ENDING AN ERA
It isn’t often that you can write your eulogy. The task must, above all, answer the question of legacy; what was our impact? How did two people manage to sustain a powerboat circuit for thirty-one successive years? It’s a story and a history unique to us and the series we developed – Powerboat Superleague.
DOING WHAT SEEMED IMPOSSIBLE
Explaining a career choice in powerboat racing is difficult since many within this fraternity never expected Powerboat Superleague to succeed. Certainly not with two outsiders – people who did not come from a racing family – and certainly, not that first year. However, life takes interesting turns and a season became two, then three, and suddenly we found racing as the driving force of our lives.
From the beginning in 1987 at New Martinsville, West Virginia, and coming full-circle to end in New Martinsville, in 2017, both of us understood that the keys to creating a successful series would be to honor our commitments: to the race sites, the drivers/teams, and the sponsors. All three entities were and remain important, and each deserved to be treated fairly and equally. Our philosophy is unchanged: do what you say, do it ethically, professionally and above all honor all of your financial commitments (even if it costs you a portion of your retirement fund).
ONLY ONE CAN WIN
Distilled to its essence racing is competition toward the goal of winning. Each race is a condensed structure of conflict and resolution – only one person can win. Objectively speaking, being tossed about a racecourse with gravity slamming your body while negotiating a turn is not the choice of fun for most of the population, however, for drivers, it is as four-time Superleague champion Gary Pugh remarked: “the place to be.”
Our recorded log of circuit entries unrolls with an impressive list of names. Through the years, we crowned more than fifty champions in the OPC category (SST 60 and SST 120 classes), many of them were honored as members of the APBA Hall of Champions, and two (Jay Price/Shaun Torrente) continued in the world arena with UIM and the international Formula 1 series. Engraved in the Powerboat Superleague record books are thirty-one drivers, including one woman earning the series title, some were multiple year winners, and a few won a championship in both classes albeit during different seasons. (S.LaBanco, B. Rogerson, N. Haraway, T. Kratochwill, B. Dillard, C. Reno and T. Hood in SST 60; J. Travis, A. Thornton, G. Pugh, S. Torrente, D. McDowell, T. Rinker, and A. Rinker in SST 120 were multiple year champions).
BY THE NUMBERS
Along the way, we met interesting people, forging friendships that will last a lifetime. Our races brought us to fifteen states where we conducted 179 events in forty-five different locations from small communities (New Martinsville, West Virginia/Chattahoochee, Florida) to large cities (Memphis, Tennessee/Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania/Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio/Louisville, Kentucky), on sixteen rivers, eight lakes, two channels and one bay. Series racing gave us incredible opportunities including participation in two international races (Canada and Northern Ireland). Superleague events have included World, North American, and National championships as well as divisional and regional titles. Our races often hosted other categories and classes, in fact, the only area of APBA racing we have not experienced is Inboard Endurance.
We have been privileged to meet invaluable APBA members who became our friends and guided us as part of our officiating staff – without these generous people, a critical element for success would have been missing. They represent (and represented) some of the best minds within APBA, in alphabetical order: Lee Bias, David Black, Jim Bremer, Marie Bremer, Tim Calhoun, Dan Cartwright, Trent Damron, Tonya Damron, Jeff Grigg, Bill Hesson, Kathy Hesson, Lou Jordan, Gloria (Plaxco) Mitchell, Roger Moser, Ron Plaxco, Doug Rea, Bob Schubert, Ken Scoville, Mike Tilton, Janie Tilton, Jeff Titus, Sally Titus, Jan and Laurie Vidal, Joe Wespiser and Ken Winkle. Many others stepped in to assist when one of our staff could not attend an event. Our gratitude to all of them as well as to the astute APBA officers and headquarters staff is beyond measure.
Powerboat Superleague was developed and managed by us, but it was never personal; our focus was on producing the best event on any given weekend in whatever community chose to host our race. We combined the tradition of powerboat racing with as much innovation as possible. The past thirty-one years have given us some of life’s best moments, allowing us to blaze our trail, surrounded by our best friends. Superleague has been a memorable adventure that few will experience, but one that we found suited us.
A FEW QUESTIONS AND SOME UNEXPECTED ANSWERS
Sidebar conversations, a quick view of the differing perspectives from the Superleague principals, Sam and Sherron Winer.
Sam’s Five Racing Thoughts and Two Just for Fun
Favorite Race Site: “Raystown Lake, near Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful place with a great local committee. Their promotion of the event drew tremendous crowds, and the entry fields were consistently large.”
Best Moments: “Events that were well-promoted and brought plenty of spectators to the race, often it was their first introduction to powerboat racing. Columbus, Ohio in 1988 stands out; you could feel the excitement.”
Worst Moments: “When we had to cancel or drastically shorten an event while on site. It is difficult to explain to fans, and you can see the disappointment. In Columbus, Ohio a flash flood (1989) on opening day caused the cancellation of not just the race but also the entire festival. We were all on site, so the staff went to the zoo.”
Future of Racing: “I am uncertain about this. We have provided a model for others to follow, but will they? It is encouraging that new APBA/OPC clubs promoted series races in 2016 and 2017.”
What You Hope Everyone Will Remember about Superleague: “Consistency and always doing what we said we would do.”
What people don’t know about me: “I have met five Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan, and George H. Bush. I had the honor of introducing Carter to a Jaycee assembly.”
Favorite Downtime Pursuits: “Hanging out on my fishing dock, sometimes wetting a line and playing golf.”
Sherron’s Five Racing Thoughts and Two Just for Fun
Favorite Race Sites: “Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bradenton, Florida, Aurora, Indiana, New Martinsville, West Virginia, Columbus, Ohio, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Knoxville, Tennessee, but if I must choose just one, New Martinsville – it’s where this adventure began.”
Best Moment: “Registration when I see almost everyone, from drivers to team members, their families, and friends. It is a reunion, a personal time with people that are important to me, each one and every time. It’s always a celebration as well as an affirmation of family. It’s difficult to choose just one moment, and since this is my interview, I’m stretching the rules by adding I love the interaction with kids at the events. Getting down to their level, asking about their favorite boat, sharing with them the excitement of what may be their first experience with powerboats.”
Worst Moment: “Having to watch an on-water incident unfold in front of me. You place your trust in your staff and rescue unit, you know they are well-trained but until you have confirmation of a completed rescue from the head of safety and the chief referee all you have is hope and faith that the outcome will be positive.”
Future of Racing:” If I had a crystal ball this would be easy… The future will be a combination of perseverance, dedicated work and a better understanding of the word ‘sportsmanship’. All of us need to move beyond the “me first – me only” attitude and consider everything that goes into a successful race, and that includes viewing the event from the perspective of the race site host and the sponsors. This philosophy of considering the whole rather than the individual extends to and must include, APBA. I become frustrated when I hear “I just want to race my boat,” APBA is a volunteer organization, everyone must be a part of ensuring its future.”
Critical to Developing a Race Site: “Never be underfunded – don’t count on the admissions gate to pay your bills; not having a written agreement between the host site and the club; promising only what you can personally deliver and delivering on your promises.”
What I wanted to be when I grew up: “Since I am still growing up, there is always the possibility that I can be an archeologist – move over Indiana Jones.”
Favorite downtime pursuit: “Keeping everyone on their collective toes by doing the unexpected, while taking time to read, be a chef, create photos and hopefully work in my studio.”
Something Few People Know About Sherron (by Sam): “She has always wanted to travel the Wakan Corridor (in the Himalayas) along the Silk Road in Afghanistan. I won’t be going.”
Something Few People Know About Sam (by Sherron): He became the national President of the US Jaycees and then Chairman of the Board, (when the organization had 300,000 members) before the age of 29. During his tenure, Sam met with US Presidents (there are two photos in his office with a sitting President and Sam in the Oval Office), the emperor of Japan, numerous senators, and members of Congress, governors, and mayors as well as some sports and entertainment celebrities.
by Sherron Winer