Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gerner, On Offshore

Gerner, On Offshore
June 20, 2011

Interview with Mark Gerner, founder of regarding offshore racing in 2011

Why did you start PWCOFFSHORE.COM?  PWCOFFSHORE.COM was initially founded to bring exposure to the Long Beach to Catalina and Back “LB2CAT” Offshore National Championship Race.  The race was struggling back in mid 2005 and 2006 and we thought a website combined with a group of very competent offshore racers supporting the race and sharing best practices would bring exposure and more participants to the LB2CAT race.  Needless to say, it grew into much more than that.  I love the story about John Belton (one of PWCOFFSHORE Sponsored Racers) in Puerto Rico being approached as a PWCOFFSHORE.COM Sponsored Racer; “Aren’t you with PWCOFFSHORE.COM Racing.”  Puerto Rico is a long way from California.     

What attracted you to offshore racing?  The intensity and challenge of racing in rough water.  I used to run long distances (up to Marathons) and have always enjoyed anything athletic that involves pushing the envelope.  Short of mounting a Honda CBR 1100 Super Blackbird XX (a very fast motorcycle) or a Kawasaki Ninja ZX14 and doing 160 mph in the quarter mile, it’s hard to match the adrenalin or intensity of offshore PWC Racing.  The challenge of dealing with everything the ocean can throw at you on a ten foot boat that has in excess of 300 horsepower is a beautiful thing.  Not to mention enjoying the sheer beauty of the ocean and coastline the United States has to offer.  Now keep in mind that I race at the Pro level so it involves the greatest degree of focus, intensity and preparation but there are many classes that are just plain fun to come out and compete in.  Offshore has something for all skill levels including beginners and all kinds of watercraft.  There is even a class called Manufacturers Stock Class that is for 100% stock watercraft to come out and compete.  Buy a craft on Saturday and race on Sunday.           
What is the difference between closed course and offshore racing?  Closed course involves a craft that is setup to go very fast, very quickly and can turn on a dime throughout multiple turns on a closed course for relatively short periods of time.  Offshore racing involves straight line speeds in the open ocean for long durations and point to point navigation at high speeds in big (rough) water outside of break walls.  For example, the LB2CAT is approximately 58 miles round trip in the open ocean.  Offshore racing usually involves racing the larger watercraft.  These two types of racing are two very different things.   

What kind of watercraft does best in offshore conditions?  One with a deep V hull and significant horsepower.  The handlebars are usually a little higher to accommodate a modified standing position.  Navigation equipment (GPS) is a must for offshore.  Right now many offshore racers are gravitating to the Kawasaki ULTRA 250/260/300X platform because of its heavy deep V hull, significant power and great hookup.    

So if you could only own one watercraft for offshore riding and racing, what would it be for 2011?  For 2011, it would be the Kawasaki ULTRA 300X.

What is the best way to get involved in offshore racing?  Buy a boat, take a boating safety class through the Coast Guard or K38 Water Safety, join an offshore forum like , ask questions, read start to finish, buy the correct craft and all of the safety gear, buddy up with someone equally as passionate as you with a similar skill level and go make it happen.  You will not regret it.  Also check out and join the AWA (American Watercraft Association)      

How fast are these craft going and what is their range?  Most new three seater offshore craft are doing approximately 67.5 mph in stock form.  Many craft can be modified to get to 75 to 82 mph and the Yamaha has a craft called the FZR that some have modified to do over 90 mph.  Offshore racing is about average speed, the crafts pump’s ability to reengage and recover quickly after coming off a swell and ultimately very good hookup.  It is not necessarily just top speed.  Most new craft can go for approximately 60 miles on one tank of gas.   

What is the best way to navigate?  Most purchase the Garmin 76 GPS, train themselves on how to use it which is very simple, attach it smartly to the craft with a pad underneath the GPS, and follow the arrow to get to their destination and back.  This usually involves just inputting a lat and long into the GPS.  It is essential to also have a compass in your back/water pack as a safety backup.  

What is the Triple Crown of Offshore (TCO) Race Series?  The Triple Crown of Offshore Series consists of a series of three offshore races that generates points in each race per race class.  At the end of the third race, the racers with the greatest number of points based on their performance in each race win their various classes for the prestigious TCO Titles for that given year.  There is an overall winner for the TCO.  I won the TCO in 2009, Lee Phan won the TCO in 2010, and Craig Warner is currently ahead in the points for the 2011 TCO.      

In your opinion, who is the best offshore PWC racer in the World?  There are only a few that come to mind.  Right now I would have to say former World Champion and two-time APBA Offshore National champion Craig Warner of Monster Energy Kawasaki is currently the best racer offshore racing has to offer.  
What makes a successful offshore racer?  You have to have the correct equipment and the “Three B’s” apply; Body, Brain and Boat all need to be finely tuned and set on go.  There are many Iron Man Triathletes in our sport (KC Heidler and Kim Bushong to name a few); you have to have tremendous mental toughness and physical stamina to hold contemporary watercraft wide open in 3 to 5 foot chop for an hour.  Brain, you have to have the correct mindset which includes intestinal fortitude, a high tolerance for pain and an aggressive riding style.  Boat, you need the appropriate equipment, that usually involves a deep V and a great deal of horsepower.  If you are racing in the PROAM Class, you will need to find a good technician.  I work with Steve Friebe and Aaron Cress.   

How are selections made for the Sponsored Racers of PWCOFFSHORE.COM?  Talented, passionate offshore racers who are good people are pursued.  The old adage applies, surround yourself with good people and the possibilities are limitless.  Look at the caliber of the PWCOFFSHORE.COM Club members both on and off the water, they speak for themselves.  All of the racers are accomplished racers and equally as critical, they are great ambassadors for our sport that we all love so much.  We don’t take applications, we are an invitation only club and we remain extremely selective on who we bring on.  It is not only about the offshore racer who can fly across the ocean at 82 mph, it is about the racer who can hold it open in the rough stuff and also be a class act and set the standard for professionalism on and off the race course.  The Sponsored Racer needs to have a tremendous passion for growth of our sport and must be willing to engage in support of offshore racing with activities that do not revolve around just his/her performance come race day.  Each of the racers of PWCOFFSHORE.COM is tasked with getting the word out regarding offshore racing and doing what they can to grow the sport.  We use any success we have on the racecourse as a vehicle to grow the sport.  We also create a culture of continuous improvement within the Club.  I remain humbled to be surrounded by such great people in PWCOFFSHORE.    

What is the difference between the Black PWCOFFSHORE Jersey and the Red PWCOFFSHORE Jersey?  The black jersey is usually a racer who has 10 or more years of offshore experience and usually races at the professional level.  The red jersey is for racers that excel at the amateur level.   

What do you see as the future of Offshore Racing in the United Sates?  I am bullish.  Considering we are in a down economy, we’ve had great success with the Triple Crown of Offshore (TCO) Racing in California and have attracted racers from all over the country to travel west to participate and compete for the prestigious TCO Titles.  That said, we are still looking to grow the sport on the East Coast and Texas. We haven’t achieved the success that we wanted there, yet.  We are determined and we will get there.  I’m pleased with what we’ve been able to achieve in a down economy, but we see great opportunity for additional growth and expansion of offshore racing throughout the United States.    

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for growth in the sport?  I’d like to see more promoters getting involved in offshore racing.  Right now we have only a few and we’d like to see more who are equally passionate about offshore racing.  By the way, to be clear, when we refer to offshore racing, we mean in the ocean outside the break wall, not on a lake or behind the break wall.  The ocean, especially when it’s alive, involves a degree of intensity that is in a very different league.      

What are your personal goals for offshore?  I will be very pleased when we have 100 racers at the annual APBA LB2CAT Race; we set this benchmark sometime ago.  We will get there.  Personally, I strive to win the APBA Offshore National Championship Race (LB2CAT).  Anyone who knows me knows I train year round for this.  You know it’s interesting, many think I am also a promoter.  I am not a formal promoter.  I don’t get paid for anyone showing up at any of the races.  I am a racer first.  I love this sport and recognize that without personal involvement by the racer playing a role in the sport, the sport could struggle more than it needs to.  It’s up to us, which mean it is also up to you (the reader who wants to or is racing) to play a role in keeping our sport alive and growing.  I feel strongly about that and will continue to do all I can to get the word out and be supportive of other offshore racers and offshore race promoters.

How do you train for races?  Ride and then ride more.   Mountain Biking.  I hit the gym four to five times a week and ride the ocean at every opportunity I have.  Offshore riding is on weekends only, I have a demanding job and weekdays are focused on work, evenings are focused on working out.  My focus is on legs and cardio.        

What are your greatest accomplishments in offshore racing?  Personal Accomplishments?  Yes personal Accomplishments.  I came close to winning the 2009 LB2CAT Offshore National Championship with a PROAM overall 2nd and overall 2nd place finish, but 2nd place is first loser and I was beaten by former World Champion Craig Warner.  I won the Triple Crown in 2009.  Winning the Mark Hahn 300 Mile Endurance Championship Race with my race partner Robert Carreon was a good day.  Taking the Iron Man at the Mark Hahn 300 was another good day.  Having broken my craft in every race in 2010, I am looking forward to a better performance in 2011.  The Kawasaki ULTRA 300X I have been riding and racing has performed well so far.  I am looking forward to the days, months and years ahead.

For those considering coming out and racing, what would you tell them?  What are you waiting for?  Life is short, come on out and have some fun!  

The Long Beach to Catalina and Back race is July 17, 2011 - be there!