This was initially intended to be a tag-on to my Seattle preview, but I felt that the Seattle preview post should be focused on the Seattle event itself. It's also long enough to be its own post.
As I'm sure you have heard already, the potential Labor Day weekend race in Houston is now officially off. H1 did the right thing here, first in not officially announcing the race until being absolutely sure, and then deciding not to go ahead with the race when it was clear that safety was going to be too much of an issue. Officially, the event is being called "postponed," as H1 and P1 still intend to hold an event on Clear Lake in Houston in 2012. If you haven't already, you can read the official press release from H1 here:
Obviously this is a disappointment, as everyone likes to see another addition to the race schedule. It's also a disappointment for P1, who was actually slated to headline the Houston event and the race was to play an integral part in that still new series' growth in the United States. In the end, however, Mother Nature won out. This is nothing new to the sport, as a hydroplane race is always going to be subject to the elements. One does not have to go back too far to remember the 2008 Gold Cup race that was declared a no contest due to high winds. The Madison Regatta was postponed until September in 1998 due to flooding, until October in 1974 as the city recovered from a devastating tornado, and, if you want to go way back, a regular MVPBA race in Madison was cancelled for 1937 and years following due to a devastating flood.
By all indications, the drought in Texas is reaching historic proportions. Possible relief in the form of a tropical storm didn't come as it veered well south of Houston. Water levels are down across the state. As evidence of how much water levels have dropped, consider that a piece of the ill-fated Space Shuttle Columbia, which had been submerged in Lake Nacogdeches northwest of Houston since the Shuttle's terrible accident in early 2003, has recently resurfaced. Here's a piece on that story from NPR:
So obviously water levels in Clear Lake are much too low to have any kind of powerboat race there. Personally this reminds me of a drought we had in Southern Indiana in 2007. I had a friend who had a place on Lake Monroe outside of Bloomington and would often take boat out. As the flood progressed in 2007, by the end of the summer the water line was a good fifty feet from the boat ramp, and people were having to go out another thiry or so feet once they got to the water line before the water was deep enough to launch their boats. If the situation is similar in Houston, obviously there is no need to try to launch any boats from H1 or P1 there right now. It won't last forever, though. Once again using the example of Lake Monroe, once boat season started again in Spring of 2008 the water had returned to the boat ramp and people were able to safely launch their boats from there. Hopefully the same will be true once Labor Day Weekend 2012 rolls around in Houston.
On another note, an article appeared recently online that a race in China is in the works with an agreement reached to race in Linyi, China. The article can be read here:
A China race has been talked about extensively in recent years, but this is the first time I've ever seen an article mention that an agreement has been reached as well as mention an actual location in China. Now, this article seems to be written by someone who does not follow hydroplane racing closely, and I have never heard of the Kitsap Sun until reading this article. With that said, however, I wouldn't doubt the legitimacy of the news if Ken Muskatel's involved, although hopes for a full fledged race in China might be premature. As this season has progressed, usually the word "exhibition" is used when there's talk of a race in China. The race still needs to be sorted out logistically, and clearly the article's mention of a race happening "either this year or next" is about as vague as one can be. All in all, though, this is positive news and it wouldn't be a surprise to see a race of some form take place in China in the near future.
So in terms of race site development, we have seen disappointing if not terrible news with the Houston postponement and promising if not absolute news with the China agreement. The one positive from both of these stories is that people do want hydroplanes to race at their venues, it's a matter of working out the logistics. Obviously as fans we've been down this road of promised race sites before, but H1 has shown caution and a willingness to work out the best deal possible for a new race site that has been missing in previous years in the sport. It is left to be seen if all the hard work of H1 will bear the fruit of new race sites, but the outlook is positive. Will we see races in China and in Houston in 2012? Stay tuned.