Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum

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Well, Whadda' Think About Unlimited Hydroplane Racing lately?

I was trying to find Tim Maitlans (sp?) original post about what needs to be done to further the sport of (Unlimited) hydroplane racing. Actually I think Tim's original question posed to us was what needs to be done to attract new fans to the sport. I was hoping to bring it back up to the top of this forum to try to gage how you all feel about the progress, if any, since Tim first posted his blog?

So, in the absence of the informational technology skills that allows me to find it, I'll simply pose the same question with an observation suggesting that the latest races have been more competitive than ever and add that it's becoming apparent that the talented young drivers improving their prowess in the sport and that the talented and amazing David Villwock can be beaten, even by some real estate guy from Florida in a boat out of Madison, Indiana - the formidable Miss Madison/Oh, Boy Oberto! So is the sport the better for it? 

Following most of the races this season - and last - it occurs to me that the races are not always overwhelmed by just two teams. there are some young drivers, like J. Michael Kelly, Brian Perkins, and Scott Liddycoat just to mention a few, who not only add an element of competition, but tell me that in terms of talent, the sport is getting a lot more interesting

So, how do you all think things are going, after another season or two since Tim's original Blog Post. Is H1, with the support of the Air National Guard's support, gaining more interest in the sport? Is the addition of the San Diego event evidence that more people are coming back/attracted to the sport? I can't tell, but I can't help but recall the Gold Cup was almost cancelled a year or so back for lack of support - I think - and may have even had some difficulty this year.

I have no insight into the strategies, plans, visions or expenses for H1 activities and their goals. Based on some additional TV coverage and a couple of other things, I sense that whatever interest in the sport seems to be increasing, but at about the same velocity of the national econony. Hmmm, is their a direct correlation there?

Personally, I don't think so. What I do think, vis-a-vis the economy, is that NASCAR has become the favored motorsports activity by most TV viewers. Ah, is TV the solution? Could be, I mean, say World of Outlaws sprint car racing - a really fun to watch sport - has seemed to drag themselves out of mostly midwest interest into the national spotlight, but seems to be below the radar of TV promoters save for Speed channel and VS or Velocity.

Why is this? Is it perhaps because Unlimited Hydroplane races require some, well, water? It's surely more simple to buy a few acres of farmland to create a venue for stock car or sprint car racing. Yet, in my opinion (again with no statistics at hand) they seem to be of more interest to the specialty networks than Hydroplane Racing.

Tim, if you're reading this, chime in. While I'm older than many of the rocks in my back yard and still love the Thunderboats, mostly as touchstones to my youth in Seattle. Are we chasing windmills? Are the international events, vis-a-vis Qatar and the rumored events in China or Brazil... maybe even Mars the solution to allowing our sport to grow?

I don't think so, personally, but then this is a blog and, as such, I'm inviting comment and criticism. I don't have the solution, but I do know I still love the unlimiteds and still watch them every year in Seattle at Seafair.

Maybe that's enough for most. After all as a volunteer at the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum I can relive my formative years simply be helping to restore the icons of my youth. But, in my opinion, "Our" sport is not growing. at least enough. On the positive side of the argument, we still have the races every August on Lake Washington. The boats may be sponsored and, accordingly, named after Pizza parlors, Plumbing companies and Trucking firms. And rightfully so. Yet, at the next race in the H1 series, they may be named after local auto body shops and roofing companies. It's not unusual these days for the boats to be referred to, among enthusiasts, by their "U" numbers. Like the "37 Boat", the "88" and so on.

I really miss the days of the "ladies", like Miss Thriftway, Miss Wahoo, Miss Bardahl and Slo-mo-Shun, but as has been said, you can't go home again. Really...

Then, for the sake of discussion, how do you explain the enduring popularity of, say, The Indy 500, the Kentucky Derby, Daytona 500, even the "Running of the Bulls" in Pamplono, Spain. Is the Super Bowl more popular than the Gold Cup? Apparently so. Why do you suppose that is and what do you suppose H1 or APBA for that matter intend to address that? 

Perhaps none of us care that much about our favorite sport to see it rise to NASCAR levels. I wonder if that's what Tim had in mind when he broached the question in the first place? 

I miss that discussion.

Indulge me, will you. This is a blog. Not an editorial. Editorials usually offer solutions. I'm just rambling.



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Comment by Bruce Logan on August 25, 2012 at 7:54am

I have to agree with Tim. I wish they would go back to running all the heats on Sunday. At Tri-Cities also there seemed to be a huge gap between heats. And only one qualifying session? That was half the fun, at least for me. Drivers competing for the fastest time. Growing up on Mercer Island in the 50's and 60's it was hard not be a hydro fan. (Muncey just lived down the street fom me on Forest Avenue.) And a big thank you to the museum for bringing the vintages.  

Comment by Tim Matyn on August 22, 2012 at 10:01am


Thanks for renewing the discussion.  I agree with your comments about the improved competition, and I also agree with your comment that "our sport is not growing enough."

I think that the best thing that has happened in the last couple of years is the "live streaming" of races on the internet for all of the hardcore fans like you and me who can't afford to attend races on the opposite coast.  Live coverage is what real fans of the sport want, and efforts should be made to improve the quality of these broadcasts.  The fiascoes of past attempts MUST be corrected. And after that correction the H! people need to ADVERTISE and promote those broadcasts.  And not just on their website or on H1.  They don't seem to realize that a sizeable portion of their fan base might be computer illiterate. If the only people who know about "live streaming" are the geeks and those who are constanting looking at the H1 website, how can the sport's fan base ever grow?  They need to forget about TV broadcasts after the fact; televising races weeks or months later does little to advance the sport.  The only people watching those telecasts are "channel surfers" and "coach potatoes".  True fans of the sport already know who won the race and why.  It's like watching last week's baseball game after hearing who won on the local sportcast, who homered, who pitched, etc.

For the fans who attend the race, I tink they need to compress the progam: Chip Hanauer had the right idea with his comments last year.  Boats on the water quickly and continuously!  Here in Detroit they had almost three hours between heats one and two on Saturday.  In other words they made people sit around for three to four hours to see twenty minutes of unlimited hydroplane racing.  What a way to turn off the new fans. Thankfully, I was sitting in the shade!  Years ago these races were one day events, and I think they should seriously consider returning to that format.  Few new young fans want to give up their entire weekend to see a boat race that is "dragged out" with needless hours between heats, 

P.S.  The name is Matyn, but thanks again for renewing the discussion!


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