that, to hurt Cocoa Beach and hurt the sport,” said Kerry Bartlett, the executive director of Space Coast Super Boat, the oufit that produces the Cocoa Beach event. “I understand there are safety concerns, but I have to believe that SBI and the new staff are capable. I have no reason to believe they are not.”
Reached by phone this morning, a representative from Super Boat International offered “no comment” on the decision.
According to Small, the 750 Owners Group will tally points from its internal venue sites scheduled to crown its own national championship. The group currently is building its own website. Through funds coming from the owners of each the team, they have created their own technical inspection/support structure. They’ve even added an owner-funded “roll-over” insurance program to help teams that roll their boats during events defray repairs costs to the tune of $10,000, Small said.
“We have developed our own points system as to who is going to become national champion because we want to race in more than four venues,” he said. “We have our own technical side and we have Racepak at every venue, which isn’t to suggest that people are cheating but to say to people interested in getting into the class, ‘You can compete in this class, and you can compete fairly.’ The integrity of our class is based on the technical side—it makes sure everyone operates fairly. If we don’t have that integrity, this class will dwindle from nine boats to two.”
Small, who has in the past supplied two safety boats for SBI events, said the teams agreed that if SBI brought back its safety, technical, race control and course marshal from last season for the Cocoa Beach race the teams in the group would participate. He also said that if the venue decided to “go independent” and hire those teams the group would participate.
“Cocoa Beach is a great venue and city with great fans,” Small said. “There are people who wrote checks to make this happen—none of this happens without the sponsors. This decision did not come lightly. This was the ninth year of Cocoa Beach being a venue and we wanted to have a 10th. But Cocoa Beach will be getting a letter from us saying our class will not attend.
“We wish to attend, but it has to be safe,” he continued. “We may be adrenaline junkies, but in every case the team owners also own reasonably large to large businesses, and we operate those businesses on risk analysis.”
The group’s first internal/point-accruing event will be the Offshore Powerboat Association Lake Race (June 1-3) at the Lake of the Ozarks in Central Missouri. At present, SBI’s races in Michigan City, Ind., Clearwater, Fla., and Key West, Fla., remain on the group’s current competition roster.
“Will we attend other SBI venues?” Small commented. “We are hoping sponsors and promoters are paying attention and that we don’t have to make this call. We wish to race. We have nothing against (SBI president) John Carbonell. We have nothing against SBI. But we do find ourselves in one of the most traumatic times in the past 40 years of offshore racing with all the organizations including SBI, Race World Offshore, OPA and the independent venues like the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix.
“Our concern is not trying to pick who is the ‘winner’ or ‘loser,’ ” he added. “Our concern is choosing venues where we can compete and operate safely and fairly. Again, we wish to race.”
The current 2018 competition schedule for the 750 Owners Group is:
• June 1-13, The Lake Race, Lake Ozarks, Mo. (OPA)
• June 30-July 1, The Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix, Sarasota, Fla. (Powerboat P1/RWO)
• July 20-22, The Cleveland Construction Mentor Grand Prix, Mentor, Ohio (RWO)
• Aug. 3-5, Super Boat Great Lakes Grand Prix, Michigan City, Ind. (SBI)
• Aug. 17-19, Race World Offshore Grand Prix, Dunkirk, N.Y. (RWO)
• Sept 14-16, Race World Offshore National Championship, Riviera Beach, Fla. (RWO)
• Sept. 28-30, SBI National Championships, Clearwater, Fla.
• Nov 2-12, SBI World Championships, Key West, Fla.
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