Just three months ago, the newly formed Offshore Powerboat Grand Prix series was riding high on the wave of exposure created by the inaugural Qatar Cup sponsored by the Qatar Marine Sports Federation. The first event in the 2015 OPGP-sanctioned “series,” the Qatar Cup may not have been perfect, but it was a spectacular event that—for the first time in history—attracted a slew of United States-based offshore racing teams to compete in the Middle East. Yes, the QMSF footed the bill for those teams—and this journalist—to be there. But that didn’t detract from the buzz generated by two days of racing in Qatar. OPGP was off and running, and perfectly positioned to announce its rock-solid 2015 domestic schedule.
And then—nothing. Total silence.
Months before the U.S. raceboats were loaded on a ship bound for Qatar, the organizers of the Sarasota Offshore Grand Prix Festival had selected the OPGP as the sanctioning body for its 2015 offshore race during the July 4 holiday. And yet, without continued press releases on Sarasota—two since February—there would be exactly zero information coming out of OPGP on what’s currently happening with the organization’s domestic race series. Forget the 2016 Qatar Cup—that’s a year away if it’s going to happen at all. What happened, for example, to the June race originally on the OPGP schedule? That “TBD” race was eliminated from the OPGP calendar without comment from the decision-makers at OPGP.
Even for a journalist who aspires to be optimistic, the OPGP information void has been more than frustrating—it’s raised significant doubts about the organization’s viability. Steve Curtis, still the de-facto president of OPGP and the manager for the Spirit of Qatar offshore racing team, which like the Qatar Cup was funded by Qatar Marine Sports Federation until Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani was ousted as the head of that organization, hasn’t been able to offer much about the future of OPGP. Nor has Jason Miller, OPGP’s general manager. Whatever momentum the organization realized through the Qatar Cup is long gone, and all that remains are nagging questions about its immediate and long-term future.
Going to the rumor mill for “answers”—and trust me I’ve heard them all—or simply abandoning a story I’ve covered from the beginning aren’t viable options for me. As a journalist, I am obligated to follow ongoing stories until they reach some kind of conclusion.
So via email last week I asked Miller questions about OPGP’s sponsorship/funding situation, as well as the solidity of the races currently on its schedule. Several sources had told me that part of OPGP’s funding would come from “money leftover” from the Qatar Cup. Several sources also have told me that, other than the Sarasota event, OPGP’s schedule was on shaky ground, and to that end I asked for a list of contacts at the various venues OPGP has listed on its current schedule so I could speak to them. I included all this information in my questions.
Here is the email response I received from Miller yesterday:
OPGP was formed in order to provide a premier International offshore series that will give racers and teams the opportunity to race the highest level in the best venues both domestically and internationally. OPGP set itself a very high standard initially, featuring two premier events—the Qatar Cup and the upcoming Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival.
At this point in time for the 2015 season OPGP can confirm that it will run a minimum of two races—the Qatar Cup and the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival. OPGP will not be pressurized into staging an event until it is 100-percent confidant that the event will be possible to stage to our standards. We feel it would be better that OPGP run fewer races correctly than a number of substandard events.
Like all organizations of this type OPGP’s funding does not come from just one source, and is built up from a number of sponsorship agreements, the venue and the race entries. OPGP’s 2015 season budget is in place.
Negotiations between any 2015 or possible future venues are really a confidential issue between the venue and OPGP, hence should not be discussed with a third party.
That Miller chose to respond at all was commendable. To some degree, he’s in a no-win situation as the general manager of an organization that, based on its overall lack of communication and his answers, appears to be losing whatever traction it once had. I don’t wish failure on OPGP or anyone behind it, but since its inception the outfit has been fraught with issues that began with the lack of transparency about who and what is behind it.
To my way of reading, Miller’s response casts doubt on anything other than the Sarasota race happening for OPGP in 2015. And while that may or may not be a shame, that’s more information than I had—and more than I’ve had in three months—when I woke up yesterday.
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.