Part 3: XS Racing’s TV footage promises to be different.
By Alan Harper — June 2003
Powerboat racing is also notoriously difficult to film successfully. Watching it on TV can be a strangely uninvolving experience. It's one of the most exciting sports on the planet, but where's the spray, the noise, the pain? XS Racing's TV footage promises to be different. The well-known English company Chrysalis will produce the programs, and a network deal is in place with Britain's Channel Four. (At presstime XS Racing hadn't found a stateside distributor, though if talks with Budweiser work out as the team hopes, it will have sponsorship from the company in 2004, which one Sunseeker spokesperson says will offer the team a strong chance to leverage network distribution. In any case, race results will be posted throughout the season on www.sunseekerxsracing.com.) Not only will each boat have an onboard camera, it will also be fitted with full telemetry, sending readouts not just of speeds and headings, but also of yaw rates, g-forces, pitch rates, and even the crew's heart rate. Imagine the TV commentators, fed this stream of real-time information: "Whoa! A six-g impact! That's like jumping off a 12-foot wall... his heart rate's up to 140, he's really pushing now..." Meanwhile, state-of-the-art animated computer graphics linked to the boats' GPS receivers will be providing an external 3-D picture of the race itself, as if from a fleet of virtual helicopters.
The races themselves will be relatively short--about an hour--and geared to provide the maximum spectacle for team sponsors. There will be three races and a time trial at each weekend's meet. Points will be carried on to the next venue, and at season's end a champion will be crowned.
Eight events are scheduled for the 2003 season. The venues have been chosen as much for their airport links, hotels, and shoreside infrastructure as for their racing water, and Dredge has spent the winter traveling across Europe from Dublin to Istanbul vetting venues, mapping out courses, and finalizing details with local organizers.
The battlefield of powerboat racing is littered with the wreckage of failed business ventures. But this one really seems to be different. No one has tried this financial model before, and it's immune from the politics that have traditionally plagued the sport.
"This is going to introduce thousands of people to powerboat racing," predicts Sanderson, "and by golly does it need it." It might just work.
Alan Harper has been a boating writer and editor for 20 years. He recently gave up a perfectly good job in order to eke out a precarious freelance living writing for magazines like this. He lives in London.
This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.