Representatives from the Qatar Sailing and Watersports Federation (formerly the Qatar Marine Sports Federation) departed Orlando, Fla., today but left no solid answers on the future of the Spirit of Qatar offshore racing team based in the Central Florida city. Earlier this week, two sources from outside the team’s shop told speedonthwater.com that the QSWF representatives were in town to inventory the team’s equipment—the outfit has one turbine-powered Mystic Powerboats catamaran, one MTI cat and three Victory cats in addition to an array of vehicles, trailers, engines, parts and tools all reportedly owned by the Qatari government—and instruct Spirit of Qatar team manager Steve Curtis to shutter the operation. But according to Curtis, that did not happen.
Said Curtis on the current state of the Spirit of Qatar team: “It’s a bit of a mess, to be honest.” Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
While Curtis described the current situation as uncertain and challenging, he also said he’s been given no definitive answer on the future of the team or instructions to dismantle it from the QSWF.
“I think their visit was exploratory,” Curtis said. “At the moment, there is no official, final word. They are going back to meet with Mr. Khalifia (the current head of the QSWF) on Thursday morning and we should hear something next week. But they are not ‘offshore racing guys.’ They don’t know anything about it. They are from the sailing side. They are not racing guys.
“We have been told to scale it back,” he added. “We are still working on the boats, but we haven’t even talked about where we could race. We’re not booking hotels at future venues. It’s a bit of a mess, to be honest.”
Curtis said that he is in frequent communication with Spirit of Qatar team leader Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani, the former head of the QMSF, and the Sheikh still wants to race offshore. At present, he is working on finding sponsors for the team.
“To what end those sponsors are, the government of Qatar or something like ‘Cheerios,’ I don’t know,” Curtis said.
Even with sponsors secured, Sheikh Hassan reportedly will need approval from the Qatari government to use the team’s equipment. That, too, could prove challenging in light of the most recent moves made by the QSWF this year on the marine motorsports side. The organization has disbanded its F1 H2O tunnel team and its tunnel-boat youth development programs, as well as opted out of the remainder of its H1 Unlimited hydroplane contract (read H1 chairman Steven David’s recent statement) valued at approximately $7 million.