Part 2: Acceleration was awesome.
By Alan Harper — June 2003
Sanderson and Dredge have put a lot of time in on this project, both on shore and aboard the racing prototype. The famous "yellow boat" was a fixture at meets throughout Europe during 2001 and 2002 in long-distance Endurance-class races and set a series of punishing world records. The team's 40-hour, 1,500-mile around-Britain record was soon beaten, ironically, by Buzzi himself on the 80-foot FB80, but its six-, 12-, and 24-hour records are unlikely to be bettered any time soon. In 12,000 miles of racing and record breaking, the boat hardly missed a beat.
I raced in the yellow boat in Britain's Cowes-Torquay-Cowes race in 2001 with Sanderson on the throttles and Dredge helming (I'd like to say I was navigator, but they seemed to know the way). We averaged 70.02 mph on the 198-mile course, with a one-hour stop at Torquay for a large fried breakfast. In the choppy water at the start and in the tidal rips off the Dorset headlands, the hull behaved like a thoroughbred. Acceleration was awesome, and the boat's ability to hang in there at a steady 60 knots--a nautical mile a minute--mile after mile was quite impressive. Our other passenger was a sponsor, Ralf Tilkowski of Stuttgart, Germany, who described the experience as simply "fantastic." As for me, I've raced in bigger and faster boats, but I'd have to give the Sunseeker a ten.
But while speed and handling are important, organization ashore will be the key to success. "Powerboat racing's reputation with sponsors is poor--that's its Achilles heel," says Sanderson. "Over the years a lot of sponsors have been stung." He says he intends to reinvent the sport, using motor-racing know-how: Teams will buy not just into a raceboat, but into a complete package, with a weekend's events, a Formula 1-style paddock village, parties, receptions, and television coverage. "Powerboat racing is a huge experience," explains Sanderson, who in his Porsche days raced at Le Mans, Hockenheim, and all the classic European racing circuits. "Being able to put a sponsor in the boat, in a race, is a unique corporate opportunity." With an out-of-the-box racing package, XS Racing is clearly targeting corporate marketing budgets.
If you want to participate, it'll cost you £185,000 (about $275,000) for the season. For that price XS Racing will take care of virtually everything. Just turn up at the venue, and your sleek machine will be fueled up and waiting. If you hold an APBA or RYA or any other UIM-recognized national authority powerboat driver's license, you can drive the boats yourself. If not, XS can assign you a professional driver. You can put your own nominee on the throttles (what an incentive that would be for a sales team!), but the driver will be able to take control at any time, if necessary. There are three seats aft where sponsors can ride, if they want to. Fifteen boats are expected to compete this season; by next season there could be 30 or more.
Of course, this venture is not without its challenges. One big barrier the event will have to break though is the public's ignorance. "It's not like motor racing, where the audience knows what's going on," says Julian Roberts, XS Racing's marketing director. "People will need educating. What we're providing is sports entertainment--75 percent sport, 25 percent entertainment." It's a proven formula.
Next page > Part 3: XS Racing’s TV footage promises to be different... > Page 1, 2, 3
This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.