Since Britain’s offshore fraternity parted company with the RYA, the situation is far from ‘cut and dried’. OCRDA, the former OCR class which was very popular for almost four decades, was the first club to ‘bite the bullet’ and go their own way. However, although the association welcomed all-comers after its breakaway from the RYA, there were problems to contend with for the Marathon fleet. Firstly launching facilities for the OCR boats were never ideal for larger craft, and secondly, the Marathon race courses were required to be longer and this presented additional problems for race organisers to lay out suitable courses.
The fleet of OCRDA boats leaving Torquay last year (Photo: Tim Tapping)
Marathon boat ‘Cougar 69’ winner of the 2016 Cowes-Torquay-Cowes race
It seemed the solution would be simply to create a separate association for Marathon boats, and so UKOPRA was born. Although the name has been in the pipeline for many months the steering party met up at the 2018 London Boat Show, and it appears the gathered enthusiasts there were fully supportive of the new United Kingdom Offshore Powerboat Racing Association to cater for the open water racers while OCRDA remains dedicated to offshore circuit race teams.
OCRDA has a head start on UKOPRA as they kicked off at the beginning of 2016 and had attracted up to forty teams by the end of the 2017 season. It’s too early to say how many marathon boats will sign up for the forthcoming season under their new management, but we have ‘guestimated’ around 10 Marathon boats are likely to enter. UKOPRA will also feature Class 3 boats, but their Class 3 is likely to resemble the old Class 3D (i.e. 4 litre boats) and catamarans will be allowed.
UKOPRA’s steering group is made up of Kerry Bobin, Simon Wood-Power, and John Guille while OCRDA continues to be headed by Bob McCarthy and Steve Oaten.
So far so good. It now becomes a little more complicated as since the split from the RYA both UKOPRA and OCRDA can issue racing licences, carry out training programmes and measurement certificates etc. In other words, everything the RYA used to do can be done by these two associations. Despite a rumour that licences were going to be issued free of charge, it is now confirmed that a £100 fee is going to be charged for a UKOPRA licence, the same as OCRDA, and an OCRDA licence holder will have to obtain an additional UKOPRA licence if they wish to take part in one of their events. (smacks of the RYA ruling where if you wanted to race internationally as an OCRDA member you needed an RYA licence as well.)
We understand UKOPRA has a three race programme planned for 2018, starting at Poole. Second in line is Cornwall’s Falmouth Festival organised by IPRC, and then the famous Cowes-Torquay-Cowes marathon organised by the BPRC – all three events organised by different clubs but are affiliated to UKOPRA. OCRDA has a five race championship and all are both organised and promoted by OCRDA.
At this stage the only downside is that none of OCRDA or UKOPRA races can carry international status as the RYA is the only organisation affiliated to the UIM, powerboat racing’s governing body, who give the RYA authority to promote international events. Even if several drivers wanted to compete in an international event, they would be prevented from doing so as their club is not affiliated to the UIM. The United States ‘Worlds’ held each year in Key West present world championship titles to successful teams yet the event is staged under the APBA banner….. this begs the question, what would happen if UKOPRA or OCRDA race a world championship under their own banner?
As the 2018 season is several months away, the clubs have time on their hands to negotiate, and UKOPRA appears to be the most likely to persuade the UIM to relent and permit the club permission to participate in international events. After all it would surely be in their best interests!