Trends & Features

Could Boat Racing Go Global? The Power of Japan’s “I am Boat Racer” Series

All About “I am Boat Racer”

This Japanese series is focused on the world of powerboat racing. Delivered as a sort of soap opera, it focuses on this national sport, and the first couple of seasons have been a huge success. It features a series of fictional competitors who take part in these races, with Kyoko recently becoming the first woman to win the coveted top prize. While “I am Boat Racer” is built around fictional characters, powerboat racing is a very real sport in Japan, as explained here by Unmissable Japan.

In fact, it’s long been one of the very few sports that locals can bet on, with horse racing, auto racing, and a form of cycling being the others allowed there. This perhaps helps to explain the ongoing popularity of powerboat races in Japan compared to the rest of the world, with the number of bets increasing greatly in the last few years. On a global basis, sports betting and online casinos have also been rising in popularity at the same time, but the difference is found in the wide variety of different ways of betting elsewhere.

For example, fast growing brands like Mr Q have introduced a huge range of casino games for players looking to place wagers. These sites make it easy to get started by giving free spins to new players, with some awarded just for verifying their phone number before making a deposit. This casino has over 1,000 games, split between slots and table games, while sports betting sites usually cover dozens of sports. On the other hand, Japanese bettors have typically only been able to play in pachinko parlours or bet on the sports listed above, meaning that boat racing takes up an unusually large share of the betting market.

Could Powerboat Racing Take Off Like This Elsewhere?
Unlike many new sports like pickleball and 360ball that need to start from scratch, one of the advantages held by boat racing is that there’s already a substantial infrastructure in place. For example, the UK Offshore Powerboat Racing Association (UKOPRA) events calendar shows a range of races to be held throughout the UK this year, with similar events occurring across the pond in America.

The history of this thrilling sport goes back to the early 20th century, with a race from England to France in 1904 becoming the first officially recognised race in the world and it gained substantial levels of popularity for a while after this. Of course, sailing boats and oar-driven vessels have been competing in racing for centuries, but the speed and thrills of powerboat racing appear to make it most suitable for turning into a modern-day franchise.

Perhaps the best option for this sport to progress would be with a type of global circuit as seen in the Formula 1 motor racing world. With the Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM) responsible for regulating Class 1 and Powerboat P1 competitions around the planet, this organisation currently runs the Formula 1 Powerboat World Championship and is possibly best-placed to help the rest of the world repeat Japan’s success in marketing the sport.

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