Boating contest will skip Augusta

Michael Holahan/Staff
Al Robinson, whose boat partially sank in the Savannah River during ChampBoat qualifying in May, won't get a chance at a better run in Augusta. The racing event isn't returning.

The ChampBoat Grand Prix of Augusta, which lured thousands to the Savannah River in May to watch the return of high-speed "tunnel boat" racing after a 10-year absence, won't be back this year.

 

"We just couldn't get any support there, unfortunately," said Mike Schriefer, the president of Charlotte, N.C.-based ChampBoat Series. "We're not coming back to Augusta."

Promoters hoped the event, modeled after the old River Race Augusta held for a decade before it was discontinued in the 1990s, would become an annual event for race fans already accustomed to the Southern Nationals dragboat competition, which is entering its 23rd year.

The main problem, Mr. Schriefer said, was that no one stepped up to establish a committee or sponsoring organization to promote and manage the event.

"Our business model is to help get an event started and then pass the baton, if you will, and let someone local help it grow," he said. "Usually the market gets real excited, and there's lots of enthusiasm and they put together a committee and it takes off from there."

The Greater Augusta Sports Council, which helped recruit last year's ChampBoat event, did what it could, he said, but the council isn't large enough to do all the promotional work itself.

"With Augusta, it was a lot of shrugged shoulders and a lot of negativity," he said. "Nobody really wanted to take ownership of the event, and we've had to reduce our role as an event promoter."

Randy DuTeau, the sports council's event manager, said losing the series is unfortunate.

"With this event, he was really looking for a local owner," Mr. DuTeau said. "We don't manage a ton of events. We support lots of them, but something like ChampBoat requires a lot of local involvement."

Tammy Stout, the sports council's executive director, said she was disappointed that Mr. Schriefer felt the ChampBoat organization wasn't supported locally.

"Our sponsors, all the volunteers that turned out, the Southern Nationals people, everybody embraced him in this community and did their best to help," she said.

The ChampBoat organization tentatively plans to hold at least 10 races, including a return to Savannah in October.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.