After wrapping up a week’s worth of offshore racing in Key West, some racers have confirmed to Powerboat Nation—some on the record, others off—that dramatic changes could be on the horizon regarding their commitment to Super Boat International, the sanctioning body that oversees the event.
Founded by John Carbonell in 1989, SBI is the highest-profile of the existing offshore racing organizations, which also include the Offshore Powerboat Association (OPA), the Powerboat P1 series, and Race World Offshore (RWO), the newest of the groups. In recent years, these other groups have worked overtime to offer competitive and attractive services to racers to lure them into their own fold—leaving some racers disappointed that SBI isn’t doing all it can do pay back their commitments to the organization.
Immediately after the SBI awards ceremony, Mark Waddington, co-owner of Performance Boat Center, said his team—along with other offshore racers in Supercat Racing class—would be committing to race in six OPA/P1 races for the 2019 season, and that those specific races would be the ones that determine their national championship.
“We feel like the future is probably with OPA,” he told Powerboat Nation. “We feel very strongly that OPA is the best organization for going forward, and in order for us to do what we want to do to create a better consistency of our class, we think OPA/P1 is going to have that for us. Nothing against SBI—our class may have racers who do SBI events and Race World Offshore events. But we are planning to score our national championship based upon those six races.”
He continued: “We’ve been kind of mastering our own series of races, and we’ve decided that we’re going to all guarantee that we will attend those six specific races with OPA/P1. Some racers in our class may choose to participate in SBI next season, but those races will not count to our national championship.”
Pressed on whether the Superboat and Superboat Unlimited teams had any specific grievances in the SBI format, Waddington elaborated, choosing his words carefully. “Some things haven’t gone as well as we’d hoped. At the end of the day, they’ve done a good job in a lot of races. But we think that the group that’s going to do the best job over the long term is on the OPA and P1 side. Some of the best races we’ve ever done has been in Sarasota over the last three years. We really think that the combination of OPA and P1 is going to be a positive for all of us.”
Veteran racer Randy Sweers, who throttled in both Superboat Stock (in the 30’ Doug Wright MGI Tech/Lumbertons OffRoad competitor) and Superboat class (in the 41’ MTI MGI Digital Tech Konica/Minolta hull) in Key West, told Powerboat Nation that the renewed commitment to OPA was actually the brainchild of Superboat Unlimited class racers, and Superboat class was following them into the fray. And although he said he had a lot of fun racing in both his classes in Key West, Sweers acknowledged that there is some unhappiness among racers.
“I think that there’s been frustration for many years,” he said. “My sponsors, who are heavily involved in motorsports, were here in Key West, and they were pretty surprised at the end of the race that fans and spectators didn’t get an opportunity to interact with the racers who won. No checkered flags were given to anybody. There’s no podium. My sponsor was shocked—he said, ‘From a marketing standpoint, talk about missed opportunities! This is when you want your winners to interact with the people who came to the race. This is probably one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in racing.’ So that was his opinion on how the event was run.”
Sweers said he could see “a lot of room for improvement” in SBI: “It’s had its heyday and its time in the limelight. And perhaps it’s time for a changing of the guard. Sometimes you have to know when to exit gracefully.”
Another racer, who preferred that his name not be used, observed that racers might be outgrowing their partnership with SBI. “I would say that that there seems to be a shift in the professionalism of the racing teams,” he said. “A seismic shift is beginning to happen within offshore racing that is pushing them to demand more from the racing organizer. How can racers hope to attract sponsors when there is very little press, very little attention paid to marketing, and a rule book where the rules are applied so haphazardly? Unfortunately, many racers are afraid to speak out.”