Offshore Racing 2017: Realistic Optimism

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If you’re an offshore racing fan, there’s plenty to look forward to this year. Photo by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

Pining for the “good old days” of offshore powerboat racing is an exercise in futility. What we have now is what we have now—and it’s not going to change anytime soon. The lack of return on investment for teams and their backers, compounded by dwindling fan interest, pretty much assure it. Overall fleet size at Super Boat International and Offshore Powerboat Association event likely will be the same this year as it was last year.

As for what happens on the racecourse, that will unfold in earnest with first SBI event of the season May 18-21 in Cocoa Beach, Fla., and the first OPA race of the year happening in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., on the same weekend.

But perspective and attitude play huge roles in how we all view things, and I like to at least try to stay positive.

You could say, for example, that SBI lost a race this season by knocking the Marathon, Fla., contest off its schedule. Or you could say that a lightly attended—at best—and not particularly viewing friendly event was eliminated. SBI teams have one less option, that’s true, but they also have one less event to drain what are, at least for most players in the game, limited resources.

You could say it’s a bummer that the dazzling Unlimited-class CMS team of Bob Bull and Randy Scism plan to run just two events—the OPA Lake Race in Central Missouri and the SBI World Championships in Key West, Fla.—this season. But you could also say they’re passing the torch to their MTI catamaran stable-mates Rusty Rahm and Jeff Harris in Wake Effects. And with Mike DeFrees and Gary Ballough reportedly committed to running a full Unlimited-class season in CRC/Sunlight Supply and a new team planning to have an Unlimited-class raceboat ready to run for SBI second race of the season, the void left by Bull and Scism—at least in terms of boat count—will be filled.

You could say that the Unlimited-class Miss GEICO team has been disappointing for the past few years. You also could say that the Miss GEICO team is still around—and hell-bent on proving itself and pleasing its fans this year. As surely as fans in Cocoa Beach will be bummed out that Miss GEICO is heading for the OPA event in Point Pleasant Beach, Garden State fans will be delighted to see the boat duking it out with Alex And Ani.

You could be disappointed that OPA’s inaugural Resorts World Bimini Grand Prix drew only 16 raceboats. But you could be buoyed by the enthusiasm and excitement the event generated among racers and Chesapeake Bay Powerboat Association members who made the weekend run to Bimini to support the event. OPA actually tried to do something ambitious, and smart money says Bimini will be back on the organization’s schedule next year.

You could mourn what appears to be a continued fall-off in SBI’s Stock class—that started in earnest last year with Ryan Beckley and Gary Ballough as the only consistent competitors in the class. Or you could be encouraged by the seven Superboat Vee-class teams—the largest regular season Superboat Vee fleet in recent history—registered for the SBI Cocoa Beach contest.

And from the Superboat class with the likes of 2016 world champion Performance Boat Center, 2015 world champion WHM Motorsports and STIHL returning, there’s nothing but good news report about that offshore racing category. Six teams are registered for Cocoa Beach, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Superboat-class fleet average that number throughout the season.

Of course, I’m keenly aware of offshore powerboat racing’s flaws and shortcomings. For this reporter and fan, it’s certainly aggravating at times. As for the sport’s “unfulfilled potential,” I find dwelling on that about as useful as pining for the “good old days.”

What we have now is what we have now. And like many of you I’m looking forward to it.

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Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the former editor of Sportboat magazine.

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