The sport of offshore powerboat racing has made a dynamic comeback on the island of Puerto Rico. Witness the thousands of spectators who travel to all corners of the island to watch the fastest powerboats battle it out in circuit events that for 2012 will take place in March, June, September and December.
“Offshore powerboat racing started in Puerto Rico back in the late 80s and continued to be very active until the mid-90s,” explains Angel Duran, marketing and public relations director for the Puerto Rico Offshore Series (PROS) Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to organizing safe offshore powerboat competitions for the enjoyment of participants and spectators alike. “Some of the racers in these days achieved international recognition. Puerto Rico even hosted a leg of the United States elite Offshore Super Series Circuit in San Juan Bay in 2006.”
Rivalries caused the sport to become dormant for several years until a group of former racers and newcomers to the sport formed PROS in 2009. Today, offshore powerboat racing is a family and friend affair in Puerto Rico.
“The boats are privately owned and are usually sponsored by the owner’s business,” says Duran. “They are raced by family members, usually father and son, relatives or a friend that helps with some of the expenses. Most are used boats; some of them were racing back in the 90s but later abandoned and have been rescued from garages, farms and other places and have been re-constructed by the present owners and racers.”
These sleek fibreglass-built offshore race boats are classified based on the maximum miles per hour (mph) they can attain. For example, the six recognized classes range from the swiftest Modified Max Class with top speeds of 150mph to the Pleasure Sport ‘Entry’ Level with speeds up to 60mph.
“We have created a new category for the Centre Console, based on the many petitions from interested people,” says Duran. This category reaches speeds of 50 to 75mph.
Each of the four annual offshore race events consists of the race day, usually a Sunday, and a series of activities starting the Friday before. For example, the boats depart San Juan caravan-style with a police escort en route to the venue on the Friday where they are put on exhibition and open for the public to see in the afternoon. Then on Saturday, the public exhibition continues until early afternoon when the boats depart amid much fanfare and along a pre-determined route to the launch marina or boat ramps. Finally, on Sunday, the drivers meet in the morning and racing starts at 1pm. Racing lasts about an hour depending on the location, sea conditions and number of laps. In Fajardo and Ponce the circuit is two miles long with five to seven laps plus a recognition lap. In Mayaguez, the circuit is shorter: only one mile, but with up to ten laps.
“The adrenaline and emotion of the spectacular boat jumps, together with the roaring sound of the engines, provides great fun for sporting enthusiasts,” says Duran.
The race weekend ends with an Awards Ceremony.
“We would love to have offshore powerboat racers from other Caribbean islands come and compete,” invites Duran. “The factor that has prevented us from inviting them so far is the lack of sponsors, as usually the inviting country has to cover some expenses for the visitors. At this moment our finances prevent us; nevertheless, if they wish to come and compete at their own expense, they would be most welcome.”
Puerto Rico Offshore Series 2012 Calendar
Fajardo: March 16th – 17th and 18th*
Mayaguez Bay: June 22th – 23rd and 24th*
Ponce or Aguadilla: September 14th – 15th and 16th*
San Juan Bay or CataÃ±o: December 7th – 8th and 9th*
*Actual Race Day; the other two event dates are for Caravans and Exhibitions.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.