Imagine running a business knowing that a consequence of your profiting, is that you are killing and debilitating millions of people, including many of your customers!
That is exactly what ‘Big Oil’ did for about 80 years, by imposing ‘tetraethyl-lead’ (TEL) in petrol/gasoline, upon the world.
It gets worse, because it was known from the beginning that ethanol was a far better, cheaper and completely safe, octane raising oxygenate – but it wasn’t patentable, so they couldn’t make billions from it. If that’s not enough, the lethal truth was known and the lie concealed by governments, both naïve and venal, globally!
Ultimately the science and facts were clear and believed by everyone, except of course, by those continuing to profit from it – sound familiar?
Eventually TEL was banned in every civilised nation.
For reference: If you can cope with the awful truth, check out:
Why did we use leaded petrol for so long? for the short version, or
The Secret History of Lead for the full sickening story!
The subsequent quest for ‘profitable’ lead alternatives included ‘less poisonous’ (still poison) heavy elements, like manganese (MMT) and various organic compounds like MTBE, NMA, benzene, xylene and toluene – each being either banned or severely restricted because they are either poison, known carcinogens, or both.
The issue, of course, is controlling detonation of the fuel when under pressure, revealed as a ‘knock’ or ‘pinging’, in spark ignition engines. We know the solution is to use a higher ‘octane’ fuel.
Many of us (most motorsport people, drag-racers etc.) also know that alcohol has always been the best octane raising option. Alcohol, in the form of ethanol, also happens to be an exceptionally clean fuel – and if you like an occasional beer, wine or rum, even you can confirm, it’s not poison!
For reference: ethanol is the exact same chemical composition as the alcohol in beverage drinks – but don’t try drinking the fuel version which is ‘denatured’ with a little petrol during manufacture.
The world is changing
As we started to wake up to some realities around us, we have become less tolerant of ‘profit from poison’ and more aware of issues like air pollution in cities, the effects on health, national fuel security, and the horrendous cost in lives and money lost through wars fought over oil.
That’s before we argue about the fossil fuel factor in climate change.
Fortunately, it appears that the more astute among us, are recognising the issues and balancing the values to humanity as a whole, against the gratification of a few – and are making moves to change the culture.
Now, before you spit your capitalist dummy defending the morally indefensible – remember that change presents opportunity, it just needs to be recognised and pro-actively embraced.
Some governments have reluctantly acknowledged that they should occasionally put the people of their state or nation before their party donors and perhaps be seen to encourage safe alternatives to fossil fuels – just a bit!
Meanwhile, society, progressive corporate movers and industries, sensing opportunity, are rising to the occasion.
So biofuel mandates have appeared, the auto industry is embracing the opportunity to run with the obvious technology advancements – and now astute corporations recognise and embrace their social responsibilities and capitalise on the image enhancement.
Meanwhile, professional motorsports understood exactly how to capitalise!
Formula 1, announced an engine capacity reduction to 1.6lt and even stricter fuel consumption limitations, as long ago as 2013.
I will keep quoting this statement made in the announcement, for as long as it takes to get the message through!
In order to make Formula One more environmentally aware and to attract more commercial partners.
And, I always add: ‘Remember, this is a world view, not a USA view’.
For reference: F1 fuel regulations now allow only miniscule amounts of the most lethal additives – but mandate a minimum of 5.75% ‘bio-sourced’ alcohol.
The World Endurance (sportscar) Championship (WEC) mandates E20 (20% biofuel) and states it must be cellulosic second generation (no food conflict) biofuel.
Both of these biofuel levels are likely to rise in 2020.
Again for reference: When you buy ‘premium’ fuel for your car at your local fuel station, you are actually buying fuel that includes – believe it or not – up to 10% ethanol, plus some very profitable poison!
Australian fuel standard as of July 2003 lists the maximum additive content permitted in each grade of petrol. It states very clearly: ‘Ethanol, all grades, 10% volume by volume, maximum’.)
Note: comparable standards apply in other countries.
So let’s talk powerboats.
In a world where biofuel is a design factor in the creation of smaller and more efficient engines, and professional motorsports mandate biofuel blends, where does offshore powerboat racing stand?
My profoundly frustrating view is that it shows obscene contempt for the real world!
I must stress that this negative view is mitigated somewhat by moves by at least two marine engine manufacturers, who are showing genuine social and corporate responsibility by ditching big-block engines in favour of new generation low-emission, small-block V8 and V6 base engines, with significantly advanced technical features.
These engines are designed and optimised to run with high ethanol blends in their automotive applications. And, they can do likewise in their marine application, if only these companies would rise to the occasion and extol the virtues! (We need to get these companies into offshore powerboat racing!)
What’s the problem?
There are two problems:
One is cultural.
Being a US paradigm, lovingly nurtured by a minority who feel that biggest is best, even if it deters or demoralises everyone else and ultimately kills the sport.
The other is ‘imagined’.
Being an acquired loathing of biofuels, convincingly entrenched in the mind, by the same massive and effective propaganda machine that spent 70 years downplaying the lethal truth about lead.
The cultural issue is entirely up to you – the key decision being: do you continue to follow the USA model of ‘biggest is best’.
Or, like professional motorsports, do you take a ‘world’ view, reduce engine capacities and embrace a far wider spectrum of people who would like to take part in offshore powerboat racing – simultaneously restoring respect, credibility, interest and even the attention of serious “commercial partners”!
Social responsibility and corporate value influenced Formula 1 and WEC engine size – and likewise compelled them, plus Indy cars, NASCAR, Australian Supercars and many other professional motor-sport sanctioning bodies, to mandate and encourage ethanol fuel blends – and even some top powerboat teams recognise the advantages.
Meanwhile, ‘Big-Oil’ will keep telling you – without evidence – that ethanol is fatal for boats.
It’s a devious ploy, because they know that the adopted ‘hate’ will spread throughout the rest of the market – and they can maintain the flow of profitable premium poison.
Think about it, would an oil company tell you ethanol is the best option?
The simple truth is, if you do have the problem with water in your fuel that ‘Big-Oil’ promises, the issue is in your boat, not your fuel – and you have the problem regardless of what fuel you use.
In fact ethanol blended fuel tolerates water ingress far better than fuel with no ethanol. Don’t take my word for it, check out this 2011 Mercury Marine Webinar. The biggest manufacturer of petrol/gasoline marine engines in the world – surely they would know!
To help understand more on the superiority of ethanol, you can also check out:
I confess the circuit ‘sprint’ style of ‘offshore’ catamaran racing now holds little interest for me.
My focus is true ‘offshore’ distance racing, however, I do believe the sprint cats would also benefit and perhaps thrive with a serious 21st Century rule restructuring, but I won’t hold my breath!
For reference: and confirming just how effective propaganda, plus naїvety, can be.
The most recent Australian Superboat (cat) rules, state an aim to reduce cost by:
limiting power to a maximum of 750hp per engine.
The reduction is achieved by various means including camshaft restrictions and, wait for it:
Induction – One (1) carburettor”… “Carburettor(s) may be of any Holley Dominator style.
Alcohol content within petrol fuel (i.e. E85) is prohibited.
The bizarre thing about these moves is that no-one thinks to reduce engine capacity – it’s as if anything less than 8 litres is an attack on macho virility!
To mandate carburettors and ban alcohol fuel in this era is just beyond comprehension – even NASCAR, the last bastion of pure testosterone, mandates using fuel injection and alcohol blends – and big-blocks were dumped nearly 50 years ago!
I guess it’s no surprise that one of the ‘Superboat’ race sponsors is a coal mining company!
So where do you stand?
Just as with the ‘lead’ story, change only comes when things get really bad – when the exploiters are faced with the irrefutable consequence of their arrogant denial – and people get angry!
Call it democracy if you like, it’s the point where enough people agree that something needs to change. If things are fine as they are, stay with it! If you want change, it takes effort and the people who can create change should recognise when things are not ‘cool’!
Credit the UIM with recognising that point!
I am delighted that the UIM called for submissions toward a review of the UIM 1200 Marathon Class rules in late 2018 and that review is now imminent.
Having spent much of 2018 analysing and evaluating authentic ‘offshore’ powerboat racing issues, I was delighted to crystallise the points in a substantial submission to that process.
I very much look forward to the outcome, as I do believe this really is a make-or-break moment for a global re-establishment of true ‘offshore’ powerboat racing.
May I take this opportunity to wish all my wonderful friends within this fantastic sport of offshore powerboat racing – worldwide – an optimistic, safe and successful 2019!
Take care and breathe easy!
Adrian is a City & Guilds automotive technology graduate and served a 5 year Ford apprenticeship.
He worked his way up to a top auto racing team building F2 and F5000 cars – that company later became Roger Penske’s UK Indy-car factory.
Adrian formed Adrian Bright Powerboat Engineering which he succesfuly ran in the United Kingdom before relocating to the Gold Coast in Australia.
He has engineered, raced and scruitineered offshore boats over a 40 year period.