The Madison Regatta and H1 Unlimited have come to an agreement that will bring just four boats to Madison this summer in exchange for less money.
The Regatta, which currently owes H1 a “substantial” amount of money, has been in negotiations with the governing body since last fall on a way to lower its bills while also providing a good show for fans. Regatta President Dan Cole said he believes this agreement will do just that.
“H1 understands the position that we are in, and they are giving us a chance to rebuild our race,” Cole told Regatta members at Wednesday’s monthly meeting. “This might be a one-year deal, this might last longer, we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Traditionally, Unlimited hydroplane races involve eight to 12 boats matched up in a series of heat races with as many as six boats on the water at the same time. Boats accumulate points and then race in a “winner-take-all” final heat to determine the race winner.
Madison’s race this year will be slightly different. Each heat will involve just two boats in a shootout format with the four boats taking turns racing each other, round robin style. All four will then run together in a final heat to determine the winner.
Cole said that the details for the race have not yet been set and it hasn’t been decided if the event will count toward season points, but the format is the best of both worlds.
“We have to try something different, and I really believe that the shootout format will be exciting and bring younger fans into the sport,” Cole said. “But the bottom line is that we had to do something.”
The Regatta’s move to a four-boat field has everything to do with finances. H1 charges race sites $165,000 to bring its boats and officials to a race. But with interest in the sport waning nationwide and sponsorships becoming harder and harder to find, the Regatta found itself in a position where it simply could not meet the asking price.
Bringing in four boats rather than the traditional eight will save the Regatta money. In fact, Cole said that the combined price of the H1 boats this year and a full field of Grand Prix West boats will be about $30,000 less than the H1 boats alone.
The four boats that will race in Madison will be determined later and Cole said that each will get a “significant” raise over the $12,000 normally paid out to H1 boats.
Cole admits that the decision may not be popular with some, but insists that it is the only course the Regatta could take and the Regatta board agreed.
“It’s a change that probably nobody saw coming, but it’s a change that needed to happen,” said Nate Davis, a former Regatta President. “I applaud everybody for making this tough decision.”
In other business:
• Cole announced that Midwest Tube Mills will serve as the title sponsor for the Grand Prix West series race that will take place during the Regatta. The locally-owned company has been involved as a smaller sponsor in recent years but is increasing its role this year.
“They have really fallen in love with the sound of the Grand Prix and wanted to play a bigger part,” Cole said. “We’re just thrilled to have them come aboard.”
• Sorority Xi Beta Upsilon announced that after 40 years it will no longer produce the annual Regatta Scholarship Pageant. The Regatta is seeking a new sponsor.
• The next monthly membership meeting of the Madison Regatta will be Wednesday, March 1 at the VFW Post 1969.