Greetings from the IJSBA Headquarters in beautiful, but cold, Half Moon Bay. Assuming the world exists for another couple of hours after this post, the Mayan Calendar was not the signal of the planet’s demise. Coincidentally, it is Winter Solstice, today (well at least in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway- please forgive me for being geocentric to the IJSBA office, but we have to open an update with some degree of small talk), so maybe the Mayan’s simply knew that today was going to be the journey into summer, 2013. 2013 will prove to be one of the best summers in PWC Racing’s last ten years (check back during the Summer Solstice and tell me I am wrong).

It has been about two months since we closed up World Finals in Lake Havasu City. Since then, HydroDrags King’s Cup have both wrapped up with both shattering former records of participation. The very famous Mark Hahn 300 is just two months away and then it is Australian Nationals and the whole thing starts all over again!! It used to be that World Finals brought the season to an end and now it almost seems like World Finals starts the season up… or maybe, better put, the PWC Racing season just doesn’t end anymore and this whole thing about summer and winter is only left to determine if our non-PWC activities are to be enjoyed wearing snowsuits or swimsuits.

Now that we are getting ready to head into a 32nd World Finals in 2013, it is amazing to see how much racing and related activity has grown over the last half decade. Endurance racing joined the Closed Course format as a mainstream activity in the mid 1990’s. Just a few year’s back, Freeride became an officially recognized type of competition totally distinct from Freestyle or wave jumping contests. Now drag racing has gone beyond being a new type of competition to a full blown, spectator crowd gathering, multi-national event. The 2012 Hot Products World Finals showcased PWC powered submarines and another type of PWC powered aerial device. The news has been full of reports that an elusive ATV/PWC hybrid has gone into full production. New stand up style PWC were spotted at King’s Cup. Not only does the future hold new types of competition but the reach of PWC technology is heading in directions that can bring never before imagined activities to the table. This is exciting news for the sport. Where we may have once been questioning what PWC racing will become, we can now ask: what can’t it be? This is getting too philosophical, though. This update is about what happened this year and what is going on right now. Please share the following news with your friends and colleagues in the PWC Racing Family.

2013 Hot Products World Finals Recap.
The sport was at its best during the 2013 Hot Products World Finals. The competitors shined brightly, we had one of the best staff configurations, turnout was up, and the weather was absolutely perfect. You cannot as for more than that. Every event has is highlights and its bumps, so let us recap the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  1. The good. Ok, so when the sport grows for four consecutive years, everyone has a reason to be happy. Competitor turnout grew another 10(+) percent. Growth was, more or less, across the board. The biggest class was Amateur Ski Lites which tallied more than 40 individual competitors signing up. This is a strong reminder to IJSBA that, no matter who builds what, affordable Ski racing is the cornerstone of our sport and preserving it must our highest priority. On the sit down side of things, Pro Am Runabout Stock moves into a stronger position with a shocking amount of spectators showing up and naming this class as their must see event at World Finals. This means Pro/Am Runabout Stock is sure to get some greater spotlight treatment in 2013. The souvenir stand and the concessions stand both totally sold out of inventory well before the end of World Finals on Sunday which was as exciting for the growth of the sport as it is frustrating to leave our fans doing without. These are all signs of a strong and growing sport. The biggest sign was the record setting live stream which will be discussed more below. The live stream will be one of the pillars that brings us to a stronger 2013.
  2. The bad. I wish we could have an event without the bad, but it is not likely that this can ever happen. However likely or unlikely, we did have some things we wish we could remove from the event. First, and most notably, was the fact that we had a couple of collisions that required that transport. We are pleased that everyone transported is back among the healthy (most persons transported returned to compete again during the World Finals), but we take this as a note to remind the public that accidents can, AND DO HAPPEN when you mix speed and human beings. Throw in highly nimble vessels that do not have brakes and you up the potential for an accident. You must be willing to accept this risk if you chose to participate in PWC Racing. Fortunately, we have experienced people designing the track with multiple persons testing the course before it goes live. Additionally, we sample competitors all through the event and try to make changes when large enough samples recommend alterations. Finally, when the best precautions cannot control for all risk, we have a top notch group of course marshals attending to the participants. So, we feel comfortable in saying that we have the “bad” reduced as much as it possibly can be given the nature of this type of competition. In the off-track portion of the World Finals, the grey clouds from the global economy, and the apprehension of spending in an election year, cast some shadows over a couple of the vendors in the trade show portion of the event. Spectator attendance was up in 2012, and it was even up for Sunday (normally Sunday is softer than Saturday but both days were nearly equal and both up from 2011). None-the-less, some vendors reported softer sales than 2011. We are pleased to announce that many of the initial reports have now been adjusted upwards to slight gains over 2011, IJSBA still understands our duty to make sure that those who invest in the sport get the best return possible. Therefore, IJSBA will be launching a new marketing campaign in 2013 which will give our regular vendors even more exposure. Please stay tuned to IJSBA for these details and, rest assured, that we are behind every stakeholder in the sport of PWC Racing and will ensure that we continue to deliver a World Finals that will make the costs involved in showcasing and selling products well worth it.
  3. The ugly. Unfortunately, we had a couple of issues at this event. A PWC was a device invented with freedom in mind, in fact being out on the water in such a small and nimble vessel may be one of the ultimate expressions of freedom. Freedom and rules are two things that may be difficult to reconcile at times, but, we have rules for a reason and however inconvenient or dumb they may be from your viewpoint, they are there for a reason and we need to adhere to them. The rules and policies at the event have been designed to protect the safety of the participants and attendees, to maintain an environment where PWC Racing is a respected and welcome program to have at a race venue, to preserve the integrity of a championship. One of the key issues was the eligibility problem. Due to the speeds of the track and the competitive nature of the event, IJSBA has determined that World Finals should only be accessible by persons who have competed at IJSBA sanctioned events in the past year. In special circumstances, we may extend that requirement to two years for persons who are shown to be skilled and regular competitors. If you have not competed in the year leading up to the World Finals then you will not be eligible to participate. A couple of people couldn’t take “no” for an answer and accessed the track. It is unfortunate that this happened because it ruins the environment for more than 440 persons who all did the right thing. In any event, the consequences of this problem are going to be a stronger screening program at both registration and the starting line. This means that persons, not on the approved competitor’s list, will be unable to pick up credentials at registration until they have been screened for eligibility. Also, there will no longer be a single Rider/Holder band. Riders and Holders will have separate bands and each competitor, on the line, will have to show a valid Rider band before the race will begin. Another major problem was the theft of banners during the event. Sponsors pay a fee to support you and reduce the costs of putting on the event (note: without sponsors, all costs of the event would be on the shoulders of the participants). In return, the sponsors want an opportunity to promote themselves. Stealing the banners during the course of the event reduces the exposure and the value to those persons who have purchased sponsorship (also they lost the banner which probably wasn’t cheap). Banner stealing makes our community looks bad and it causes you to lose sponsors. You are only stealing from yourself. We know the only thing we can really do about it is to provide more security (by the way, there is going to be an entirely new security organization at World Finals in 2013) which means more costs. Protect your support by policing yourselves and encouraging your colleagues to abide by the rules of the event. We hope to see improvements in 2013 and appreciate any feedback on how we can reach that goal while providing a positive environment.

New Improvements To 2013 World Finals
We are fortunate to have a title sponsor like Hot Products lined up for the 2013 event. Hot Products has one of the largest and most diverse library of communication lines which allows a considerable amount of new information to come to us on ways we can improve the sport. We welcome all suggestions on how to continue to evolve the event to be the best expression of the sport that it can be. Some highlights we are already hearing are:

  1. Adjust the split section of the track so that it is longer and accounts for 50% of the lap time.
  2. Change the registration lines so that there is a priority prepaid line, especially during opening days.
  3. Weigh Stock Class and Limited Class runabout prior to competition during the pre-tech inspection.
  4. Create a longer start for Runabouts that does not use the split so the split can be more technical during the rest of the laps.
  5. Move ancillary celebrations like Parade of Nations to earlier in the week (like Tuesday) so competitors can participate without being overloaded for the next day’s racing.

We are working on these things and many other improvements. Please send in your comments early.

IJSBA Live Stream, Media, and Exposure
IJSBA has been quietly improving the reach of our exposure. By partnering with low cost media promoters and continuing to improve our quality and amenities, World Finals, and all of IJSBA, have enjoyed increased exposure in 2012. No better is that evident than our live stream which reached a viewer count above 70,000!!!! This is an incredible milestone as it shows our marketing plans are paying off. IJSBA believes that the best use of our resources is for the organization to concentrate on web based exposure and to provide quality media for our partners to use in their web based marketing as well as their print and broadcast media. This strategy is working as more people have been contacting IJSBA about participating in 2013. By frontloading this in an efficient way, we are leaving more in the coffers for increased amenities and improvements in the sport. One of the most exciting things about the live stream was to see numerous new memberships come in during the live feed- and most were from people who have never been a member before. Another great sign for the sport is how many outside media outlets covered PWC Racing this year. Associated Press and other mainstream reporting sources had positive coverage about PWC and PWC racing in 2012. We are working hard on other ways to improve this trend which we will announce shortly. Some of the new media outreach will be found on our new website which is nearly ready for launch. You can still check progress on this site by visiting www2.ijsba.com.

IJSBA Business, Future, Dispelling Rumors, And Our Relationship With You
IJSBA is a private, not-for-profit organization. IJSBA was founded to enable, promote, and facilitate PWC Racing. In this duty, we are the world’s governing and sanctioning body for all things Personal Watercraft Racing. This role has changed and evolved many times over the last 32 years particularly as we adjust our operations to suit the needs of the sport and to operate within the confines of the economy. The ever changing nature of keeping an organization going often means dramatic shifts in operation as well as strongly securing a foundation which is protects the principals of facilitating PWC Racing. We find ourselves here again.

The IJSBA Executive Director (me) called for an Executive Committee meeting and audit of the books and business. This took place on December 2 and 3, 2012. In the audit I showed the committee the income, expenses, cash flow, receipts, accounts, and surpluses that IJSBA has had since 2005. We are proud to say that IJSBA is again functioning as a fairly strong organization that is solvent and is able to handle productions, like the World Finals, without going into crisis if the event has some financial shortcomings (we have never had to cancel an event due to weather or other natural disaster and hope that we never do) or if the economic climate deals us some bad cards. However, the duties of promoting growth and protecting the security of the racing may be two completely different objectives which may not be compatible within the same organization. For this reason, I am suggesting to the IJSBA Board Of Directors that we explore splitting IJSBA into two organizations: IJSBA and IJSBA Racing. IJSBA would remain the parent non-profit company which would handle international affairs, manage the integrity of the logo and other intellectual properties, provide a final jury for disputes within the sport, and handle the Rule Book this ensuring the rules and policies remained a product of international voting and outside of the interests of marketing racing. IJSBA Racing would be a company that primarily handled the marketing and production of World Finals as well as have interests in US racing and co-marketing with current promoters. This move, if it happens, would allow IJSBA to license out the marketing and production to entities that are currently quite successful at producing motorsports competitions. Meanwhile, the rules governing the sport would still be decided upon by the same international body as does so now. World Finals and other high caliber racing would still follow policies set by IJSBA. IJSBA would receive royalties from IJSBA Racing which would be used to promote and better the sport. If ever the arrangement did not prove to be in the best interest of the PWC community, IJSBA would simply bring the efforts back under one organization.

As it is right now public participation structure is not functioning as IJSBA has hoped when we last amended our structures and by-laws. We believe the key reason for this is that there are too few seats and the mechanisms to obtain a board seat is difficult. In addition, participating in the IJSBA process at this level also requires that members oversee a wide range of topics instead of just focusing on a specialty. A change in this process would allow participation and control over key IJSBA matters to be more easily diffused among the public without overloading any single person who was willing to participate. I will draft a proposal to the IJSBA Board of Directors which creates changes which will facilitate these objectives. Hopefully, we can create an IJSBA that is easier to access.

People are creative and IJSBA is flattered that some many people spend their imaginative efforts focused so heavily on IJSBA matters. To clear things up, IJSBA is not for sale nor do we have a set partner that we are offering any portion of IJSBA at this time. There are companies out there we are discussing matters with but IJSBA is not going to be sold and will remain the same not-for-profit organization it has been. No agreement for anything has been made and the people circulating this type of information are engaging in total fabrication. IJSBA gets the short end of the rumor stick more often than not, but we have shown, time and time again, that we continue to improve and will continue to dispel distorted and outright untrue allegations in the best way we know how: by continuing to grow and continuing to demonstrate the way things really work. Of course there is always room for improvement and we want to improve and want everyone involved to feel like they have an open door to the process.

We want to create new opportunities for everyone in the community. New ideas, new formats, and new leadership are all coming. The IJSBA Executive Committee requested an extension of the Managing Diretor’s tenure to the end of 2014. If so, this time will be used helping to secure new leadership and transitioning the company to a state where it will be able to deliver racing and World Finals for decades to come. We will have more information on this as well as an expanded update on where this is going after the board meeting which will take place just after Christmas. Again, nothing has been decided and nothing has changed and public announcements will come long before the IJSBA makes any kind of changes like contracting with other companies. The public will be able to give input on any such matters.

We urge all of you to consider participating in the IJSBA process. We know it is tedious and the process can be frustrating but this is not unique to just members of the PWC public. Managing a sport this size which still has a community feel frequently contrasts freedom with form and function which seems to be the major tension with the sport these days. This is frustrating for everyone but we can overcome it and the sport will continue to improve as it has been for the last several years.

Conclusion
This report provided a lot of subjects to digest. This is not the comprehensive report on any one of these items but we wanted to put them all on the table now to give the public an idea of what the next few months are going to be all about. We have all worked very hard to build the sport to the success it is today and IJSBA will continue on in that direction. With your help, this will happen more efficiently and will provide the strongest results.

The voting packets for the 2013 Rules will be going out shortly and we have a target set of January 8 for completion. Please feel free to send in your comments to IJSBA by email toinfo@www.ijsba.com. In the meantime, we wish you a very happy holiday season and we will have more information soon after the Rule Book votes and the Board Of Directors meeting has concluded.