INTRODUCTION: Way back in January 2011, Nicolo di San Germano launched his H2O Racing to unite, promote and organise World Championship events in top-notch powerboat racing. With more than three decades of experience in organising and managing all commercial and marketing activities across four different brands of watersports — Class One, F1, Aquabike and the unique concept of Nations Cup — everything went off well during the inaugural season. And then it all came crashing down as the five-year contract expired and along with it, certain powerboat Classes and teams even struggling at the moment to survive and stay afloat. “Perhaps, we were a bit too successful for comfort,” San Germano shrugs as he goes on to delve into the intricacies of watersport with Gulf News:
GULF NEWS: What was the idea behind bringing four different brands of watersports together, and how did this experience pan out?
NICOLO DI SAN GERMANO: My idea was to bring all the top classes together in order to make a water festival and bring to cities huge possibilities and potential that our sport holds. We have done it once very successfully, probably a bit too successfully, and that was in Abu Dhabi around the UAE National Day . Having all four major classes — Class One, Aquabikes, Nations Cup and Formula One — under one umbrella was a fantastic idea that witnessed a real water festival. Why was it stopped? Probably because it was too good and too successful. Sometimes when you do something too well, then it can cause a disturbance to some people.
Q. What sort of future does Class One hold?
A. There are two parts to this. First, we have nothing to do with Class One racing. And secondly, it is always a dream for me to ensure we promote Class One and take it forward. Being in the sport for more than 30 years, I left a part of my heart in Class One. I believe that Class One has a future and it ought to be given a chance. My dream would be four big events each year — a summer event in Ibiza, a winter event in the UAE, a spring event in China and an autumn event in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro). If we have four major events of off-shore racing (not just the Class One, but all classes) like similar to an off-shore festival, then we get adequate time to transport and get our logistics in order.
Q. So what exactly is needed to make this work?
A. According to me, it is a mere joining of forces by all concerned in watersport. At any given time, I have a request to organise as many as five to eight powerboating events in China alone. I would say, if people from XCAT racing need our help, then we are more than ready to do so. Perhaps, people in the sport need to co-operate a bit more so that we can take our sport forward. For the time-being, we just go ahead and do the job we have on our hands to the best we can. When I reflect a bit in the past I can see the F1 race we had in Dubai was the best-ever that I have seen in more than 30 years. And having it during the Boat Show was a fantastic idea. It’s a pity we’ve not been able to organise a F1 race in Dubai again.
Q. Can we safely say that a major part of the turmoil in sport is out of the way? If so, what would be the way forward?
A. I think the solution lies with all of us. To start with, we need to re-think. We need the UIM as the governing body for the sport. We have seen what our sport has been through. I remember exactly when the World Professional Powerboat Association (WPPA) was formed and I stood fully behind Saeed Hareb [then Chairman of DIMC and Founder of WPPA]. Our sport had lost direction and there was a need for change. So it was good what Saeed did, and that was to get a change at the top of the UIM. This was extremely beneficial to all, including the sport. Today, [Rafaelle] Chiulli [current UIM President] is a perfect person for taking the sport with him to the international world. He should concentrate on taking the sport forward through the other international sport associations and federations, and leave the actual running of the sport to people who know it at the grassroots.
Q. On the other hand, the growth of F1 seems to be assured, if not, the class has been growing stronger each year?
A. Yes, it is here that we have control. But we need more events, and you can be assured that we will have more events. We are strong in Europe, strong in Asia and strong in the Gulf area. We have to go to South America and we will be back there soon. Africa too is also a priority, probably for the aquabikes as these will be easier as far the logistics go. I must say that the UAE has a very strong aquabikes section and they would do well to have more events and get more people into the sport. Sharjah is doing very well with a closing round in the Sharjah Watersport Week.
Q. And finally, a word about the Nations Cup?
A. To start with, we are going fully electric. We will present the new racing electrical engine in March 2017 at the gala dinner in Monaco. The goal is to have all rounds of the Nations Cup with electric engines starting in 2018. We have a lot of plans and television-wise this is a good product. We are optimistic with the way the sport is progressing. However, I regret watching the other Classes struggling to even conduct races. And until and unless we get together and work together, things will not improve in our sport. The good news is that we are more than open and available to assist in our sport taking a step forward.