Third season shows growth among amateur PWC racers
The Beatles weren’t the only successful British Invasion. P1 AquaX USA, a personal watercraft race series that began in the U.K., is wrapping up the end of its third U.S. season and still gaining participants at a record pace.
“Each round we’ve increased numbers. The first race we did in the U.S. was at Daytona Beach in April 2013. We had seven competitors,” said Michelle Petro, P1 AquaX USA championship manager. “At Daytona this year we had 92 racers. We’ve been averaging about 60-65 racers [each round].”
What makes this series unique in comparison to others? Amateurs account for more than 60 percent of the racers in the series. “We’re growing in the amateur area quite a bit. This series is very new-racer friendly. A person can basically purchase a [PWC] off a showroom floor and … they can be competitive,” she said.
Regardless of experience, each rider must participate in a training session, which includes a swim test, self-recovery and assisted-recovery with a course marshal to ensure rider comfort and safety.
“We’ve had pro racers that kind of make fun of that training class… but a lot of them come out saying they were glad that they went through it,” Petro said. “[For experienced riders,] it’s like a refresher; they changed their tune after the training was over.”
Divisions based on horsepower
The race series is divided into three separate classes, with each class having a specific watercraft designated to it based on horsepower: 300, 250 and 200. AquaX racers endure three 30-minute races in various types of water conditions including surf, river and lake races.
Petro explained that minor modifications are allowed for those riders who want to change power and handling elements, but the point is that the sport remains affordable. “It’s very low-cost for the racer. You don’t have to sink a lot of money into parts and modified bits to stay competitive,” she added.
With such a large participation increase, Petro says that the series has had to deal with minor growing pains this season.
“We’ve had to add more staff quite quickly, and we didn’t expect that big of a jump [in numbers] from last season to this one,” Petro said. “Other than that it’s been really good; the racers have been having a good time.” P1 AquaX also found additional security team members to accommodate the growing number of riders.
P1 AquaX is sanctioned by the International Jet Sports Boating Association (IJSBA), which helps gather interest through IJSBA’s promotions online. Other than online, the race series has used all types of media, including TV commercials, billboards and flyers, to spread awareness. Petro says a typical event has anywhere from 5,000-10,000 attendees.
The series is televised on both local and international stations including Florida Fox SunSports, SKY TV and Fox International. Also, P1 AquaX has received support from multiple industry sponsors including Lycamobile, Sea-Doo, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Hydro-Turf, GoPro, Fly Racing, RIVA Racing and Australian Gold.
“Each of the major manufacturers has sponsored the series,” explained Petro. “Sea-Doo has been with us right from the beginning. Yamaha came in quite quickly after them, and this year we’ve got Kawasaki with us as well. And they’ve contributed financially, and they’ve let us use demo skis for our course marshals, which is very helpful.”
Coming up next for the series, Petro says the P1 AquaX team looks forward to Sept. 19-20 in Cocoa Beach, Fla., for its largest event yet, the IJSBA National Championship. “We’re actually running the IJSBA Closed Course National Championship round. So we’ll have a normal P1 AquaX event, but we’ll also promote the closed course racers as well.”
Besides its openness to new riders, the P1 Aqua X series gives spectators a good experience as well, often by incorporating vendors at each event. “It’s a good all-around series for both racers or riders, or PWC enthusiasts and dealers.”