Offshore Racing in Key West has been a fairly firm fixture over the years, however, in 1988, Donald Trump made a bid to promote the UIM / American Power Boat Association (APBA) World Championship and hosted the event not in Florida but in Atlantic City, New Jersey – In October!
Trump wanted to use the event and its high profile racers to promote his casino business in the area.
Don Johnson, who at the time was on the crest of a wave – He was starring in the globally popular TV series, Miami Vice, and was racing a big offshore catamaran, became Trump’s ambassador for the event.
His function (apart from racing), was to make guest appearances on the Trump Princess yacht and encourage the wealthy guests to spend their dollars in the Trump Castle casino.
However, seasoned racers were not happy with the venue, or the time of year that the event would be held, Errol Lanier was quoted in the Sun-Sentinel and thought that there was ‘no chance’ that the water in Atlantic City would be calm.
People who have to race there in October will find it atrocious.
The Miami Herald said after the event:
Many racers said the APBA should have realised that scheduling a race in New Jersey in mid-October was risky at best.
The first of 3 proposed races were run in swells of up to 8 foot and it included numerous retirements and disqualifications.
The Washington Post reported after the race:
It was a minor disaster as more than half of the superboat fleet, including Johnson’s new catamaran, failed to finish.
The inclement weather continued for another 4 days, competitors and fans were not happy.
Italian Class One racer Eduardo Polli told the post:
The organisation of this championship has been very bad.
If the weather wasn’t working for the Powerboat Racing, it was certainly playing into the hands of the future President of the United States:
I walked through Trump Castle today and it’s Boomtown, U.S.A.
The worse the weather, the better for business.
Eventually, the organisers managed to run a second race on the Sunday, they declared that it would count as double points for the Harmsworth Trophy, Superboat Class, UIM Class One and UIM Class 2.
Kevin Brown, lost his life in a racing accident, while Stephano Casiraghi driving Gancia dei Gancia took the Harmsworth (this included his win at Cowes) and Class One World Championship in a political storm.
Other competitors questioned the double points and wondered why a postponed third race wasn’t held.
Donald Trump refrained from attending the prize-giving, left Powerboat Racing behind and moved on to other things.