The History of Offshore Powerboat Racing: Everyone Has the Need for Speed

The History of Offshore Powerboat Racing: Everyone Has the Need for Speed

Regardless of race, nationality, or class, everyone seems to possess a need for speed. There tends to be more than just bragging rights involved in seeing who can get from point A to point B the fastest. From foot races to turtle races, from baby crawls to bike races, there is a certain measure of worth, regardless of how justified it may be, traced to an individual’s ability to go faster than their competitor.

As boating is one of the oldest transportation modes on earth, there can be no surprise that boat racing has become “a thing.” This motorsport is notoriously known for producing some of the highest speeds and most deadly accidents in history. Widely thought of as a sport for the elite, offshore power boating proves to provide thrills and excitement for both spectators and participants.

And So it Begins

Not long after the use of motors was implemented in boats, the first official offshore powerboat race was held. Sponsored by publishing mogul Alfred Harmsworth, the first official race’s course went from the south-eastern coast of England to France in 1904. 

Within a handful of years, the sport became dominated by Americans. One American in particular, Garr Wood, became the sport’s first standout participant. He was the first powerboat racer to break speeds of over 100 mph, and he led his team to victory in the Harmsworth competition a total of eight times.

Powering Ahead

The Harmsworth race began to lose momentum as the sport’s prominent race as the century reached its midpoint. In 1956, the sport’s next premiere event took place for the first time. The Class 1 Powerboat Championship debuted with participants taking off in Miami, speeding toward the finish line in Nassau. 

This race is powerboat racing’s answer to Formula 1 racing, with these boats reaching speeds in excess of 160 mph. 

Some of these races have been known to draw in as many as 400,000 spectators. Today’s spectators can enjoy watching the event televised live, capturing all of the excitement that the sport has to offer in real-time.

Not a Sport for the Everyman

Offshore powerboat racing is a sport that has widely been touted as a competition made for the rich. This is due to the exorbitant cost of purchasing and maintaining the necessary equipment to be competitive in the arena. 

Oftentimes, those who have found themselves in that elusive “top 1%” happily finance teams in their name in the hopes of bringing some sort of motorsport glory to themselves. From the ridiculously high cost of acquiring a powerboat to being able to house the boat in the proper area necessary for test driving the vessel and the team’s abilities, including the price of maintenance, fuel, and entry fees, to name a few, only those with immensely deep pocketbooks are equipped to be players in this game.

In recent years, however, newer categories have been implemented in offshore powerboat racing, making the sport more accessible for those who have a true passion for the game but do not have an endless supply of money to fund their hobby.

It is not surprising, however, that the categories that are more costly to participate in can garner a tremendous payout, while those that do not cost as much to be a part of tend to not pay as much in the way of awards.

A Touch of a Checkered Past Makes it That Much More Interesting

The heyday of offshore powerboat racing seems to be during the 1980s. That time period is also the host of a fascinating story that deals with the industry’s seedy underbelly. 

Don Aronow was a handsome, up-and-coming businessman who was raised in Brooklyn. After taking the helm of his family’s company, he made millions. At the ripe age of 34, he retired from the business and moved to Miami with his supermodel wife, prepared to live the Life of Riley. 

Dabbling in the hobby of the rich and famous, Aronow became involved with marketing and launching a line of offshore powerboats. Eventually, his line of boats became the quintessential models of powerboats for the sport, designing some of the most famous offerings of the time.

Aronow didn’t just talk the talk; he walked the walk. He was credited with designing and building vessels that won hundreds of offshore powerboating titles, even going so far as procuring two world championship titles himself.

While Aronow’s business appeared on the “up and up,” due to the sheer speed his crafts could achieve, it is thought his boats were employed in the drug smuggling trade between Florida and the Bahamas. 

Aronow was gunned down upon departing a business meeting at his manufacturing shop when another driver pulled up alongside him and opened fire. Though someone with mob ties eventually confessed to his murder, Aronow’s case remains officially unsolved to this day. 

While his life was cut short, Aronow’s boats are still involved in the offshore powerboat racing circuit even to date. 

The History of Offshore Powerboat Racing: High Speed for the High Class

Offshore powerboat racing is a sport that is not easily accessible to the average person. It is a motorsport that only the elite can afford to be party to. Regardless, it has amassed a following that seeks thrills that cannot be found elsewhere.

Today, though more “average” individuals can participate in the sport, the history of offshore powerboat racing proves that it is a sport that shows that even the high class needs to experience high speeds.
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