When we look back over 28 years of Superleague racing we quickly think of our champions – individuals who have earned their place in the record books. A varied group with differing backgrounds and two things in common – these competitors have a passion for boat racing and the ability to win. We wondered if there were threads running through their personalities, practices that made a difference, if luck and circumstances created the opportunity; what did it take to give each of them a place on the podium. Our conversation with Sam LaBanco was originally published in 2011 but his advice is timeless and we thought it was worth a repeat (with a bit of a bio update).
Sam started with us in the beginning and we are proud to say that he continues to race with us today. He earned his first championship back in 1990 and his second came in 2007. He has been a National Champion, a Divisional Champion and is a member of the APBA Hall of Champions. Not content to just race, Sam also devotes plenty of time to the other side of racing, as an OPC Commissioner and with the APBA Safety Committee to develop procedures that allow the need-to-go-fast, safely.
Working as an engineer (in an office with a million dollar view) and working on his boat while being a husband, father and grandfather leaves LaBanco little time for extended conversation but he offered the following.
Here are what we call Sam’s Top Ten Racing Obsessions – ten things and people that he considers important to not just winning but being in a race boat.
- Getting to the next race Each race is a new adventure, even racing at the same venue; a new challenge seems to emerge every time. The need to solve the challenge quickly is always an opportunity to learn something new, something to remember and to use the next time.
- Being able to perform at the highest level Having the equipment ready and reliable means being prepared to run without needing to do last minute maintenance making it much easier to concentrate on boat set up and racecourse requirements.
- Not becoming complacent with the boring routine tasks that need to be done so often to keep everything ready.
- Being able to do the work myself and having the tools I need regardless if it’s the engine, the boat – whatever.
- Doing what I can to make sure my son Sam can be with me He’s the man when we get to the race. All the big and little things that keep us going – he has his hand in it. As most of us know, there is a ton of energy needed to get through a race weekend, I use a lot of his.
- Having a good time seeing all the people we know and have met over the years. Hearing the latest gossip about who is running what, telling the same old stories and talking race “stuff.”
- Making sure I don’t forget all the people past and present that helped us to get where we are. All the people who taught me the endless list of things that I didn’t know when I was getting started. The people who still help out with propellers, woodwork – and all the favors that I can’t repay. They know who they are; we do too.
- Helping somebody out if they’re having a problem at the race We need all of the boats on the water we can get for the good of the sport. Plus, knowing the effort it takes to get to the race, I hate to see a friend sitting on the beach.
- Finding a great local place to eat while we’re at the race. We always look for a barbeque place first.
- I don’t forget how lucky I am to have been able to do this for as long as I have. I remember there were a whole lot of people who served their country to allow all of this to happen.