It’s almost not even news anymore to report that the unlimited hydroplane circuit appears to be hanging on by a thread.
H1 Unlimited chairman Sam Cole prefers to note that at least the thread has not yet broken and that the boats will race this summer, beginning this weekend in Madison, Ind.
“Honestly, given the economy and all the work that we put in this winter to make sure that these four races are happening this year, I’m very pleased,” Cole said.
The season will actually consist of at least five races, again concluding in November with the Oryx Cup in Doha, Qatar.
But there will be just four stops in the United States after the circuit lost one of its mainstay sites – Evansville, Ind. A last-ditch effort kept the race afloat last season, but it’s a goner for this year.
Also, hopes to revive a race in San Diego – which hosted an event for 40 years before being dropped last season – failed.
So the only U.S. races this summer will be in Madison, Detroit, the Tri-Cities and Seattle.
Cole, however, said he thinks there is a chance of adding more domestic races in coming years, as well as talk of additional international races, possibly in China.
It’s that international potential that gives those in the sport hope for the future during a time when the races in the United States are struggling.
The Gold Cup in Detroit was in doubt until just a couple of weeks ago, when a local businessman and the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club stepped forward with funding to assure racing, apparently through 2011. The race runs Friday through July 11.
Seattle’s Seafair race was also in danger until a sponsorship agreement with Albert Lee Appliance was signed that should secure its future for three years (it was also helped when Duke’s Chowder House offered up $40,000 to help pay for the services of the 12 boats). Had the Seattle race disappeared, it’s possible it would have also endangered the Tri-Cities event.
Cole said securing the short-term futures for the events in Seattle and Detroit – the two bedrocks of the sport – made the offseason a success.
Cole said there are no significant rules changes this season, adding that he thinks the product on the water is as good as it has been in a while, specifically in producing different winners. After years of domination by the Miss Budweiser, the circuit has finally seen parity since the Bud called it quits after 2004.