2013 Season Complete – Looking to 2014 and Beyond

We’ve put the 2013 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing season astern and it is time to dial in a new course.  The schedule was packed, the action fierce and the outcomes exciting.  We had too much water to race, the risk of not enough, and a points race that came down to the final event.

Congratulations are in order for two significant players in the sport.

First, to Steve David for his success and contribution to the sport.  He announced his retirement recently and on behalf of all Unlimited Hydroplane Racing fans everywhere, we wish you the best in retirement and for whatever your next chapter holds.

Secondly, to Jimmy Shane.  As this season’s champion, your splash onto the racing scene in recent years has been met with excitement and gratitude from fans who crave and relish the excitement your competitive spirit holds.  Congratulations for a great year!

Finally, to all teams, owners, drivers, crew, volunteers, and anyone who helped make the season happen, thank you for an exciting 2013 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing season!

Turning the Page to 2014

With the 2013 season complete, it is time to begin looking forward to the 2014 schedule.  Historically, it has taken some time for the formal schedule to come together. Planning, venues, contracts, etc., etc., etc. are all responsible for the time it takes.  However, nothing prevents us from starting to take an early look ourselves.

Regular readers know the Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Schedule Page is the most popular page on the site.  Its purpose is to keep everything related to the schedule visible.  In the past, the new season starts with a skeleton, then links to information about rumored dates, and eventually, solid schedules. As the season progressed (closer to race dates) more detailed links to important information was added. (Detailed event schedules, venue information, parking, travel resources and everything possible to help fans enjoy the event.)

Can more cities be supported?
Can more cities be supported?

You can expect a similar approach for 2014, so let’s take a first stab at some assumptions.  Most are based heavily on geography:

Based on these assumptions, you can take a look at how the 2014 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Schedule is starting to look.

Planning vs. Execution

Planning is important.  It allows us to envision how something should look.  However, the plan must be realistic to allow it to be executed successfully.

In the past, I’ve looked at the crowded schedule that is packed into our North American summer season.  Just like the map above, this looks at whether the sport can support further international expansion.

With a current 5-year agreement in place, Doha’s position on the schedule has been solidified.  Sheikh Hassan is an equally solid supporter, so Doha as the international venue is a workable and valuable element of the schedule.  While the future may show China as a positive addition, it may make sense to delay any action in that area until the current schedule can be more ingrained.

By the end of an intense season, even Bayfair only had 6 boats operational in San Diego.  Logically, it is the final race of the season that is vulnerable to the season-long demand on equipment and… well… stuff happens.

What’s the Answer?

If not 42, it becomes quite difficult to answer seriously. As I’ve observed in the past (Parts 1, 2, and 3) expansion could be valuable for the sport. But just how many more cities can the summer season support?

Adding more teams and boats seems logical to prevent the 6-boat issue in San Diego. However, establishing a new team from scratch is nothing for the faint of heart – or the shallow of bank account.

Financial infusion to the sport through TV contracts would of course be welcomed, but that in itself is a complicated and time-consuming pursuit. Managing the income and distributing the share to respective teams and race cites is challenging at best.

Looking Ahead – Perfect World

As an average fan, I have the luxury of taking a naïve approach to solving this problem. I don’t have to concern myself with facts, logic, or “reasonability.” I can simply envision how I believe it could (and maybe should) work.

With this self-proclaimed power, I shall play “What If?”

What if:

  • The Schedule solidified to a point where Doha was the ONLY international destination?
    Based on the current structure, the Doha race could be the pinnacle of the season. If the points race is as close in the future as it was this year, that race would be a compelling event on many levels.
  • What if Coeur d’Alene is the last “new venue” added for a while?
    Doug Miller and his team did such a great job in their (re)inaugural event, it appears he’s locked and loaded to be a strong contributor in the future. By NOT adding new venues for a while, it gives the current schedule structure a season or two to solidify and allow teams to get their logistics nailed down.
  • What if a new and more consistent financial model were developed?
    Similar to the concept of a more solidified and consistent schedule helping team logistics, a consistent funding formula will help owners and race sites plan, develop and grow in a healthy manner. By having more certainty surrounding funding models, longer-term investments can be made, without as much risk.

As I said, a naïve fan of the sport can long for simple solutions.  I’m a simple guy.  It is encouraging to think that the first and second suggestions are well within the sport’s control. Both international and domestic expansion talks can cease immediately.

Admittedly, the last one is probably the most complex. However, if everyone approached a potential solution with the right attitude, even that one could produce a new and mutually-beneficial solution.

Moral to the Story

Although there seems to be some static on the airwaves of our sport, the signal can be tuned in with just a couple of fairly simple adjustments. With so much riding on the schedule, its impacts to logistics, and the success of individual events, wouldn’t it make sense to step back and take a fresh and objective approach?

These are the ideas of just one fan. What would you do to improve the sport?

Dave


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