Stock Outboard Racing
Outboard Racing emerged in the United States in 1924, and by 1948, stock outboard regattas were being staged under the sanctioning body called American Power Boat Association. Because of its competitive nature, Stock Outboard grew considerably through the 1950’s and 60’s, becoming the most popular form of boat racing. Its popularity continues through the 80’s and 90’s because the equipment is affordable and easily available to all. It has become worldwide, branching into Japan, Mexico, Ecuador, Canada and South Africa.
Ninety percent of all Stock Outboard racing is done on a regional basis with theultimate goal of becoming a National Champion. The National Championships are normally held in early August, bringing top competitors and their families to a central location for great fun, excitement, and competition. Beyond the Nationals there is a World Championship held specifically for the OSY 400 class (CSH class in Stock Outboard). The US team is chosen from both Divisional and National Champions.
The Stock Outboard category is made up of eighteen classes. Each class is defined by a specific minimum weight requirement, engine horsepower, and hull design. The three basic hull designs include hydroplanes,runabouts, and tunnel hulls.
Runabouts are monoplane style hulls which ride on the water’s surface, requiring body english and technique to drive. Boats are driven in a kneel-down position.
Hydroplanes are designed for optimum speed and ride on a cushion of air. They are also driven in a kneel down position.
Tunnel boats are catamaran style hulls in which the driver sits down to drive. They are designed to race in adverse water conditions.
The engines that serve as the powerhouses for these specially designed hulls range from 15 to 45 cubic inches and propel them through the water at speeds ranging from 35 to 85 mph.
Modified Outboard Racing
Modified Outboard Racing allows and encourages modifications to the engines used, though always within strictly enforced specifications. Typical modifications include enlarging and polishing of the intake and exhaust ports and passages, adding tuned exhaust systems, balancing of engine parts, and the thinning and re-shaping of the gear cases. Custom built tower housings (the part of the motor connecting the powerhead with the gear case) are also allowed. The only significant limitation is a fuel restriction calling for pump gasoline and two-stroke oil. Power boosting fuels, additives and alcohol-modified fuels are illegal.
Why race Modified?
Modified racing challenges the driver to develop engine technology to the fullest. The opportunity to maximize power output gives the clever engine builder a speed and acceleration advantage over the competition–an advantage not shared by stock outboard drivers.
As in the stock outboard category, classes are defined by engine size and hull design. There are presently sixteen classes that comprise the Modified Outboard category. The two hull types used in Modified Outboard racing are Hydroplanes and Runabouts. These hull types never compete against each other, although during open testing periods they may occupy the race course at the same time. Speeds in the Mods range from 55 mph in the Formula A class to 90+ mph in the Formula E class.
Electric Outboard Racing
Seattle Outboard Association first branched out into Electric Boat Racing when it was the APBA-affiliated sanctioning body for a World Kilometer Record Trial, Sponsored by an Everett WA electric utility in 1992. The kilometer record at that time was 50.8 mph, held by Britain’s Fiona, Countess of Arran. At the utility-sponsored event, the fastest boat was a canoe powered by a DC motor mounted as a powerhead on an Evinrude lower unit. Two months later the driver, Burton Gabriel of Port Ludlow WA, took his motor to a second kilo event to power a 12 foot aluminum skiff through the traps at 25 mph, more than doubling his first effort. In 1993, Gabriel returned with a Darrell Sorensen-designed runabout and a better motor to raise his electric runabout record again, besting three other competitors with an average of 41 mph.
In 1994, SOA and APBA established closed course electric boat racing at selected race sites. The hope was that head to head competition would be the best and quickest way to push E-boats over the record. Whether E-boats could finish a closed course event was anybody’s guess. Batteries were a huge weight penalty and power output varied wildly. The boats had to run at least 1-1/2 miles per charge. Despite the challenges, a field of four to five electric boats participated in 5 events, and at the end of the season the boats again returned to Lincoln City Oregon for the Rocky Stone Memorial Kilos, where Norm Boddy drove his runabout to a new world straightaway speed record of 55.913 mph. From that first season, E-boats have run in scheduled outboard events as a special event class.
Since 1994, E-boats have seen a changeover toward hydroplanes, and the addition of an “E-Lite” class of 48 volt racers, They’ve seen records for runabouts and hydros set at 48v and 72v, and seen the all-out E-boat record raised to 70.597 mph.
E-boat races are flag-started heats of two laps. The focus is on fast starts and using all available power within those two laps. currently, a 144v hydro can accelerate from start to 70 mph in approximately 300 feet, and E-boats can race flat out for distances up to 3 miles per charge. Close racing is common within classes. As an example, the 1996 championship for 144v was decided by a mere 113 points.
To describe the boats: 144s run 12 automotive starter batteries to provide 144v at up to 800 amps. Motors are 36 to 48 volt industrial DC or aircraft starter motors used as powerheads on outboard lower units. When powered as noted, the higher current “hot-rods” these motors to nearly 155 horsepower. 48s use only 4 batteries, and these pump 12 to 30 volt motors to about 20 horsepower. Hulls for both classes are usually converted existing raceboats, though larger (up to 14 ft.) custom hydroplanes prevail in the 144v class providing extra lift for battery weight.
PRO Outboard Racing
Professional Racing Outboard (PRO) Racing is the oldest form of APBA Outboard Racing. First recognized as a separate boat racing category by the American Power Boat Association (APBA) in 1924, it has evolved into a highly sophisticated, technologically advanced level of outboard racing, where twelve to fourteen foot long boats frequently exceed speeds of 100 miles an hour.
Just as in Stock and Modified outboard racing, PRO racing structures its classes by engine size (ranging from 125 to 1100 cc’s) and hull design (hydroplanes and runabouts). Beyond those two parameters, the rest of the rules are pretty much wide open. Virtually unlimited engine modifications are allowed, and any fuel can be run. As a result, PRO Racing has come to be synonymous with “World Class” outboard racing, as in many cases the engines of choice are of foreign manufacture, such as the König engine from Germany, and the Yamato engine from Japan. Also, innovations are evident in hull design. Unlike the Stock and Modified categories, where most hulls are built to be driven in kneeling positions, it is not uncommon to see kneelers, laydown designs (where the driver is prone on his stomach) and sit-down design boats (where the driver sits down in the boat, harnessed in for safety reasons) competing against each other. In the future, however, the trend will be moving more toward the sit-down designs: the APBA PRO Racing commission has made capsules mandatory for selected classes beginning in 1995, with a gradual phase in of reinforced cockpits with restraint systems for specific classes by the 1997 season.
In APBA PRO racing, the premier event is the PRO National Championships, which are an annual event. This four day regatta attracts the very best racers from across the United States, vying for National Honors. PRO racers also have the opportunity to test their mettle against the finest racers in the world and the UIM (Union of International Motorboating) World Championships. The PRO class structure (defining engines by cc groupings) correlates with UIM class designations. With its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, the UIM is the official sanctioning body for all world championship powerboat racing events. APBA is an affiliate of UIM. The sites for UIM championships vary each year, and often differ depending on the class competing. In recent years, UIM World Outboard Championships have been held in Pleasanton, California and Lakeland, Florida.
Antique Outboard Racing
PRO racing is also the home for Antique Outboard Racing, a sub-category of the PRO racing commission. Antique Outboard Racing mixes motors originally built in the 1930’s with some of today’s boat design theory and racing program. The Antique division of PRO racing is one of the post popular and competitive forms of outboard racing. Seattle Outboard Association has always been active in Antique Outboard Racing, and the Antique classes are a vital part of SOA’s racing program.
APBA J is a class in which boys and girls ages 9-15 can learn about driving a race boat. It grew out of the APBA’s stock outboard division’s J stock and J Runabout classes (J for junior). Today it is one class that is raced throughout all APBA divisions for kids.
As you will see, in addition to the lessons that competition can teach a youngster, there are other intangibles that these young racers learn in the process.
While the hydro division of APBA J is the most popular in most regions, there is also a runabout class, which is normally run in divisional and national championship events.
This class has been mandated by the APBA executive committee as a way to encourage racing among the kids of the sport in all divisions as well as other youngsters who might be drawn to the sport.
The APBA has endeavored to develop a set or rules which will keep the playing field as even as possible. One of the first things that the APBA rule makers did was to require a standard propeller be used at all major events like divisionals, national championships, and on record courses. This was to keep costs down and again attempt to insure that all racers could be competitive.
This class uses the OMC 13.2 cubic inch two cylinder fishing engine that is mounted on a short tower housing and uses a racing gear case. It is the same engine that is used in the A classes of APBA stock racing, but with a restrictor plate behind the carburetor to slow the kids down to a more tepid 40-plus mph. One of the things that makes the restrictor plate philosophy so attractive is that young racers can grow up with this engine and when they are ready to switch to the faster A class, all they need to do is remove the restrictor plate and they are ready to go.
(Webmaster’s note: Since the time this article was originally posted, APBA has approved a new engine made by Mercury Marine for the J class. For information on the motor and pricing, please click here.)
APBA J racing is a great way for a family to spend time together. The youngster can race and mom and dad can be pit crew or mom and dad can choose to race in the A class if they so desire.
While this class is relatively inexpensive, about $3000 to get started for an entire outfit, plus safety equipment, it is not the kind of purchase that a rookie should make without having the help of a veteran racer.