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what needs to be done to increase the fan base and popularity of unlimited hydroplane racing

I have tried to start a discussion about the "state of the sport" and what needs to be done to increase its fan base, which will result in greater sponsor interest, more media exposure, more races, TV covereage, etc., etc., etc.

I have already given my thoughts on the discussion tab of the H1 Unlimited website, but I would like to hear more input from more fans, and more input from H1 on their plans. Comments?

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As the guest announcer on the televised San Diego race said “they don't make noise like NASCAR” That summed it up! Until we bring the noise of piston power back, the sport will continue to blow hot air. As exciting as it could be, the public just can't relate to the hair dryer sounds. All other forms of motor racing understand how important the sound is to the fans.
Just my opinion, Wayne J.
.
Wayne,
I miss the noise too, but I don't think the big Allisons and Rolls Royce engines will ever be back. And we already have a loud, noisy automotive powered class, the unlimited lights. Shouldn't the two groups join forces to put on a better show, rather than butting heads?
And don't you think the competition needs to be improved? We seem to be back to one or two boats dominating every race. That's better than just one, ala Miss Budweiser, but don't the races need to be better than that ? How do they expect to draw new boats and new sponsors when the learning curve is so great and the rewards are so small?

Wayne J. Hill said:
As the guest announcer on the televised San Diego race said “they don't make noise like NASCAR” That summed it up! Until we bring the noise of piston power back, the sport will continue to blow hot air. As exciting as it could be, the public just can't relate to the hair dryer sounds. All other forms of motor racing understand how important the sound is to the fans.
Just my opinion, Wayne J.
.
Wayne makes an interesting point, about the noise, but perhaps more importantly, the reference to NASCAR.

I think what we - and our sport - need to do is to take a lesson from NASCAR and learn how to package the sport of Unlimited Hydroplane racing as entertainment. Not the easiest of tasks and the possible solution could probably make for a nice Master's thesis at any good business school. The "spectacle" that is NASCAR racing is far from the pure "sport" of auto racing. Make no mistake, they do race - as in compete - in NASCAR, but I submit that few fans understand the nuances of things like pit strategy, knowing when to take 2 or 4 tires, and a lot of promotion. There might also be some appeal owing to the manufacturers' participation as fans might enjoy the "competition" between the Chevy they drive and the Toyota driven by some driver they love to hate. Not many of us drive a hydroplane to work.

I think the NASCAR analogy is apropos when it comes to Unlimited Hydroplane racing. NASCAR was for most of its tenure a regional sport. It was born out of bootlegging and was concentrated in the American southern states. Unlimited Hydroplane racing has enjoyed a far longer history and tradition, yet, like Formula One or Grand Prix racing, (arguably the pinnacle of their sport) was the playground of the rich and famous. Even today, F1 enjoys a modest following in this country compared to NASCAR.

Tim, I think you have nailed the components that our sport needs to attract a larger following. More TV, sponsors, etc. Before that can happen though I believe what is needed is a comprehensive approach to understand how to package the sport as entertainment. Now, that might seem like the last thing some of us would care to see, but if it isn't entertaining, it will never achieve popular acceptance. (read TV exposure, this sponsor appeal)

That said, I don't think I'd like to see Hydroplane Racing on the same cable channel as "professional" wrestling or Roller Derby, but without professional marketing, ala NASCAR, it may never become popular enough to gain any ground beyond, say SPEED Channel. Even with the long-lamented noise of piston engines.

I guess in its basic form, it's all about money. Someone simply needs to figure out how to make unlimited hydroplane racing profitable. At the risk of offending some very hard working and talented people, I can't think of anyone in our sport who wlil be the next Bill France or Bernie Ecclestone we need.
Phillip,
Thanks for joining the discussion. I agree with all of your very thoughtful observations. As your favorite driver, Chip, said in an interview aired during the webcast of the Seattle race, every aspect of unlimited hydroplane racing needs to be reviewed. And my biggest fear as a Detroiter, (Grosse Pointe Woods to be exact), is that the unlimiteds could become no more than a regional sport, (Washington state to be exact), if things aren't changed very soon to bring back the fans. The extinction of the Evansville race and the fragile financial state of the Gold Cup give reasons for my fear!
So how do we convince the "powers that be"? I suggested to Steve Mongomery on the H1 website, to which I received no response, that maybe they should start with the fans, and ask them what they would like to see changed in 2011 to improve the show. And they could do that by working through the local fan organizations, like Unlimiteds Unanimous, Uunlimiteds Detroit, and the Hydroplane Museum.
I'll give them two ideas: (1) shorten the progam, to eliminate what one fan on H1 decribed as "one hour of excitement and seven hours of boredom". (2) do what it takes to increase the competition and level the playing field, like making everyone run just one engine, one gearbox, and one propellor all day, (identical if necessary). Maybe then the Spirit of Detroit might even be able to compete with the Spirit of Qatar!
P.S. Is that the Atlas Van Lines you're working on in the picture?


Philip Lampman said:
Wayne makes an interesting point, about the noise, but perhaps more importantly, the reference to NASCAR.

I think what we - and our sport - need to do is to take a lesson from NASCAR and learn how to package the sport of Unlimited Hydroplane racing as entertainment. Not the easiest of tasks and the possible solution could probably make for a nice Master's thesis at any good business school. The "spectacle" that is NASCAR racing is far from the pure "sport" of auto racing. Make no mistake, they do race - as in compete - in NASCAR, but I submit that few fans understand the nuances of things like pit strategy, knowing when to take 2 or 4 tires, and a lot of promotion. There might also be some appeal owing to the manufacturers' participation as fans might enjoy the "competition" between the Chevy they drive and the Toyota driven by some driver they love to hate. Not many of us drive a hydroplane to work.

I think the NASCAR analogy is apropos when it comes to Unlimited Hydroplane racing. NASCAR was for most of its tenure a regional sport. It was born out of bootlegging and was concentrated in the American southern states. Unlimited Hydroplane racing has enjoyed a far longer history and tradition, yet, like Formula One or Grand Prix racing, (arguably the pinnacle of their sport) was the playground of the rich and famous. Even today, F1 enjoys a modest following in this country compared to NASCAR.

Tim, I think you have nailed the components that our sport needs to attract a larger following. More TV, sponsors, etc. Before that can happen though I believe what is needed is a comprehensive approach to understand how to package the sport as entertainment. Now, that might seem like the last thing some of us would care to see, but if it isn't entertaining, it will never achieve popular acceptance. (read TV exposure, this sponsor appeal)

That said, I don't think I'd like to see Hydroplane Racing on the same cable channel as "professional" wrestling or Roller Derby, but without professional marketing, ala NASCAR, it may never become popular enough to gain any ground beyond, say SPEED Channel. Even with the long-lamented noise of piston engines.

I guess in its basic form, it's all about money. Someone simply needs to figure out how to make unlimited hydroplane racing profitable. At the risk of offending some very hard working and talented people, I can't think of anyone in our sport who wlil be the next Bill France or Bernie Ecclestone we need.
As a longtime, ridiculously dedicated fan of the sport, I'll offer my purely theoretical concerns why I feel the death of hydroplane racing always feels imminent.

First, I grew up on the shores of Lake Washington, and have attended probably 37 of the 40 Seafair Hydroplane Races held. I'm mesmerized by hydros because of the speed, because of the beauty of a hydro at full speed and / or cornering, and throw in a lot of nostalgia to boot. I'm HUGE fan of the sport, and always will be. It's part of me.

That being said, it has started to bore me to death even as a pure fan, almost to the point where I don't feel like going anymore. Here are the basic problems:

1. No competition. We all know it before we go- the Oh Boy Oberto or the Miss Qatar will win. The only other way anyone has a chance is if one of those boats breaks down or commits a penalty. All you have to do is look at the qualifying times; when two boats qualify around 160, five boats qualify between 148 and 156, and the rest limp in at 130-145, you already know the race won't be very exciting unless the top two boats race each other. The disparity isn't just monumental, it's ridiculous.

Positioning the boats has helped a bit and resulted in some exciting prelims, but generally speaking, you're excited as hell to see the boats flying down to the start, you see 'em take the first corner, and then, well, the race is pretty much over from there and you're just watching a bunch of widely separated boats driving in circles for 5 minutes.

Solution?

Some friends and I discussed this this year over at Pasco. Parity is crucial, and therefore, we thought this might work: The governing body prepares and drops 14 identically prepared engines and props into 14 sponsored boats- and the rest is up to each individual crew. Boat design and the driving skills would shine, rather than whomever arrives with the biggest bankroll.

Stupid idea? Perhaps, and I feel dumb offering it. But something has to be done. That's all we could come up with; H1 has implemented ways to reduce the parity, but it's still so uncompetitive thats it's nearly unwatchable. I've tried to introduce East Coast friends to the sport, and they always say the same thing during a race: This is it?

2. Not enough racing. I don't remember it being so bad as a kid, but, man, it's just WAYYY too much time between heats, and there are too few heats in the first place. The 15-20 min between A and B heats is fine, but then what? An hour, hour and a half until 2A? And even worse, the two, sometimes three hours I've waited for a final? I am one who hates, no, DESPISES the same little airshows we see OVER and OVER and OVER again, same every year. I barely glance at the Blue Angels anymore. We're there for hydros, and we see maybe 30 minutes of racing in 8+ hours. Not good for developing hydro fans. At all.

Solution?

Maybe throw in a 4A or 4B, hell, even a 5A and 5B. Whatever it takes, but at least try and have one hydroplane race every 45 minutes to keep us enthralled in the action. It will probably take more boats to do that, but you need to keep fans interested in whats going on. As it is, it's hard to wait 2+ hours in 100 degree heat with nothing to do just for a 5 minute race when you pretty much know who's going to win it anyway: Whoever gets the inside lane.

This happened to us at Pasco this year. Rather than wait 2.5 hours for the final, we just left.

3. Corporate sponsorships.

Yes, the sport needs it. But, and while I'm just talking Seattle here, corporate favoritism has pretty much ruined our race site.

Hey, you a lifelong dedicated hydroplane fan? Great! Now go sit in the few and absolute worst parts of the race course in the mud and dirt.

Hey, do you work for Boeing or T-Mobile, don't know anything about hydro racing, don't care, and don't feel like watching the race? Great! We're going to put you smack dab at the starting line right on the beach! Or anywhere along the straightaway for that matter! And while you're there, enjoy your sushi and appletini's while you hobnob with Paulene from marketing during the final. Maybe, at some point during the day, you can look out at the lake and say something like "Wow, hey, look at those boats. What are those things called?"

It sucks. When I grew up, the whole lake was available to everyone. Now, only a small part of the lake is available to the public, while the straightaways and the south turn are held for corporate shindigs with wine and cheese.

Solution? I only know Pasco and Seattle. Pasco is pretty good, though half the beach is corporate. Seattle, is well, just ridiculous.

I don't know, but that's just how I feel. I feel letdown every year, but I still go every year thinking it will change, and it never does.

We also need a fleet of 15-20 competitive boats rather than 2 competitive boats and 10 laggards, and at least 10 race sites to ramp up sponsorships other than the Ralph's Hand Dryers Presents the Sue Darby's Lettuce and Fire Hydrant Emporium.

Thats my two cents.
As a kid in Madison, Indiana growing up, the regatta included several classes of limited boat racing.
These heats were run in between the unlimited heats to "break the boredom".
Having only visited Tri-Cities and Seattle for hydro races I am limited with observing these two sites and how they have changed. Both these sites still appear to draw a large number of fans. The events are both "managed" events by Seafair and the Water Follies Board of Directors. The boat racing is sandwiched between so called "airshows" and dead time between racing heats. This past year at Tri-Cities was so drawn out that it made me seriously consider not returning due to two days waiting in the heat for very little boat racing. Both sites would do well to consider one day set aside for boat racing and one day set aside for airshows. The boat races in both Seattle and Tri-Cities now are inserted activities within their respective summer celebrations. If we had racing back to one day maybe we could fill time between heats with vintage hydroplanes. Each site should consider some type of sponsorship of the vintage boats. The old boats will keep us seniors going to the races and we in turn can educate our youngsters who will become the future of the sport.
There are some terrific ideas and suggestions coming out of this thread and I agree with nearly every one of them. It is clear what the fans would like to see on the water.

What really needs to happen for the sport to grow, IMHO, is twofold; One: gain a much larger following of fans, most of whom currently know little or next to nothing about the sport. Secondly: Money... lots and lots of money.

Like popular stick and ball sports - even NASCAR - the REAL money does not come from the fans sitting in the stadium - or along the shoreline. The REAL money comes from and via Television - and not just Speed Channel or some local public access cable channel. Consider NHRA pro Drag Racing, the only same-day nationally-broadcast motorsports event currently in the NW. Well, since the Indy car races in Portland have been terminated that is. Even then it's pretty much just on ESPN's second tier channel.

To my mind, in order to gain a strong following of fans (of the sort that make for appealing demographics to not only television but the corporations who pay millions to see their products mentioned, or displayed with National exposure. Maybe even regional exposure would be a nice start. A 30' Unlimited Hydroplane deck makes for a pretty nice billboard. Come to think of it, I wonder what happened to Winston (as in Eagle), Pringles, Tide, Camel, Atlas van Lines.... I suspect Budweiser, well represented in other motorsports venues, was - with all due respect - pretty much Bernie Little enjoying his passion with Augie Busch's money. What happened to all these nationally recognized corporations? Maybe the search for a solution to our beloved, but declining - sport, starts in corprorate conference rooms

Now just one how does that, I don't quite know. I can offer that the recent delayed and edited broadcast of the San Diego race is probably not going to make the grade... I am pretty sure that even airshows, limited inboard racing between Unlimited heats and maybe even free beer and catered meals served by the Seagals or the Chippendale hunks is likely to do nothing more than keep the current fans - now much happier, of course - keep coming to the riverside or lakeshore.

So, I have no answers, but I do feel strongly that whatever the solution, be careful what you ask for: Most NASCAR races these days ask hundreds of dollars just for a single ticket, if you can find one to buy, and make Mariners and Seahawk ticket prices almost a steal.

My opinion, but you asked... This a forum isn't it?
Thanks, everyone for your comments and ideas. Hopefully SOMEONE from H1 is reading and "getting it".

Philip Lampman said:
There are some terrific ideas and suggestions coming out of this thread and I agree with nearly every one of them. It is clear what the fans would like to see on the water.

What really needs to happen for the sport to grow, IMHO, is twofold; One: gain a much larger following of fans, most of whom currently know little or next to nothing about the sport. Secondly: Money... lots and lots of money.

Like popular stick and ball sports - even NASCAR - the REAL money does not come from the fans sitting in the stadium - or along the shoreline. The REAL money comes from and via Television - and not just Speed Channel or some local public access cable channel. Consider NHRA pro Drag Racing, the only same-day nationally-broadcast motorsports event currently in the NW. Well, since the Indy car races in Portland have been terminated that is. Even then it's pretty much just on ESPN's second tier channel.

To my mind, in order to gain a strong following of fans (of the sort that make for appealing demographics to not only television but the corporations who pay millions to see their products mentioned, or displayed with National exposure. Maybe even regional exposure would be a nice start. A 30' Unlimited Hydroplane deck makes for a pretty nice billboard. Come to think of it, I wonder what happened to Winston (as in Eagle), Pringles, Tide, Camel, Atlas van Lines.... I suspect Budweiser, well represented in other motorsports venues, was - with all due respect - pretty much Bernie Little enjoying his passion with Augie Busch's money. What happened to all these nationally recognized corporations? Maybe the search for a solution to our beloved, but declining - sport, starts in corprorate conference rooms

Now just one how does that, I don't quite know. I can offer that the recent delayed and edited broadcast of the San Diego race is probably not going to make the grade... I am pretty sure that even airshows, limited inboard racing between Unlimited heats and maybe even free beer and catered meals served by the Seagals or the Chippendale hunks is likely to do nothing more than keep the current fans - now much happier, of course - keep coming to the riverside or lakeshore.

So, I have no answers, but I do feel strongly that whatever the solution, be careful what you ask for: Most NASCAR races these days ask hundreds of dollars just for a single ticket, if you can find one to buy, and make Mariners and Seahawk ticket prices almost a steal.

My opinion, but you asked... This a forum isn't it?
I have been a fan since the late 1950s and my favorite hydroplanes from that era are Miss Thriftway and Miss Bardahl. I built gas powered models of both plus Miss US5 (yeah, I know, EASTERN boat). I have watched the heyday of piston powered boats and have watched two races live in Seattle. With that as background, some comments:

About noise. Bringing back piston powered boats is not going to save hydroplane racing, even if somebody found a hundred new-old-stock R-R Merlin or Allison engines. It is very old technology and I personally find the turbine boats more technically interesting. If you want piston powered noise, you should attend the National Air Races in Reno. Oh wait! A once a year event, not televised, with no big money sponsors, hardly any spectators. But the noise is wonderful.

NASCAR. The genius of NASCAR has been in the marketing. It has grown the sport from regional to national level and created hundreds of thousands of fans, has television and big money sponsors. What NASCAR has done really well is to publicise the drivers to the point where fans identify with "their" driver, know his car number etc. What NASCAR has also done is to create the world's largest spec racing series. The cars are identical except for the paint and decals, the motors put out the same noise and horsepower, the suspensions are the same, they rely on obsolete carburetors where the automotive world has gone with injection. I also happen to think NASCAR races are BORING (yes, I know, a heretical statement). What I want to see in racing is speed and skill, the latter from the driver as well as the team. What I get from NASCAR are artificial speed restrictions (restrictor plates) and 30 odd cars driving side by side for hours. And if anyone gets a decent lead through skill, they wave a phantom caution for debris on the track and bunch everyone back up again. Finally I think NASCAR has reached the limits of its growth due to market saturation.

Spec racing. I don't like it as you can tell from my comments above because I don't think it is interesting for the hardcore fans. And I cringed this year when no less than Chip Hanauer suggested this as the saviour of hydroplane racing during this year's Seafair. Now Chip is one of my favorite drivers, and I am sure he had good reasons for this suggestion, but in my view it will not save hydroplane racing (or any other top level professional race series). It is an artificial means of limiting innovation and leads to uninspiring racing.

So what is the attraction of Unlimited Hydroplane Racing? think this is the key to it's success in the future and I'd like to hear more discussion on this topic. For me a couple of things. First is that it is "unlimited". Now this may not be true in practice, but the idea of an "unlimited" racing series is mesmerizing. The last "unlimited" series I can think of is the Can-Am sports car series in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Eight litre Chevys in McLarens, and 1000 hp turbo Porsches. Glorious performance that eclipsed Formula 1 cars. Second, and I have touched on this previously: speed and skill. These are after all the fastest closed course racing boats in the world and so the thrill and majesty of raw speed are always going to be there. It has been said that speed is the 20th century's only new narcotic (most of the pharmacutical ones are rightly controlled). So the speed needs to be celebrated. How to do this? More cameras. More cameras on the course in dramatic locations, above the course and most important on the boats themselves. Let's have a driver's front view, both side views and a rear view on each boat and educate the TV director on how to make the most of these dramatic shots. Do split screens when boats are racing closely. And the cameras can help show the driver's skill as well if you had a shot of the steering wheel, the throttle and canard pedals. And why not a graphic showing speed and acceleration on the onboard shots like car racing?

Now how do you go about tightening up the racing so the winner is less predictable? Well on the turbine boats I think a fuel restrictor has been tried, although I admit I don't know how it works. I will suggest a solution by Keith Duckworth noted Formula 1 engine designer which is a fuel volume control. You can have as much fuel as you like, but the device only allows a maximum flow to the engine. This allows for any engine and any hull configuration.

I also think the race course can be easily redesigned so that there is a greater opportunity for overtaking. Since the inside lane has such a great advantage currently, why not make the turn radius MUCH smaller? This makes the boat on the inside have to decelerate more and go around the corner slower. The boats on the outside have a larger radius and can carry more speed and should be able to pass.

Hope some of this leads to further discussion and ideas.
Terry,
At the risk of being accused of monopolizing the discussion, I feel I must comment on your reply. First, I think you've got the "cart before the horse" regarding TV coverage, since there isn't any currently, except in Seattle where the race is carried locally, and this year's broadcast of the San Diego event long after the race was history. And I don't think any TV networks are pleading with H1 to allow them to cover races, nor will they until those races are much more competitive and outcomes less predictable.
Regarding the racing itself as spectacle, all of us "hard core" fans agree with your comments regardiing the beauty and speed of the boats. But the question is, how do you attract and keep new fans. For many, the spectacle is not enough. They want competitive events with more boats, and my opinion is the sport will NOT grow until the lack of competion is addressed. The equation should be more fans = more sponsors = more boats = more interest by the media = more TV = more events , etc.
And I think you misunderstood Chip, never one of my favorite drivers, who suggested, as I remember it, that ALL aspects of the sport needed to be looked at. Is it spec racing, for instance, to make everyone use identical propellors, or identical gear boxes, or identical engines? Why not take one step at a time to try to "reel in" the teams who now have more money to customize these components, giving them insurmountable advantages? I think the sport lost many, many fans in the '90s, when Miss Budweiser totally dominated the scene because of their monetary advantage, which allowed them to buy the best equipment, crew, and driver. We don't need NASCAR style racing, but totally unlimited racing, (which means the guy with the biggest budget wins) will doom the sport to dwindling crowds and media interest. In Detroit, once the hub of the eastern teams, the local media literally ignores the sport.
The governing body H1 seems to be in denial. They don't see a problem, and, therefore they don't see a need for changes. Nor do they seem interested in what their fans think. If they are, shouldn't they start asking us, via their website? I've suggested this but have gotten no response. Here are some basic questions they should ask:
1. Do you favor a) changes to make the races more competitive, or b) keeping the current rules as they currently exist ?
2. Do you favor a) changes to shorten the time lag between heats, or b) keeping the current time periods between heats ?
3. Do you favor a) changing the race to a one day event, or b) keeping the current two day format ?
4. Do you favor a) mandatory qualifying, or b) letting every boat in the pits into the race ?
5. Do you favor a) allowing sponsors to jump from one boat to another during the season, or b) preventing sponsor "jumping" ?
6. Do you favor a) restricting equipment changes, (i.e. engines) during a race, or b) allowing unlimited equipment changes ?
7. Do you favor a) having races on Saturday with Sunday as an alternate in case of weather, or b) having races on Sunday with no definite alternate date in case of weather?
8. Do you favor a) defined rules regarding the length of delays because of weather, or b) no rules regarding such delays?

Terry Edwards said:
I have been a fan since the late 1950s and my favorite hydroplanes from that era are Miss Thriftway and Miss Bardahl. I built gas powered models of both plus Miss US5 (yeah, I know, EASTERN boat). I have watched the heyday of piston powered boats and have watched two races live in Seattle. With that as background, some comments:

About noise. Bringing back piston powered boats is not going to save hydroplane racing, even if somebody found a hundred new-old-stock R-R Merlin or Allison engines. It is very old technology and I personally find the turbine boats more technically interesting. If you want piston powered noise, you should attend the National Air Races in Reno. Oh wait! A once a year event, not televised, with no big money sponsors, hardly any spectators. But the noise is wonderful.

NASCAR. The genius of NASCAR has been in the marketing. It has grown the sport from regional to national level and created hundreds of thousands of fans, has television and big money sponsors. What NASCAR has done really well is to publicise the drivers to the point where fans identify with "their" driver, know his car number etc. What NASCAR has also done is to create the world's largest spec racing series. The cars are identical except for the paint and decals, the motors put out the same noise and horsepower, the suspensions are the same, they rely on obsolete carburetors where the automotive world has gone with injection. I also happen to think NASCAR races are BORING (yes, I know, a heretical statement). What I want to see in racing is speed and skill, the latter from the driver as well as the team. What I get from NASCAR are artificial speed restrictions (restrictor plates) and 30 odd cars driving side by side for hours. And if anyone gets a decent lead through skill, they wave a phantom caution for debris on the track and bunch everyone back up again. Finally I think NASCAR has reached the limits of its growth due to market saturation.

Spec racing. I don't like it as you can tell from my comments above because I don't think it is interesting for the hardcore fans. And I cringed this year when no less than Chip Hanauer suggested this as the saviour of hydroplane racing during this year's Seafair. Now Chip is one of my favorite drivers, and I am sure he had good reasons for this suggestion, but in my view it will not save hydroplane racing (or any other top level professional race series). It is an artificial means of limiting innovation and leads to uninspiring racing.

So what is the attraction of Unlimited Hydroplane Racing? think this is the key to it's success in the future and I'd like to hear more discussion on this topic. For me a couple of things. First is that it is "unlimited". Now this may not be true in practice, but the idea of an "unlimited" racing series is mesmerizing. The last "unlimited" series I can think of is the Can-Am sports car series in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Eight litre Chevys in McLarens, and 1000 hp turbo Porsches. Glorious performance that eclipsed Formula 1 cars. Second, and I have touched on this previously: speed and skill. These are after all the fastest closed course racing boats in the world and so the thrill and majesty of raw speed are always going to be there. It has been said that speed is the 20th century's only new narcotic (most of the pharmacutical ones are rightly controlled). So the speed needs to be celebrated. How to do this? More cameras. More cameras on the course in dramatic locations, above the course and most important on the boats themselves. Let's have a driver's front view, both side views and a rear view on each boat and educate the TV director on how to make the most of these dramatic shots. Do split screens when boats are racing closely. And the cameras can help show the driver's skill as well if you had a shot of the steering wheel, the throttle and canard pedals. And why not a graphic showing speed and acceleration on the onboard shots like car racing?

Now how do you go about tightening up the racing so the winner is less predictable? Well on the turbine boats I think a fuel restrictor has been tried, although I admit I don't know how it works. I will suggest a solution by Keith Duckworth noted Formula 1 engine designer which is a fuel volume control. You can have as much fuel as you like, but the device only allows a maximum flow to the engine. This allows for any engine and any hull configuration.

I also think the race course can be easily redesigned so that there is a greater opportunity for overtaking. Since the inside lane has such a great advantage currently, why not make the turn radius MUCH smaller? This makes the boat on the inside have to decelerate more and go around the corner slower. The boats on the outside have a larger radius and can carry more speed and should be able to pass.

Hope some of this leads to further discussion and ideas.
I don't believe the solution is engine noise. If that was the case the Lights would be the popular draw, not the Unlimiteds. Piston power noise pretty much disappeared from the scene twenty years ago now. The only boat with piston noise was the Cooper's, and really, a turbo-Allison isn't much louder than the Lycomings at full speed. The days of Merlins and Griffon's are gone; there aren't enough of them in existence any more. Automotive? I find just as many people on the lake and river on race day who hate the sound of the Lights as those who love it.

My opinion is worth about what you'd think it is, but here are four ideas that may help:

- A strong governing body to run the circuit. With the owners self-administering the sport, it is literally the lunatics running the asylum. I know this was tried before with the Gobretch's, and was a failure. All sporting bodies that are successful, from NFL to NASCAR, are governed by one central power that all participants acquiese to. Watching the embarassment of Ed Cooper throwing his tantrum this year really drove home the futility of allowing each owner an equal share in the administration of the race circuit.

- Lower the costs! Yeah, this is really easy for me to say. But it's true; the cost of putting on an Unlimited race is out of reach for most municipalities/race organizations. I know they've cut the costs to the bone all ready, but clearly it's still too expensive for a site (particularly a new site that's trying to develop a following) to put on a race. Is one solution to combine the leagues with another boat racing class? I don't know, but it sure couldn't hurt to investigate it. Is there a way Unlimiteds could be governed by the same organization that runs offshore boats (for example)? Are there areas that combining administration and marketing would leverage some cost advantages?

- Encourage the air shows, and help the fans identify the commonalities between airplanes and hydroplanes. I think we're making a huge mistake complaining about the air shows that accompany the races. Fans understand what airplanes are, and how they work. They're comfortable with them. Hydroplanes are as unusual and exotic as a man from Mars. Combining the two are a natural, and a way to draw even more fans to the shores. Here in Seattle we experienced the result of the loss of the Blue Angels from race weekend about 15 years ago -- it was a disaster. A good half the crowd is there to see the air show. Don't fight it, embrace it! Extend the sponsorships to the air show performers. Cross marketing is a positive, and if planes in the air mean more fans on the shore (and more sponsorship recognition for the boats) that's what we're after!

- More history. Baseball is popular and special because, among other reasons, it draws from a 150 year history rich in tradition and legend. Unlimiteds draw from a 100+ year well of the same depth and breadth. Through the spectacular work of the Museum, we now have a living history for the sport to draw on. As with the air shows, embrace this part of the spectacle on race day. The Tri-Cities race does this to some extent, but it's missing completely from others.

I know some of these ideas fall outside the aegis of the H1 Unlimited governance and are part of the local organizing committees' control. But if H1 was able to bring a fully self-contained, full day of entertainment, centered around the Unlimiteds, but with other aspects of interest for fans, I think it may be welcomed.

But I also may just be pipe-dreaming. What do I know -- I've never put on a race!

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