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This page was last updated: 05/30/04
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I'm back! Not that I went anywhere, but finally after many months, I've found time for a new Sked Says page. You might want to grab a drink, snack, smoke, or whatever because this is a long one. By the time you're done reading this some of you might even want to grab a gun, but I'm OK with that as I'm prepared to take even your best shot.

THE VINTAGE CONTROVERSY AND THE FUTURE OF SKIFF RACING IN THE APBA

Preface
I've been promising this op-ed for quite a while now. Plans were made to write this for over eight months, in fact parts of this have been written and sitting in my computer for months and I've discussed pieces of what I'm about to post here with most who know me as well as those who have just recently met me. So, after sitting on the back burner for far too long, I've finally found time to turn up the flame, hopefully bringing these issues to a boil in an attempt at having them resolved. Let me just say that I have nothing to gain personally in anything I've ever suggested for the skiff class as a whole and I've always had the best interests of the skiff class at heart in all the suggestions I've made and the stands I've taken. I can only recall one instance in my thirty-five year involvement where I was wrong and pig headily stood firm because of my personal feelings on an issue and that was something I considered a personal issue, an issue that some are still debating today, roll cages. Now I know this isn't going to sit well with some of my customers and it will probably make me some new enemies, something I'm not unaccustomed to since I've never been one to keep my mouth shut when principles I'm passionate about are at issue and in this case I feel the subject is extremely important to the well being and future of both the racing and vintage skiff groups.

Outlaw Club Sanctioned by the APBA
There was a time when the APBA did everything in it's power to protect it's racing classes from the threat of emerging outlaw clubs. It went so far as to ban any member caught participating in an outlaw event or being a member of an outlaw organization, all in the name of protecting the boat count of it's own racing membership.
Today what we basically have is a situation where the APBA is endorsing an outlaw group of skiffs under the guise of "Vintage Skiffs" or "Classic Racing Skiffs" in it's Vintage & Historic Division. The majority of these boats are neither vintage or racing skiffs by definition but have been welcomed by the APBA's Vintage & Historic Division which purposely constructed very loosely fitting guidelines in order to further it's cause at the expense of the racing division. Even with the lax criteria, many of the skiffs participating at these events don't conform to the written rules or "suggested guidelines" as the Vintage & Historic Division calls it in an attempt to circumvent any written criteria. Unlike the vintage hydroplane group where nearly all the boats are true, exacting, restorations or period detailed replicas, the skiffs in the Vintage & Historic Division are nothing more than a group of modified river skiffs that don't conform to either past or present rules pertaining to speed skiffs. Some have even gone as far as to change the classic, unique style of the boat, something that attracted them to skiffs in the first place. This is not only unfair to the current racing members but also to those who took the time and spent the money to faithfully restore vintage and former racing skiffs in hopes of accurately documenting skiff racing history at both the APBA Vintage & Historic and the Antique & Classic Boat Society events. Some former true vintage members have even excluded themselves from these so called "vintage" events in the sake of fairness. Being both a former racing participant and designer/builder of Jersey Speed Skiffs with a history that goes back as far as the early seventies I must say that after seeing the complimentary way that racing hydroplanes are represented by the vintage hydroplane group, I'm disappointed with the way the vintage skiff group misrepresents the racing past. I consider it an insult to both the people and the equipment that were truly involved in skiff racing's history.
I know the argument given by these outlaw skiffs is: "but we exclude ourselves from the judging or competition at these events", but that being the case, these outlaw skiffs surely should not be getting paid to displace the racing skiffs from the program at established races such as the APBA's Detroit, MI. Unlimited Race, not to mention Evansville & Madison, IN., and Louisville, KY.
Some may think by what I've already said that I'm against any group of skiffers out to have a good time without being racers but nothing could be further from the truth. I do however feel that these skiffers should not be allowed to run under the guise of vintage or historic just as they would not be allowed to participate in a race without being a conforming race boat. As with Inboard Racing events, boats not meeting the requirements should not even be allowed in the pits and in most cases non conforming race boats are not allowed anywhere inside the controlled race site area, but the Vintage & Historic Division not only allows them entrance to the event but allows them to run as well. I'm not even going to get into the insurance implications of what these outlaw skiffs are doing at these "vintage" events but that's just another consideration the Vintage & Historic Division and the conducting vintage sites have conveniently overlooked. Now I have nothing against having gatherings, demonstrations, poker runs, etc., in fact I've participated in a few, but none that I participated in had any interference with the racing class and no skiff event should be held at the expense of the racing skiffs that the Vintage & Historic folks want to emulate.

So how did this come to pass and where is the APBA in all of this and why haven't they stepped in to deter this assault on it's racing division? The answer lies mostly in egos and politics but money also played a role. Although the river skiffs were already running their misrepresented events, it wasn't until planning for last years Detroit race that the true conflict started to develop. As I understand it, the Detroit, MI. Unlimited Hydroplane Gold Cup Regatta was in dire straits financially to put on their race last season. So much so that it's normally scheduled June race was canceled. With much perseverance on the part of the race committee and it's chairman, minimal sponsorship for the race was obtained and the race was rescheduled for later in the season. Still short of funding, the race chairman approached the Jersey Speed Skiff Class Representative and asked the skiff class to run at the race for less than half of it's usual minimum prize money amount.
The class representative refused to commit the class for anything less than the minimum purse. Both sides had valid points in their arguments. The race chairman cited poor showings by the skiff class in previous years and the class representative expressed concern about how running for such a low purse would affect it's dealings with other race sites. No agreement could be met in as far as I know was the one and only discussion that took place on the subject. But the race chairman had an ace up his sleeve in that he was also the chairman of the APBA's Vintage & Historic Division. Without any further discussion the race chairman called on the outlaw vintage skiffs to take the place of the racing skiffs at Detroit and a deal was struck for them to run an exhibition race for the reduced purse originally offered to the racing skiffs. Who could blame the outlaw vintage skiffs for jumping at the opportunity to come and "race" with the unlimited hydros, something that was somewhat mundane to the racing skiffs since they had already been there and done that on numerous occasions, and the vintage skiffs were going to get paid to boot so it was no surprise that they came in droves. I'm not here to second guess the class representative, but knowing Detroit's situation I would have tried for an agreement in which the racing skiffs agreed to run that year for a reduced purse with a contract for the following year promising a full or better than full purse as that would have served to help Detroit with their situation without hampering the deals set with other races such as Evansville, but as far as I know there was no opportunity for further discussion as the race chairman booked the outlaw vintage skiffs before any further discussion could take place with the racing class representative. Now what is taking place this year is that the Vintage & Historic Division Chairman is soliciting all the other races where he has connections with offers to provide those race sites with the outlaw vintage skiffs at a reduced purse and he's been successful at doing just that, bumping the racing class from the schedules at races such as Evansville and Madison, IN. as well as once again this year at Detroit. Louisville, KY is a slightly different story in that both the racing and vintage skiffs were invited and were offered a purse but neither group attended last year. This year they were sold on the vintage skiffs, again at a much reduced rate.
It should be easy to comprehend that considering the equipment, all the spare parts, engines, fuel, safety equipment, support vehicles, etc., etc., campaigning a race boat is far more costly than having a vintage boat for show, so the vintage group can easily afford to replace the racing class at these events and get what it considers outstanding money to do so.

I think this is rather ironic when you consider that the APBA is mostly to blame for the currently mediocre race skiff count that has been the norm for the past ten years which resulted in poor showings at some races, Detroit, MI. and Louisville, KY being two of them. The APBA is not the only culprit here, the skiff racing class partly shares responsibility for failing to demand modern class rules that would make the class more affordable and make it easier to recruit new racers and promote itself. You would think the recent popularity of this group of outlaw river boats would be a wake up call for the racing class to make improvements, but so far no one has come forward to address any of the issues that plague skiff racing. Although the forced implementation of the roll cage and seat belts initially hurt the boat count, that obstacle has been overcome and although it took almost ten years, those safety items have been proven and are now pretty much widely accepted even by most who resigned from racing due to that requirement. The other detriment to the racing class was and still is the cost and complexity of the outdated and so called "stock" engine. The advancements in engine technology long ago surpassed the abilities of even the most gifted mechanic building his own race engine at home in the garage. Not that this technology is a bad thing, but there is a time and place for everything and the place is not in racing skiffs at any time now or in the future if skiff racing is to be somewhat affordable. Today's racing skiff engine is no longer just a relatively simple rebuild of a junkyard motor as was intended in earlier times, a time when skiff racing was at the height of it's popularity. This will be the subject of my next Sked Says page so I'll wait until then to elaborate further.

So what should be done? Since none of this should have been allowed to happen in the first place, the APBA should immediately step in here and pull the Vintage & Historic Division's sanctions, disallowing the Vintage & Historic Division's events which displace the racing skiff class at APBA races. It should also immediately institute a policy prohibiting the Vintage and Historic Division from soliciting any race sites, past, present, or future that would replace the racing skiffs in favor of the vintage skiffs. The Vintage & Historic Division would then be only allowed to promote itself to strictly vintage events such as Clayton, NY., Wolfsboro, NH., Mt. Dora, FL., etc., etc., and naturally it would also be allowed and encouraged to establish new, strictly vintage events. This restriction would also apply to invitations by race sites to the Vintage & Historic Division in attempts to circumvent the solicitation restriction. Likewise the racing division would be required to do the same in regard to getting sanctions for racing at vintage events. The Vintage and Historic Division should also be required to have more exacting requirements for it's participants which should not present any problems in light of it's popularity. All this is a no-brainer and should have been implemented after last years Detroit situation but as I pointed out, it's mostly a matter of politics and who's connected best with the powers that be in the APBA.

This brings me to a rather unpleasant subject, that is, what should be done if the APBA fails to take immediate action. Now none of what I'm about to say here should be misconstrued as threats, they're merely suggested actions that could be taken if the APBA decides to leave the racing skiff class to hang out to dry. The first thing I would suggest is that either the Inboard Racing Commission or if necessary the Jersey Speed Skiff Class itself, should initiate a lawsuit against the APBA and/or the Vintage & Historic Division seeking an injunction that would prevent the Vintage & Historic Division and already sanctioned race sites from running the vintage skiffs in place of the racing class at all the upcoming events that are set to take place. As I've recently had boat related dealings with an attorney I may be able to provide assistance in regard to this if need be.
If all else fails it will be left to all the individual skiff racers to band together and boycott APBA skiff races scheduled for the remainder of the season. (with the price of gas, this might be just the season to do that) This would be a highly unlikely occurrence though, as I've never known the class as a whole to take an unanimous stand for any reason at any time, but I do believe the racers have the power if they would unanimously commit to taking a stand. If you racers think that race sites like Cambridge, MD., Hampton, VA., Mays Landing, NJ., and all the rest won't miss you and won't be upset about the circumstances surrounding such a boycott you are grossly mistaken. Most all the skiff race sites count on you to be there even if only in small numbers because whether they admit it or not you are the most popular class as far as spectators are concerned and if it's known that the skiffs won't be there, the spectator turnout will be dismal at those events that traditionally count on the skiffs to draw and keep crowd.
All terrible considerations I know, but if the racing skiff class is willing to just sit back and let the APBA Vintage & Historic Division run them out of race sites because it can't stand up for itself when the APBA won't, then it deserves what few non paying race sites it gets left with.
In closing, let me say that I hope the APBA does what it knows is the right thing and straightens out this mess caused by it's Vintage & Historic Division.

That's just my opinion, I may be wrong, but I doubt it.
Sked
 

UPDATES & ADDITIONS

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This page was last updated: 05/30/04

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