Although the final list of offshore racing teams headed to the upcoming Qatar Cup (read the most recent story) won’t be released until tomorrow afternoon, no less than three United States-based Stock-class teams will participate in the race. Super Boat International‘s 2014 Stock-class world champions Chris Schoenbohm and Gary Ballough, The Hulk team’s Rob Nunziato and the former Steve Quick Jewelers cat with Lee Austin and a yet to be announced driver will have their outboard-powered catamarans and supporting equipment on a cargo ship departing Jacksonville, Fla., tomorrow bound for Doha, the capital city of Qatar.
Racing For Cancer is one of two inboard/stern-drive catamarans being shipped tomorrow from Jacksonville, Fla., for the Qatar Cup.
Schoenbohm said that he and Ballough, who raced together for the first time during the 2014 SBI Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla., finalized their decision to participate in the Qatar Cup during that event.
“We had a great, great time racing in Key West—some of the best times I’ve ever had racing,” said Schoenbohm. “We agreed to go to Qatar in Key West. Everything is fresh on the boat, including fresh graphics. We’ll be racing as Smart Marine/Top Starz Energy Drink, not SOS Venezuela. I have packed everything in the boat and we’re shrink-wrapping it now. Normally, it’s all in trailer.”
Hoping to have the final paperwork he needs in his hands tomorrow morning, Stock-class offshore racing veteran Ryan Beckley also plans to have his 30-foot Skater catamaran and gear on the ship with the rest of raceboats.
“My plan is to go,” said Beckley. “The boat has to be at the port tomorrow—it’s about three hours from here—and I’m just waiting on a letter from my bank. In should have it tomorrow morning.”
For Lawrence, the upcoming trip to Qatar will be his second. “I raced there in 2008, and what they put on, from the dinner for the racers to the entertainment, was second to none,” he said. “The way they set up the racecourse is spectator friendly, and it’s really fast, usually calm-water racing. We’re looking forward to racing in Doha.”
Said Schoenbohm: “I think it’s (the Qatar Cup) good for the sport.”
From what would be Superboat-class ranks under SBI, only two teams, Racing for Cancer and Spirit of Qatar 20, coming from the U.S. However, those teams reportedly will face competition from Australia, New Zealand and possibly even Dubai, home of the renowned Victory team that dominates the Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 circuit.
“I have invited a lot of friends and even some clients from Kuwait and Dubai who will be meeting our team there,” said Racing for Cancer‘s Randy Sweers, who owns Fastboats Marine Group. This is going to be a great event. I look at this as some ‘off-season testing’ in an amazing country, and I am sure the Sheikh and his contingency will show us a spectacular time. How could any racer turn this down? It’s a fully paid racing vacation to the one of the wealthiest counties in the world.”
Other U.S.-based offshore raceboats that reportedly will compete in the Qatar are the Twisted Metal Fountain and the Outerlimits SV 43 V-bottoms.
That the Qatar Cup is being co-organized by the Qatar Marine Sports Federation led by Sheik Hassan Jabor al Thani and the newly formed Offshore Powerboat Grand Prix organization led by interim president Steve Curtis, Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani’s racing partner and the Spirit of Qatar team’s U.S. representative stirred substantial controversy in the offshore racing world. (The news of OPGP series was enough for SBI to ban the Spirit of Qatar teams from competing in its Key West world championships last month—read the story.) But neither Schoenbohm nor Lawrence sees participating in the Qatar Cup as an “all or nothing”—SBI versus OPGP—proposition.
“Racers should be allowed to race where they want,” said Schoenbohm. “I am still going to support SBI—they’ve been very good to me. I would like to think this is not a threat. I think it’s good for the sport, and wherever there is sponsorship money is good for the sport and our class. I am very excited about next season, and I am very excited to compete against whatever teams come over here next season.”
Lawrence agreed. “Next year is going to be a great season of racing,” he said. “We haven’t made any decisions about where and when we’ll be racing next year—we’re just leaving that open for now. I think what they’re trying to do with the Qatar Cup is great. The most important thing is to get offshore racing back on track, and I think this will help.”
Editor’s note: Look for a story on the complete roster of U.S. offshore racing teams headed to the Qatar Cup on speedonthewater.com tomorrow afternoon.