To describe the Race World Offshore inaugural two-race season, which concluded in August with its final event in Dunkirk, N.Y., as challenging for Larry Bleil, the organization’s founder, would be a vast understatement. Despite his longtime involvement with the former Conch Offshore Powerboat Racing Association—an organization that no longer exists—the retired Key West, Fla.-based businessman didn’t fully know what he was getting into.
As a result, in its early stages the RWO schedule expanded and contracted more than once during the 2018 season.
“We put our initial team together,” said Bleil, who is in the early planning stages for the 2019 season. “We made mistakes. I have to admit it. What we learned most was that until you have things signed, sealed and delivered you should keep your mouth shut. Talking about things before that doesn’t do any good”
For that reason and others, Bleil is willing to say that RWO has one race—the Dunkirk event—locked in for the 2019. The organization’s Mentor, Ohio, race is out.
“That was the last word I got in Clearwater (during the Super Boat International National Championships),” said Bleil. “I don’t think Mark Small (title sponsor and event backer of Cleveland Construction fame) is going to put on a race there. That was news to us—that Mentor is off the table.
“We got to Clearwater and the first thing we heard was that Powerboat P1 and the Offshore Powerboat Association are joining forces,” he continued. “But we are not going to throw up our hands and quit. John Carbonell of SBI isn’t going to throw up his hands and quit. He’s organized this herd of people for a lot of years. You have to give the guy credit.”
Neither officials at Powerboat P1 nor OPA could confirm at this time that they will have a combined 2019 event schedule. Reached by phone this morning, Small could not confirm the future of the Mentor race.
With SBI’s contract to hold its annual Key West World Championships in its final year, a new agreement will be up for bid after this year’s event set for Nov. 5-11. A hot commodity on multiple fronts, the event is the biggest revenue-raiser of the year for the city according to Monroe County Tourism Development Council.
As for whether RWO will bid on the event, Bleil remained vague.
“John has the last year of the contract right now,” he said. “After the first of the year, we will be working on all of our potential sites and moving forward. We’re not going to let rumor and everything else dictate what we’re doing. We’ll see where it all goes. Within a month of the Key West race, we’ll know where it’s going.
“Boat racing has been No. 1 in Key West for years and years,” he continued. “Does the city need it? Yes it does. Do they need to do things differently? Yes, they do. The problem I find it that it has been the same thing for a long, long time. They need to keep the core of racing, but they need to change it up.”
Despite the past and current bumps in the road, Bleil said his goals—and his resolve to succeed—have not changed since he started the organization.
“We have a good core team now,” he said. “We started from ground zero. I went out and purchased everything—all of the equipment, everything. I think out team did a fabulous job in Mentor and Dunkirk.
“All I want to do is change things up—things in offshore powerboat racing have been screwed up for too long,” he continued. “I want the teams to make money. I want them to have purses. I want things to be better. I have no hidden agenda here. If I break even, I’m great.”