As targets for criticism go, offshore powerboat racing is an easy mark. Since its inception, the sport has been a rollercoaster of self-serving race organizer politics and ego-driven racer infighting—with a healthy dose of characters from sleazy to downright scary along for the ride. In the process, the sport has scared off more millionaires than a tax-loving Congressman.
Lord knows that in 16 years of covering the high-performance powerboat world, I’ve taken my shots. At various times, the sport has elated and disgusted me, given me hope and let me down. And I’ve been plenty vocal about it.
So why now, with fleet counts half of what they were at their peaks—most recently under APBA Offshore LLC from 1999 through 2001—am I particularly optimistic? Just weeks ago, yet another Golden Goose, John Haggin, flew the coop. I even broke the story. Don’t I read my own blog?
Here’s why: It only takes two closely matched boats in a class to make a compelling race.
Take Talbot Excavating versus Mapei, Amsoil versus Stihl, Cintron versus CMS 3—all from the recent Super Boat International Key West Offshore World Championships. Or if you prefer, take Typhoon versus Time Bandit, Wazzup Racing versus Strictly Business—both from the recent Offshore Powerboat Association World Championships in Orange Beach, Ala. Good to great battles, every one of them.
Of course the sport would be better off with four boats or more in each class vying closely for top honors. Better for fans, organizers and potential sponsors. No argument here.
But that’s not what we have right now. Instead, we have a relatively small but solid group of offshore racers who live for the sport and spend copious amounts of time and money chasing it. They race because they love it and because they know that, now and again, they will find themselves in an incredible battle.
They know something that’s all too easy to forget in the white noise of offshore powerboat racing: It only takes two closely matched boats in class to make a compelling race.
And that’s enough for now.