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Outboard Racing

Outboard boat racing can best be described as "circle track racing" of boats with the combination of speed and adrenaline.  The sport began almost as early as the birth of the first production outboard motor.  Boating enthusiasts began organizing themselves at local lakes and rivers for competition in hopes to see who had the fastest outboard.  The sport has changed over the years, with the formation of national organizations, such as the APBA (American Power Boat Association) which have instituted categories for both modified and stock outboard engines, class specifications, hull specifications, and safety rules.  All in the hopes to create a safe and even playing field for competitors to race their outboards.


Outboard Categories


Stock Outboard Racing


Stock Outboard Racing is the category for those who do not like to modify their outboard engines.  Here the skill level of the driver is the most important factor when competing on the water.  While the competition is hot and heavy on the race course, Stock Outboard Racing is very much a family sport.


The motors used in Stock Outboard Racing range from to  All engines are stock and the choice of motor usually depends on the cost and size of the competitor.


Modified Outboard Racing


Modified Outboard Racing is the category for those who like to modify their outboard engines.  Here the skill level of the engine builder is every bit as important as the abilities of the drivers who compete on the water.  Utilizing every last bit of horsepower from their engines is the ultimate goal.  While the competition is hot and heavy in the engine shop and on the race course, Modified Outboard Racing is very much a family sport.


The motors used in Modified Outboard Racing range from all the way to  All engines are modified and the choice of engine usually depends on the skill level, cost and size of the competitor.


Junior Outboard Racing


J (Junior) is the category for young kids, who can start racing at the age of 9 years old.  However, they may only race in this category through the age of 15. Three motors are currently approved for use in the Junior class:

  • The 13.2 cubic inch OMC-A with an approved restrictor;

  • The 15.9 cubic inch Mercury 15 (produced in 1999 or later) with approved restrictor;

  • The Mercury 60-J

The restricted motor is reduced to roughly 8h.p which slows the boat to a comfortable speed for young racers.  This class also utilizes a standard propeller furnished by APBA (American Power Boat Association) which also keeps the speed of the class down and creates a more competitive environment. 

Hull Types 


The boats utilized in outboard racing are hydroplanes and runabouts.  These hull types are almost exclusively kneel-down boats, with the exception of the laydown.  Kneel-down boats are driven by drivers who are crouched down on their knees, giving them the ability to move forward and aft as well as side to side in their boats.  This gives the driver the ability to control their boats stability down the straightaways and through the turns.  Laydown boats, raced by a select few, are driven by drivers who are laying on their bellies, which has spawned the nickname"belly boat".  This gives the driver the ability to lower their center of gravity as much as possible.  This low center of gravity allows the boat to handle the changing water conditions without the driver having to move around in the boat.  These boats are especially popular for drivers who have bad knees but still want to race outboards



Runabouts are hull types that make use of a flat bottom running surface, which provides a cushion of air for the boat to ride on.  Runabouts have overall length restrictions, but nothing else, which must match the class in which it will be fielded.  Driving a runabout depends on the set-up of the turning fin.  Originally, runabouts had turn fins mounted to the center of the bottom of the boat so the driver turned on the inside chine of the boat by rolling it on it's side.  This driving style spawned the nicknamed "roll-up runabout".  This type of driving requires the skilled movement of the driver's body position and weight.  However, since it origin, the runabout has seen advancements in the way it turns.  Runabouts can now have a turning fin mounted to the side of the boat, which spawned the nickname 

"side fin runabout".  This requires the driver to maintain a level or balanced position with the boat so it will skid or slide it's way around the turn.  Depending on the size of the race track, one boat may corner faster than the other but ultimately, the preference of boat is chosen by the comfort level and driving ability of the driver.



Hydroplanes are hull types that are made up of 3-points of contact to the water.  The three points of contact are made up of two sponsons located on both sides of the front of the hull and the running surface located at the aft-end of the hull.  Air traps connect the sponsons and aft-end running surface creating a tunnel underneath the hull.  This tunnel traps air underneath the hull, which lifts the entire hull out of the water allowing it to run free of resistance, nicknamed "hydroplaning"  There are very few design restrictions to these hull types.  Generally, the weight and speed of the individual classes dictates the length and width of the hydroplane.  Hydroplanes makes use of a side fin for turning the boat in a level or balanced position.

In general, hydroplane racing is where most new racers start due to stable design and less physical movement is required on the part of the driver.


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