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Well It is time for a change-Poker Runs and Racing

Old 10-13-2008, 05:53 AM
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Default Well It is time for a change-Poker Runs and Racing

Well gang it is time for a change and this is my personal rant on the subject

First off, some background for those that don’t know me.
My name is Marc Blondin and I along with Bob Luellen operating under the name of PRO LLC (Poker Runs Offshore) promoted and produced Smoke On The Water Poker Run In Grand Haven Michigan 2001 through 2006
I also along with my wife Cherie, produced two boat races a few years ago in Grand Haven. (2001 and 2002) I was past Vice President of LAMORA (Lake Michigan Offshore Racing Association) which was an organization my wife started to produce boat races. My wife was not only a race producer, and President of LAMORA, but was the Risk Manager for the APBA (Great Lakes Silver Cup Series)

I have also owned many offshore boats over the years - 13’Checkmate, 19’Sanger (more rocket than offshore) Welcraft Scarabs (21” and 38’) 43’Black Thunder, 38’Cigarette, 16’ Donzi and couple of smaller row boats and zodiacs

I started attending offshore races back in the 80’s and started participating in Poker Runs in the 90s
Back in those days my 38’ Scarab KV was very much middle of the pack if not closer toward the front at 70 MPH. The few big boys that attended were running around the 100 MPH.
At that time the big boys were boats like Reggie Fountain’s Ohio Steel, the Scarab called Smoking Joe’s, a few Skaters were running back then, and a 48’ Ocean express with Monster motors was going 115 MPH

I feel my credentials give me some well informed insight into offering my opinion on this subject. To that end I offer the following:

It was the first part of the year 2000, boat racing was seeing great popularity again.

Not since the days of Don Johnson, Chuck Norris, Bruce Jenner getting the sport great exposure through there celebrity had our sport seen such an insurgence of popularity and participation

F1 and F2 and F3 had a ton of boats in its classes, and the big boys turned out in mass to race there Super Cats and Super V’s as well
TV coverage wasn’t up to other sports standards, but was still on a major channel and provided decent coverage to the enthusiast in our sport
Racing grew and many offshore fans came to Key West to watch the worlds. All sizes of offshore boats were participating in the Miami to Key West Poker run, amongst many other events across the country

Later, in the first part of this decade, things started to change, in both racing and Poker Runs


RACING

1) Fighting amongst the APBA Offshore and SBI increased. (eventually they became one in the same).OSS became another place to spread out the racing fleet. Rules and equipment were different between each group, and no one wanted to play nice. The intentions were good, and the people involved were committed, but these groups are getting smaller every year because no one can get there collective act together to run as one or two sanctioning groups
2) F-1, F-2, and F-3 (known as factory class racing) disappeared from the race circuit and has never returned in any reasonable fashion
3) Television coverage all but disappeared from the landscape
4) Many teams dropped out of racing and did more poker runs (Sponsorships and manufacturers followed)
5) Later on OPA starts yet another group, more grass roots based, to help encourage more to enter the racing circuit
6) John Haggin (Team GEICO) adds his own money, commitment, and enthusiasm to the sport to try to keep it afloat

Poker Runs

1) Poker runs got bigger and more popular. We went from having a few Premier events and a few small runs, to events being staged all over the country.
2) More events started to include charities (SOTW was one of the first to start doing this) and the fun factor increased without politics and in fighting (prize money was good to)
3) Boats started to get bigger and faster at the events in a short few years. Even a few full out race boats started showing up at Poker Runs (not terribly safe without the proper safety personnel to extract them from a canopied boat if an accident had occurred)
4) Speeds started to increase and safety support was fighting to keep up
5) BOATS GOT FASTER!! Boats in Poker Runs started to go 150 MPH plus, and many were now faster than most race boats
6) Many events were not making mandatory the wearing of life jackets (fortunately this has changed)
7) Some of the egos from boat racing started to spill over into poker runs
8) Guys (and girls) with big check books, that didn’t want to be told how, or where, to run their boats (they didn’t want to go racing) came to Poker runs to let it all hang out and do some showing off
9) I believe the defining moment that gave us all pause happened at our event (SOTW) in 2005, when a 42 Outerlimits flipped over and the two rear seat passengers died in a violent crash
10) More accidents started to occur such as the one that happened at the Texoma Poker Run that claimed the lives of 5 people
11) Other accidents started to happen, some publicized, some not. (I recall one in California that involved a few boats at one time but did not get as much exposure without any fatalities)
12) Safety became a larger part of the conversations amongst Poker Run Promoters and meeting were held in Miami to try to make the events runs safer
13) Lawsuits started to surface from the accidents at these events (some are ongoing as I write this)
14) Kevin Seller’s dies in an accident at the Cumberland Poker run 2008 in his boat known as Pammy
15) TIME FOR CHANGE

I have for years said a Poker Run was more fun, and less politics, and that was the reason they were so popular, and well attended. Racing had become fragmented, and no longer fun or competitive.
I also commented often that no one can understand a boat race with so many changes and so many classes, (It is not fan friendly) Some times the guy that took first place in his class, and gets a checkered flag and a parade lap, was also the same guy that came in last in his class. (Only in boat racing can you get a winning flag for being the only one to race in your class) Racing rules changed like the weather changes in Michigan, and a new organization pops up every few years.

Well gang THE PARTY IS OVER! We can no longer ignore the fact that running Poker Runs MUST change or they will be gone for good. And racing needs to GET IT”S ACT TOGETGER or it will continue its cycle of mediocrity (even skateboarders get more exposure)

Maybe this will put the street racer on the race course where he should be, and the pleasure Poker Runner will be more content to run in an event that has a speed limit. It is by the way, a pleasure run, not a race.

It is my hope that two things will happen as we head toward the next decade

1) More poker runners with big fast boats will go racing – I think these guys could be the future of racing with there money and competitive attitude

2) More people will attend Poker Runs that actually have speed limit rules. Hopefully they will come for the fun, friends, and charity, not to race to the first card stop

I propose the following, not as set in stone guide lines, but offered up for discussion to spur on a thought process of change and stability in both type of events (Racing and Poker Runs)
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Old 10-13-2008, 05:54 AM
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Poker Runs

1) ALL poker runs should have a speed limit of 110 – The reason for 110 is that it seems most runners strive for the 100 mile mark. Today’s technology provides good speed with reasonable power in a newer boat. (or bigger power in an older boat) This number is realistic. And it allows most of the cats to run up on the cushion of air that sometimes doesn’t get packing well between the sponsons until close to 100 mph (Mostly for the bigger cats) It also may help those who “aren’t as fast” to feel less overcome by the boats that can travel over twice the speed of there rigs. I think it may actually help poke runs grow. The big boys can still come to Poker Run events (and should) but the pressure to be out front and push there boats beyond safe limits at an event will be gone, and the reason for attending will not be about being the fastest boat, but more about having fun and getting together with friends, and enthusiasts, and helping a charity. (Also they can show off there rigs and technology) The big fast boats will still be the bell of the ball, but now some of the other guys with more moderate boats will be able to run safely along with them and enjoy the sport, not the chase. If they want to air out there boats they can go out before or after the event, (they are going to anyway) but it will no longer be the responsibility of the promoters. This will be no different then going out on there own. Poker Runs are NOT RACING so there is no reason to go 150 MPH during the event. 110 is probably faster than most should run anyway

2) No canopies! In Poker Runs! (Unless you come with your own rescue team). There is a reason that helicopters with divers follow race boats. They are there to help extract those who go over. If something happens, and a boat goes over in a poker run, and someone is trapped in that boat with no safety team to help them, they can perish in the boat and the liability is in question (if they have a canopy and safety team they still have to stay under 110 MPH at a Poker Run)
3) A Pace boat is a must! It has to be capable of 110 MPH – This way they can make sure no one is going faster than the rules require and all participants MUST stay behind it
4) No waiting for everyone in the fleet to get ahead for a while and then chasing up to the front at over the 110 mph just to skirt the rules
5) Always wearing life jackets when on plane. NO EXCEPTIONS! (most already do this)
6) No alcohol until the boat is parked for the day (no card stops at bars)
7) Most important is that the promoters need to have the balls to walk up to MR or Mrs. ego and tell them to “go home” if they purposely skirt the rules (If they want to go fast and pass everyone take it to the race course)



Racing

1) Fewer classes NOT MORE!! – run the events like the car guys. Saturday run the entry boat classes (kind of like the Busch series in NASCAR) and on Sunday the premier classes of boats should run (or run early morning for entry classes and later afternoon on Sunday for the “premier class”)
2) Develop the F-1 and F-2 program once again with 525’s or 700’s
3) Classes for “Premier class boats” should be limited to F-1 and F2 Race (together with different colored front ends to identify the two classes.) The second race Super Cat and Super V with different color bows (If you have to have a Cat light and V Light as well, run them with the F class boats with a different color designation)

4) Help out the spectators! Make every boat that is running in its class sport a designation color for that class on the front five feet of the hull sides and bow of the boat (Yellow, Green, Blue, ect..) This way the spectators will know for example: that all the red front end boats are racing each other. The only time this will confuse the spectators is if there is only one boat in the class (this shouldn’t be allowed) then they will be wondering why their is only one boat on the race course with (insert color) on its front end

5) Understand that spectator friendly does not necessarily mean a close to shore course (it helps but is not mandatory) Back when Offshore was enjoying its most popularity, they ran far away from the crowds. The show was at the docks, at the banquets, at the start and the finish, and with the TV coverage. It surrounded the event as a whole, and oh by the way there was a race that day

We need to look to other types of events to understand it is as much the show that surrounds the race as it is the race itself;

• The Kentucky Derby (one week event, 3 minute race)
• Tour De France (all go by in a group for most part, and is all that spectators see) Major TV coverage and hype
• Iditarod dog sled race (covered on TV over an entire week and spectators just see them go by once and they stand in terrible weather conditions just to see them blow by once)

At Poker Runs it is all about what is at or near the docks, or what is going on in the host city. There are some spectators on the course, but it is all about what goes on that entire weekend not just the run. It is one reason they are so popular! When it comes to boat racing we need to understand that the event should have a race, not the race having an event. It should be about all facets of the event not just the race

I think all racing should be part of an entire weekend long event, with a poker run and other activities for the participants and the town to enjoy. St Clair is doing this quite well, and Key West has always done great with this

I think these ideas might help boat sales, as the builders will put in reasonable
Horsepower, and develop more boats for Poker Runs, and possibly provide a racing
version of the same boat to run in a F-series competition





Game over gang!!!!

We no longer can look away from this. If we don’t make changes the government will do it for us.

After the accident at SOTW I got phone calls from most every poker run promoter wanting to know how they could do a better job for themselves and the participants by learning from what happened at our event. I had many suggestions but they were based on continuing as normal with some minor modifications. We can no longer operate like we used to. Shame on me for not recognizing this sooner (My wife has been saying “there needs to be change” for years)

When the lawsuits started a year after the accident at SOTW, again my phone started ringing, this time the promoters wanted to know how to keep from being sued. My response was “You can be sued for anything it is just a matter of how much money you want to spend to defend what may be a totally false accusation”

The legal community and the insurance community is looking at what we are doing with a microscope so if you think it will take care of itself you are so wrong

Our event (SOTW) was sued for no other reason than for MONEY! It had nothing to do with what was done right or wrong, it was to provide paydays to not only the victim’s families, but to the lawyers. The law suits ended an event that was the single largest financial contributor to the Make A Wish of Michigan. It took away all the smiles from the kids that went on rides all day Friday, and took away a great weekend for all those that came to participate and for the spectators that came in large numbers to see the cool boats.

I have changed how I feel about these events today. I am still very committed to offshore boating both Poker Runs and Racing it is just that it has become very clear to me that the time for change is NOW!!! We need to get are arms around this, and get our arms around it FAST!!!!

We need to act NOW in order to preserve our favorite sport. It is time to work together to preserve our boating lifestyle

Make Racing less a mess and more professionally run.

And to make Poker Runs a leisure event based on great boats and good times. Relaxing and going for a fast boat ride (not an extreme boat ride) This should be a reason to get together with boating friends, not a reason to go faster than the next guy to a card stop

Rendezvous may also be a way to go Just a get together at the docks with a destination or two during the day. Not starts or finishes or even cards


I am sure this will not sit well with some of the faster boats but it is a must

We don’t invite people to a car rally so they can go 150 MPH down the highway we send them to the race track for that.

Let’s make the racing more user friendly yet regimented so the big guys can race with a fair playing field (It is NOT a Poker Run)

Let’s make Poker runs more about friends, charity, fun (Its NOT a Race)

Marc
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Old 10-13-2008, 07:27 AM
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Well said !
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Old 10-13-2008, 08:32 AM
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Interesting read Marc. I wll say that yes, when I first started poker running, the "FAST" boats were anything over 80mph. Now, 80 is barely mid pack and 140 to 150 is where most of the FAST guys are running. Pretty scary when you think about it. Oft times, the experience and skill levels involved DO NOT reflect the same level as the speed and the wallet.

That being said, it will be very hard to get 100mph plus runners to agree on running only 100 or so. It will be even harder to get 150mph boat A NOT to hold an impromptu "race" with 150mph boat B. Its the nature of the beast.
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Old 10-13-2008, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by PARADISE ISLAND View Post
What happened at your event is sadI do disagreeYou have to start acting like an insurance company spread the fault around All boats fast or slow is a safty challenge and to prevent this is very hard 1st get the facts about some of these sads events before posting change!
Did you read his background????
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Old 10-13-2008, 09:59 AM
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I have to say I agree with Marc.

80-90% of PR people probably want the same thing I do.
I want a poker run that does not cost thousands to enter (The entry fees seem to go up more each year, probably due to liability). I want a run that is safe. I want a run that is not intimidating. AND I want to know the security of the "activity" (poker runs are NOT a sport, racing is) is safe for years to come.

Racing is racing. I have seen ups and downs thru the years, including the late 80's and early 90's when our boat club had some national races here when offshore was doing well. While I hope the future of the sport is optimistic and hopefully grows, it won't directly affect me either way.

However, when racing starts showing up at poker runs, and jeopardizes my rights to pursue my hobby, I'm not happy. I don't have an anwser, but Marc's plan at least may help our hobby to survive for the average Joes. I do feel that if things continue as they are, poker runs are going to suffer severely.
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Old 10-13-2008, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by PARADISE ISLAND View Post
What happened at your event is sadI do disagreeYou have to start acting like an insurance company spread the fault around All boats fast or slow is a safty challenge and to prevent this is very hard 1st get the facts about some of these sads events before posting change!

I have more experience and facts than most

I have been directly involved in both racing and poker runs

We need change !!!!

Safety is paramount and as long as we put our head in the sand it will not change

I did not write my information based on second hand knowledge but i am happy to discuss any ideas with you mine are not all correct but i offer them as a place to start working from

Purely from a safety stand point

I sat in depositions after our accidents with the Lawyers hammering at me trying to get me to say something that would indicate our event could be seen as a race (They couldn't do it I knew what they were looking for) They used an article written by Ron Polli a couple of years ago that stated poker runs were basically racing without safety
and then the lawyers tried to use it to beat us over the head with

Time to get it together! Ii am not exagerating, if we dont get our arms around this it will get its arms around us

By the way i think there needs to be a staggard start process so you dont have 100 plus boats running together
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Old 10-13-2008, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by PARADISE ISLAND View Post
What happened at your event is sadI do disagreeYou have to start acting like an insurance company spread the fault around All boats fast or slow is a safty challenge and to prevent this is very hard 1st get the facts about some of these sads events before posting change!
I wouldn't have even responded to this, Marc.

Your thread is on a whole other level. It makes the thoughtful think around the box a little. It was written in a factual and forthright style. Not emotional.

I applaud you for having the nads to post it. Maybe it will help PRs and racing alike. Anybody who would slam you for sharing your thoughts is probably part of the all checkbook no book breed.

I volunteer to be the guy who tells people to go get their trailer and get out.
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Old 10-13-2008, 10:21 AM
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Fund thanks

People need to understand that i have changed my thought process over the past couple of years and think this is the way it has to go (In some form) I know what the lawyers are waiting for and I can tell you this that we did not have all the boats at the dock at SOTW before the Lawyers were calling for information. I sat through mediation and depositions and I got news for everyone the legal system (Not to mention insurance companies) are going to chang this for all of us VERY SOON In the mediation that was attempted there were no less than 12 lawyers involved and 6 insurance representatives They know what is going on and they are preparing to ruin the fun

I for one would like to see Gino G, Bill Pyburn, Chris (Delo), Brandon Lee, and some of our other pasionate boat owners that come to our events, go racing. I think they could bring a lot to the table and help to build good will and professionalism They could help those who are already racing and fighting for the same things (Unity and consistency)

Racing rules need to be made, then build the boats to the rules, not the other way around

Lock em in for Minimum 3 years and let the gang have at it
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Old 10-13-2008, 10:51 AM
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Marc,
All great information and topic points. About three years ago we began implementing much of what you just listed and more. Recognizing accidents do not “just happen”, rather, incidents occur and are always a result of multi-nodal inputs. We ran some basic risk modeling and the offered free mitigation tools to event organizers.

This coupled with insurance warranty provisions to compel compliance has worked and we have measured results which show significant progress where the event organizers have adopted our system and provided consequences. Not yet and never perfect we continue to work as this is a living document and process.

The safety management systems. (Please note this is a process much different than a rule book) are processes while very basic in function are derived from International Shipping Codes (ISM) this process allows the ability to actual vet your event and audit or measure its success. The primary focus is on Preventative mechanisms. i.e. Start procedures, vessel operation, route, speed restrictions, business plan or event organizational structure, etc. Followed by response mechanisms i.e. Life jackets, ignition lanyards, insurance, emergency response plan.

The issue regarding race boats is one of reality and perception. As I have repeatedly stated, event managers must look beyond what is directly in front of them and recognize the long term results of inaction. Race boats or boats campaigned in speed competitions will ultimately bring a negative focus to our RECREATIONAL performance boating community as we have messaged hard for at least the last three years; "These are not speed events!". I must say I remain troubled this is not recognized by some who frequent these events and the absence of professionalism and attitude from what we would otherwise consider to be business segment leaders. Additionally, I know the voice from major industry leadership is much louder than you will ever hear on an open forum such as this. They remain very concerned and do not support race boats at recreational boating events.

The racing argument is also supported and I am working on this as well but the details of our efforts will remain closed to open forum discussion.

Come to the Key West Poker Run and enjoy yourself.

BTW if any KW participants are readling this save me a phone call and send in your updated insurance delcaration page. I just threw out all the old paper. I am cold calling this week to ask for new insurance documents.

BeSafe

Brad Schoenwald

Last edited by bcschoe; 10-13-2008 at 11:08 AM.
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