IJSBA changes course

EDITOR’S NOTE – On Friday, Jan. 23, the IJSBA released the long-awaited details regarding the organization’s future. Plans for the organization reportedly have see-sawed wildly over the past month, with options ranging from dissolving the organization to attempting to become the PWC racing arm of the American Power Boat Association. In the end, the final solution appears to be a return to the organization’s original charter, as the governing body of PWC racing worldwide. –

According to the IJSBA, the reorganized business will have three primary objectives: to maintain the role as the worldwide sanctioning body for personal watercraft racing; to create, distribute, and administer the international rule book; and to preserve the World Finals, assigning international titles, championships, and invitational events.

In achieving these goals there will be major changes, the foremost of which is that the responsibility and accountability of the organization will be transferred to the collection of member groups, all of which will now share accountability for the direction of the organization.

This plan is in stark contrast to the former ideology of the IJSBA, which placed total responsibility for the organization into the hands of the five former supporting watercraft manufacturers: Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, Sea-Doo, and Yamaha. Keeping this collection of member groups together and focused on similar objectives will be the somewhat daunting task of a number of Advisory committees, which will attempt to maintain up-to-date regulations and guidelines for all forms of PWC racing.

To accomplish this shift in ideology and get the organization up and running again, the IJSBA Transition Coordinating Committee has been appointed and given the authority to assume the responsibilities of the now defunct board of directors.
Members invited to join the committee include representatives from 10 nations, including Japan, the United States, Belgium, New Zealand, Brazil, Portugal, Norway, Canada, Italy and Thailand. The actual transition took place on Jan. 20, 2004.

One of the committee’s first tasks will be to appoint an interim board of directors, which again will be drawn from all IJSBA member groups. This interim board will be in place for the summer 2004 season, with the first open elections expected to be held around the time of the IJSBA World Finals in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, this coming October.

The future board is expected to consist of the IJSBA director, existing OEM members, international affiliate members considered to be in good standing, associate members drawn from the aftermarket, and rider members. This last group, drawn from the actual racers themselves, has long been neglected in the decision-making process.

As part of the restructuring, the IJSBA will no longer serve as the United States IJSBA affiliate, as it has in the past. Just what organization will fill that role, however, is open for debate.

Early indications seemed to favor the American Power Boat Association (APBA) and Patrick Mell, who made it official on Jan. 26 that the organization would once again be sanctioning personal watercraft competition in the United States.

The APBA’s strengths are obvious. As the governing body for power boat racing in the U.S., the 100-year-old APBA has the history, the resources, the clout, and the events in place to make a swift transition into personal watercraft competition. The APBA boasts over 5,000 members worldwide, and sanctions 200 events annually. It also has exiting ties with Speed Channel, The Outdoor Channel, and Fox Sports Net.

The APBA also has a history in PWC racing, having sanctioned the first all-brand PWC races between 1988 and 1993, including the Yamaha Hot Water Tour, BUSCH World Cup, and Ford Great Lakes Challenge Series.

“We are confident that the APBA, together with the new APBA PWR staff, will be able to professionally manage the sport of personal watercraft racing,” said Gloria Urbin, APBA executive administrator.

The APBA’s priorities are: complete the insurance program for regional race promoters, set up the personal watercraft racing headquarters and hire staff at the APBA’s national headquarters, and finalize details of the membership program.

As previously reported, the APBA will adopt the existing IJSBA Rule Book for 2004; a committee will be quickly formed to determine 2004 regional racing classes, decide how the National Championships will be determined, and evaluate event and marketing opportunities that can still be salvaged for the 2004 season.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us to turn the sport around,” said Patrick Mell. “And we do not have (a lot of) answers right now. The details are being worked on right now, and more information on the APBA PWR program will be announced soon. The good news is that you can be assured that there will be racing next year.”

On the same day that the APBA made its plans official, successful PWC racing promoter Jacques Bryant threw his hat into the ring with the newly formed United States Watercraft Racing Association, which has submitted a proposal to serve as the United States affiliate to the IJSBA.

According to Bryant, the USWRA will be made up of existing IJSBA race promoters and racers. The plan is for each promoter in the United States to have equal ownership in the organization, and form a board with rider representatives that will set goals in collaboration with the IJSBA to ensure the future growth of the sport. Details on the USWRA plans, however, are sketchy at best.

“We are sorry to be somewhat vague, knowing that the current IJSBA body has been patiently awaiting some direction for quite some time,” explained Bryant. “With the promoters choosing to follow this direction and following the guidelines of the IJSBA, it will be a win-win situation for our sport, membership body and the racers. Under the plan of the USWRA, all IJSBA current members will be recognized as current. Upon your membership expiration date, it would be then that you would align with the United States Watercross Racing Association (USWRA). The USWRA would work with the IJSBA to make sure that this transition goes without problems for the racers.

“A plan is being presented and will be discussed with each promoter who currently supports the IJSBA. It is now clear that there will be a sanctioning body for racing in the United States, formed and supported by the members.”

Though in many ways the situation seems more up in the air than ever, the IJSBA promises to give a high priority to the applications for a United States affiliate, and resolve the situation as soon as possible. Whether that will be the already up-and-running APBA program, or the upstart USWRA, remains to be seen.

Racers and sponsors can rest assured, however, that all active and renewed IJSBA memberships will be honored, and that a finalized 2004 rule book will be available by early February. The 2004 IJSBA World Finals will also go off as planned, the week of Oct.3-10, 2004.

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