UPDATED: Despite financial troubles at San Diego race site, 10 unlimited hydroplanes have committed to race - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

UPDATED: Despite financial troubles at San Diego race site, 10 unlimited hydroplanes have committed to race

Posted: Updated:
U-3 will not be attending San Diego unless a new sponsor is found this week U-3 will not be attending San Diego unless a new sponsor is found this week
U-100 has opted not to attend San Diego in light of the race site's financial troubles U-100 has opted not to attend San Diego in light of the race site's financial troubles

As late as Thursday, Ted Porter, Fred Leland, and Ed Cooper were planning on keeping their boat teams away from San Diego this year because of the continuing financial troubles at the race site.

UPDATED SEPT 9TH - ABRA releases official boat lineup for San Diego
A fleet of 10 boats will be ready to qualify this Friday morning on Mission Bay for this weekend's San Diego Thunderboat Regatta ABRA Unlimited Hydroplane season finale scheduled to run September 14 thru 16.

Read the full news release from ABRA  >>
Includes boat and sponsor names, drivers

UPDATED SEPT 8TH - U1 & U5 will race
Saturday, FormuylaBoats.com crew chief Mike Weber confirmed that they will have two boats in San Diego.  Mike Allen will be driving the U-1 he started the season with - the T5 hull - and Jeff Bernard will drive the U-5 - the T6 hull - in San Diego.  Weber said owner Ted Porter committed to ABRA on Friday that they would race.

UPDATED - SEP T8TH - U3 will not race
The U-3 will not be making the trip to San Diego unless a sponsor can be found.  Rick Bowles said "the plan put together by San Diego and The ABRA falls short of U-3 requirements."  Bowles explains that the U-3 team operates from money paid from sponsors and the ABRA and as of now the San Diego race and the ABRA aren't paying anything for an appearance.  "This might be doable with a sponsor," he said; "but without, it leaves us no choice but to stay home this year. Hopefully are fans will understand the problem we are facing and will be glad 
to see us at our next event. "

Sponsorship dollars are tough to come by, no matter what size city you're in or what the venue.  Race sites across the country have struggled the past few years to get title or presenting sponsors willing to help insure a successful race venue.  San Diego's been no different.  Last year, a last-minute deal helped keep things moving forward and guarantee a race.

This year, San Diego is again left without that title sponsor to help guarantee appearance fees for the unlimited hydroplanes.  And so the event coordinators have been put in the awkward position of not having the money they've had in past years to pay for everything.

According to our sources, San Diego race officials let ABRA know last week that they cannot pay the unlimited hydroplanes to show up and race this year.  There have been a couple of impromptu owner's meetings to decide what to do.

There is a movement to find sponsors and funding, but it's been going on all year long without success.  We hear there's been a promise to race teams that, if they show up, the appearance money will be paid out of future sponsorships.  It puts the race teams in a very difficult position.  Either pay for everything yourself with no guarantee of any money coming back your way... and hope there's something down the road... or stay home. 

While there has been a serious attempt by the San Diego race officials (and others) to find the funding, and the promise to work to find a way to pay the race times after the fact, it's no easy feat.  Sponsorship deals are tough enough to find for a future event, let alone to help fund something that's already over.

The fact is that events like the festivals held in big cities like San Diego  could probably survive - and may be forced to survive at some point - without the big boats.  In a recent poll done in Seattle, more people said they go to Seafair because of the Blue Angels than the hydros.  Polls in Tri-Cities, Washington have shown similar results.  

Even after Lamb Weston stepped forward to be the presenting sponsor for the Columbia Cup, the board of the Tri-Cities race site had to cut hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the budget in order to make the Water Follies event viable.  This meant cutting back on the air show substantially and cutting out the Unlimited Lights completely.  Neither were steps the Board wanted to take, but it was necessary. for the greater good. 

In the case of the Tri-Cities race committee, it was the airshow cutbacks and eliminating the Lights.  In San Diego, it was determined apparently that the full field of unlimiteds was expendable in order to keep the race alive.  When it's a matter of survival, you do what you have to do. 

We also hear that Dr. Ken Muscatel is stepping forward and helping try to secure sponsorship for San Diego in the future.  This could include helping to find the funding to pay-after-the-fact for boat teams that do show up this year.  This would include putting together a group to go after the support and includes money out of his own pocket.  If we haven't said it recently, hydro race fans ought to be very appreciative of the work Muscatel does on behalf of the sport.

And that's why Fred Leland, and Ed Cooper have reportedly opted out of sending their teams to San Diego this year.   Porter's team was also on that list, but Friday he gave the go-ahead to the FormulaBoats.com team to head west.

Tentatively line-up for San Diego
as of Sep 8, 2007

  • U-1 Mike Allen
  • U-6 Steve David 
  • U-10 David Bryant
  • U-13 J. Michael Kelly
  • U-16 Dave Villwock
  • U-21 Brian Perkins
  • U-25 Ken Muscatel
  • U-37 Jean Theoret
  • U-48 David Williams