I’ve just finished up a story for Powersports Business on the current situation of competing “national tours” in personal watercraft racing. I’ll link to that story when it comes out for the arguments from both sides, but one thing that became clear while putting the story together is that few people think the sport of PWC racing can weather a long-term division such as this.
“There are so many examples of failure – USFL vs NFL, IRL vs CART – and no substantial examples of successes,” says Tim McKercher, who oversees much of Sea-Doo’s race promotion. “The only place something like this works is in a sport or business that is growing so fast it needs more outlets. PWC racing is certainly not in that situation. There is not enough racers, and much less sponsors to support two tours. There is barely enough for one.”
I’d have to say I agree, at least in the long term. The sport is small, the OEM support is minimal, and the current economic situation is a tough one in which to pitch an outside sponsor. Division seems to be the last thing we need at this point. I do, however, agree with a comment by Upstate Watercraft Promotions AJ Handler, who’s putting on the newcomer to the field, the UWP IJSBA National Tour. According to Handler, “what it does is makes us work a lot harder for that customer, like any other business.” It’s the old competition-improves-the-breed argument, and it holds water. I won’t go into the debate here, but apparently Handler thinks he can do things better.
Can he? Off the record, I asked a few racers for their candid opinions on both tours. What I heard seems to support Handler’s efforts. Yes, this is a tiny sample and hardly scientific, but comments included the idea that the same promoter for every round made the new tour much more consistent, the payout was clearly spelled out in black and white, and racers enjoyed free food and drinks at rider parties.
I think the sport of personal watercraft racing is far too small right now to handle the team dissension. But I also think the sport of personal watercraft racing is far too small right now to ignore the possibility that someone might have an idea on how to make it better.
Unfortunately, I get the feeling that this one won’t be easily resolved…