What is PowerBoat Racing?

Image courtesy h1unlimited.com Click Here to Begin Slideshow Powerboat racing is an umbrella term, similar to auto/car racing. Both have multiple series/sanctioning bodies and both have a variety of classes under each of them. Just like car racing goes from go karts to top fuel dragsters, boat racing goes from the junior leagues to the likes of the Lady Budweiser speed record boats. Racing Junk is going to attempt to lay it all out for you: the sanctioning bodies and the major classes each of them governs.

What is PowerBoat Racing?

Image courtesy h1unlimited.com

Click Here to Begin Slideshow

Powerboat racing is an umbrella term, similar to auto/car racing. Both have multiple series/sanctioning bodies and both have a variety of classes under each of them. Just like car racing goes from go karts to top fuel dragsters, boat racing goes from the junior leagues to the likes of the Lady Budweiser speed record boats. Racing Junk is going to attempt to lay it all out for you: the sanctioning bodies and the major classes each of them governs.

The UIM Is the Worldwide Parent Organizing Body

Each of the world’s sanctioning bodies that govern the various aspects of power boat racing is under the overall judge of the sport: Union Internationale Motonautique. It hasn’t always been this way, though. Powerboat racing can trace its organizational roots back to the British organization the Marine Motoring Association, which was formed in 1902. The Union International du Yachting Automobile was formed in 1922 and this morphed into today’s Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM) in 1927. This was the year that the group’s first set of rules and its first racing calendar were published.

In America, the APBA is in Charge

The American Power Boating Association (APBA) was first formed in 1903, but it wasn’t organized as well as it is today. Shortly after the UIM was formed and promulgated its first few sets of competition rules, it granted license to the APBA to be the sport’s governing body in the US. Although this might not mean much to some, in reality it means quite a bit. Any records set during an APBA event are automatically recognized worldwide, for a start. It also means that APBA championships are internationally-recognized. For event sponsors, it means less financial risk is involved in staging an event because they’re able to get specialized boat racing insurance.

How the American Power Boat Association Is Organized

Image screenshot from APBA.org

Racing in the APBA is broken down into a total of 13 classes. The names of the classes are pretty descriptive of the types of boats and competitors that can be found there. Some of these classes are further broken down.
• Inboard
• Inboard Endurance
• Junior classes
• Modified Outboard
• Offshore
• Outboard Drag
• Outboard Performance Craft
• Pro Outboard
• Special Events
• Stock Outboard
• ThunderCat
• Unlimited
• Vintage and Historic

Taking a Quick Look at Some of the Classes

Image courtesy h1unlimited.com

The Unlimited, or Unlimited Hydroplane, class is the powerboat class people are most familiar with, especially if they aren’t fans of the sport. Think Miss Bud and you’ve got it. These boats don’t so much float on the water as they fly across it. These days power is usually generated by a jet engine such as those found in Chinook helicopters, although V-12 reciprocating piston aircraft engines are also allowed. The boats are controlled by raising or lowering ailerons in the front and on the rear wing of the boats and a small midline rudder just behind the cockpit. These boats throw a rooster tail a couple hundred feet in the air and can easily top 200 MPH.

InBoard is the Largest Class

Inboard is the largest single class sanctioned by the APBA. Boats/pilots are in one of 13 categories that range from the one liter 70 MPH Jersey Skiffs up to supercharged Grand Prix Hydroplanes that are similar but not identical to the Unlimited boats. Minimum driver/pilot age for Inboards ranges from 14-21 and depends on exactly which class the competitor wishes to enter. The engines in these boats are modified car engines ranging in size from one liter up to five liters. Inboard Runabouts are also known as flatbottoms, because they have no keel and are either open or closed cockpit boats.

ThunderCat Boats

Inboard is the largest single class sanctioned by the APBA. Boats/pilots are in one of 13 categories that range from the one liter 70 MPH Jersey Skiffs up to supercharged Grand Prix Hydroplanes that are similar but not identical to the Unlimited boats. Minimum driver/pilot age for Inboards ranges from 14-21 and depends on exactly which class the competitor wishes to enter. The engines in these boats are modified car engines ranging in size from one liter up to five liters. Inboard Runabouts are also known as flatbottoms, because they have no keel and are either open or closed cockpit boats.

Outboard Drag

Outboard Drag resembles automotive drag racing in that there’s a single driver pitted against another single driver and the course is either 1/8 mile or ¼ mile in length. No stops. No turns. Just throttle to wall blast in a straight line. There are four subclasses in Outboard Drag: Factory Modified, running certain V6 or V8 engines; Factory Stock (which means just that - buy it and race it); Lake Racers, with open cockpit ski or bass boats with seating for three or more (although the seats can be removed for competitions); and Super Stock, allowing any type of production boat except tunnels and hydroplanes. Minimum age for this class is 18 due to the high speeds that are achieved. Some classes even allow the use of nitro.

Offshore

Another APBA class of which you may be aware is the Offshore category. These boats have V-shaped hulls or are catamarans and, as the name implies, are run offshore. You may know these boats as “cigarette boats” due to their shape. There are a number of classes in the Offshore category, with each one being dependent upon the size and type of hull and the size of the engine. To compete in this class as either a driver or throttleman one must be 18 years old.

Junior Classes Open Power Boat Racing Up to Kids as Young as Nine!

The APBA is somewhat like NASCAR in that the governing body wants to develop budding talent when it’s young and bring it up through the ranks. Junior classes drive boats that are similar to the adult class boats, with the difference being that they aren’t capable of the same speeds. For example, Junior Hydroplanes and Runabouts top out at about 40 MPH, while AX-Hydroplane and Runabout boats hit 50. Rookies are required to hang out at the back of the pack until they become more familiar and comfortable with their boats.

Special Licensing and Classes Are Required At All Levels of Competition

The APBA requires that all competitors take driving and safety classes prior to being allowed to compete. Some classes also require cockpit egress training/certification as well. The APBA site has a set of pages that will walk you through the requirements for each class/category.

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About Mike Aguilar 196 Articles
Mike's love of cars began in the early 1970's when his father started taking him to his Chevron service station. He's done pretty much everything in the automotive aftermarket from gas station island attendant, parts counter, mechanic, and new and used sales. Mike also has experience in the amateur ranks of many of racing's sanctioning bodies.
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