Lately, I have been reading a thread on the HydroRacer forums. For those who do not know what HydroRacer is, it is a forum site for people to go discuss amateur/semi-pro outboard boat racing. In this (very long) set of threads, there is a great deal of debate about how to properly market outboard racing, if any should be done at all.
The American Power Boat Association’s three outboard categories are Stock Outboard, Modified Outboard, and Professional Racing Outboard (PRO). Stock classes are centered around small, off-the-shelf outboard motors mounted on hydroplane and runbout. Mod is essentially the same as Stock but with fewer restrictions placed on engine and hull modifications. Both Stock and Mod tend to be driver-centric, generally with little consideration given to attracting spectators and keeping them for the duration of the event. Those events are usually more about the participants having a good time.
PRO is essentially an attempt to bring the other two categories into a more spectator-oriented, professional kind of atmosphere. There is room made for spectators. Sometimes, admissions are charged to spectators, something that never happens at Stock or Mod events. There is more advertisement for events. There are more cash prizes in PRO.
Right now, the APBA is losing members. It has lost at least half of its members in the last 20 years. Small outboard racing is in very real trouble. There are as many opinions about how to combat this as there are people involved the sport, possibly more.
In my opinion, we need to let the categories be true to their respective cultures. Let Mod be Mod, Stock be Stock, PRO be PRO. PRO can get people’s attention. They could then find out about Stock and Mod, which are more amateur and affordable than PRO and might be more attractive to potential new racers.
Another strategy for growing the sport again is for current racers and racers’ families to just bring people along to races or testing sessions. Either would be good. Both would be better. Races would give the potential new racer an idea of how races are run and what they are like. Testing sessions have the huge benefit of giving this new person a chance to get in a boat or boats and just drive. My first boat ride scared the crap out of me, but I still knew this was something I really wanted to do.
If you are a racer, bring more people to races and/or testing sessions. If you are not a racer and you know who I am and you would be interested in going to a race or taking a boat ride, get in touch with me and we will set something up. I want my friends to have as much fun as I do when I race. Also, I am determined to bring new blood into this sport and keep it going.
There are, of course, many ways to pump up the number of racers. These are just a few. If you have any other ideas, put them on HydroRacer.