Super Boat International chief John Carbonell, who founded the organization in 1989, has died of natural causes at the age of 83 after battling with health issues for several years.
A native of Key West, FL, Carbonell began racing powerboats in 1976 and tried to engage the APBA in his idea for the Offshore Professional Tour (OPT) in 1985. After turning him down several times, he launched the OPT in 1989. Its inaugural season was a smashing success, with plenty of magazine and TV exposure. Its inaugural season included the Bud Dry Marathon Offshore Challenge in Marathon, FL, with each of the races televised on the ESPN network. He attracted celebrity racers like Don Johnson and Chuck Norris to help promote and participate in the races early on, with others (Kurt Russell, Bruce Jenner and Jason Priestley) to follow.
By 1992, Carbonell had become the head of Super Boat Racing, effectively merging with OPT. Although offshore racing had been accused of being too splintered in the 1990s and beyond, with organizations like APBA, OPT, OSS, SBR and USORA, Carbonell proved adept and grabbing the spotlight and attracting a huge following, luring some of the sport’s wealthiest and flashiest racers away from APBA. By the mid 1990s, Super Boat Racing had become Super Boat International.
In recent years, as Carbonell’s health declined, SBI’s star had dimmed significantly. The series has had between six and 10 races on its schedule since the late 1990s. As recently as 2014, SBI held eight national races, with a final ninth World Championships meet-up in Key West. However, by 2015, eight national races had dwindled to five. In 2018, the group held only three races, including Key West. Finally, SBI announced three races for 2019: Kenner, Clearwater and Key West.
However, when SBI’s contract with Key West came to an end, Race World Offshore snared the exclusive rights to mount the world finals in the country’s Southernmost city. In addition, RWO also grabbed the rights to the Clearwater race, leaving SBI with only Kenner on its roster. Sadly, that race was canceled.
Carbonell will be remembered as a giant in offshore racing. He was a force hitherto unseen in the sport, and one that is unlikely to be matched in the future.