Heading into its fourth season in 2018, the West Michigan Offshore powerboat club has doubled its size to the tune of approximately 250 members since its founding. That is, by any measure, exceptional growth. With its four-event 2017 season in the books, WMO president Chris Dekker and the club’s board of directors are taking a well-earned three month break, but that doesn’t mean Dekker and company aren’t at least thinking about next year.
In 2017, Dekker said, the club found a balance of two large events—the Muskegon Powerboat Weekend and Rock The Coast—and two small events—the June Fun Run and the August Fun Run. Each larger event attracted 100-plus high-performance V-bottoms and catamarans, whereas the smaller outings pulled 30 to 40 entries.
“We have so many new members, and it can be very intimidating stepping into big events with staggered starts and a photo helicopter overhead,” said Dekker. “It’s a nice way to get people into the organized boating scene without freaking them out.
“The rhythm we found doing just four events a season really helped, even though we battled weather at three out of four events this year,” he continued. “The year before, we tried to do seven events and they ended up competing with each other. Everyone can’t do everything, and we also don’t want to compete with other events such as Boyne Thunder and the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout. We probably have more members attending those two events than any other (non WMO) event.”
To help manage the club’s meteoric rise, Dekker and the WMO board of directors have added “non-board” positions to handle chores they simply don’t have time for. Former offshore powerboat racer Carolyn Snow, for example, spearheaded the club’s public/media relations efforts this season and worked with various media outlets in advance of the large events.
“We put a lot of faith in her, and during the Muskegon Powerboat Weekend the channel was lined with hundreds and hundreds of people watching the boats go out,” said Dekker. “That was really encouraging.”
Raising approximately $30,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation this year, the club leadership clearly recognizes the value of having a charitable component within their high-performance powerboating community. That, too, will continue next year. And based on past performance, WMO most likely will continue to grow.
“We are going to learn from the past two years, stick with the four-event model that has worked and try to supplement those events with new ideas and new processes,” said Dekker. “We want to stick with the basic framework while trying to make it an even better experience for members. We think 2018 is going to be a great year.”
Dekker paused, then laughed. “We only have three a month a year here to go boating,” he said. “It’s now or never.”
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