It was perfect timing. Just as breaking news was reverberating across the high performance waters, the invitation to attend the final round of the P1 AquaX Championship on Fort Lauderdale Beach last November provided me with an ideal interview opportunity.
I sat down with P1 Chief Executive Azam Rangoonwala in the comfort of a welcoming VIP Hospitality tent, where he talked of plans that create a new 21st century approach to revitalize the sport of offshore power boat racing. “We saw the opportunity to bring everything together in a global platform. In order to do that, it takes a lot of work. We need to bring everyone together – it’s a team perspective,” Azam told me. “Without a doubt, the coming season is going to be the most challenging, competitive and entertaining.”
In a bold endeavor, Powerboat P1 has charted an impressive course encompassing a new partnership with OPA that launches the APBA Offshore Championship, boasting a six race circuit that kicks-off May 18th in Cocoa Beach. It’s a significant development that aims to strengthen the future of racing in the US by delivering an expanded, cohesive, world class race series split equally between northern and southern states of Florida, Missouri and Michigan. “I want to go with APBA, it has history and UIM (Union Internationale Motonautique) is the sanctioning body. We are about maintaining the legacy and having a governing body that’s recognized both nationally and internationally.”
Since they began their respective racing efforts back in 2003, Azam under the P1 banner has staged events in 18 countries, while Ed “Smitty” Smith of OPA has conducted over 120 events: they bring a wealth of powerboat racing experience to this unique platform. “Our team has learned a lot running the Sarasota event, as well as from the European boat racing circuit, and especially, my dad’s experience as a businessman,” Azam said. “Rule alignment in working with OPA and APBA, along with current venues, can create a consistent platform with a consistent schedule and build in a points system that makes it interesting.”
Continuing a proven track record, the P1 SuperStock USA Championship features a five race schedule that returns May 11th to Kissimmee/St. Cloud showcasing a dramatically re-dressed P1 Panther race boat.
“The 2019 Panther will look sleek and stylish, but maintain the character of the original deck design,” Azam Rangoonwala. Photo Courtesy P1 SuperStock USA
Craig Wilson (owner of Wilson Custom Composites) is working closely with Martin Sanborn, one of the lead developers of the P1 Panther vee hull nearly eight years ago. Wilson is taking the boat to the next level utilizing resources of the Performance Boat Center in South Florida. “The move to the canopy configuration will have a number of important results including enhanced safety for the crews, improved race performance and the change from a mechanical control system to a digital throttle and shift system which will increase responsiveness and simplify the rigging process for the boats,” Wilson explained.
In an effort to attract a new breed of competitors, the new Mercury Racing 4.6L V-8 four stroke 300 R will power the canopied Panther vee hull this year. “They will experience a noticeable improvement in acceleration, particularly useful when powering out of turns – together with an increase in top-end speeds,” Rick Mackie, PR & Communications Manager at Mercury Racing said. “Our Mercury propellers will deliver best performance and handling – racing is not all about straight line speed.”
His strategy incorporates re-packaging the excitement of offshore racing utilizing multiple media platforms, along with the PR/media aspects of growing the sport. “There wasn’t a plan to build the sport in general,” Azam said regarding his vision that focuses on its long-standing fan base and introducing the sport to a totally new audience via social media. “There was a gap in the market. There was a transition to social media and sponsors are going after the target market… millennials are that market. And I understand that market – I’m one of those people.”
The offshore community looks forward to this next chapter as this mega venture unites race teams, venues, fans and sponsors via an exciting and entertaining platform (check out www.p1superstock.com for the 11 event schedule). Azam summed it up this way: “I feel we have a really good opportunity to bring it all together. We have a long way to go, but we are heading in the right direction.”
Bobbye Miller Kenyon is an award-winning journalist whose high-performance articles appeared in Hot Boat Magazine, along with fast-paced marine industry news in her Hot Sheet Column, from 1997-2008 and Powerboat Magazine from 2009-2012. She received a special award from the State of Kentucky in 2014 as she was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel by Governor Steven L. Beshear for her writing efforts that showcased the diverse boating locales throughout the Bluegrass State. Her company, Offshore Public Relations, is a multi-faceted firm that has represented marine industry leaders and champions in the offshore racing arena. A native Miamian, she enjoys boating off the Florida Keys waters of Key Largo to Islamorada and the lakes of the Kentucky countryside.