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This site was last updated on the 18/9/21

E.C Griffith


First won by ‘Fairchild’ in 1910


After a day at the boat races, with the noise and spectacle of top line boat racing, the adrenalin has you pumped up, you desire to be the envy of all, to bask in the glory of being a winner. How do you do it? We'll get to that in a minute. Questions first.

What kind of boat will you need? Well anything that propel itself across the water will do for a start. Races are held for all kinds of boats from the sublime to the outrageous.

What sort of gear will you need? A ordinary boat licence, a life jacket (now called a PFD), a crash helmet, the boat must be in good condition and will be inspected by scrutineers, the boat will need an ignition cut out switch, these are standard on most outboard's and are generally adapted to inboards, if an inboard also a prop shaft collar, For some classes of boats very specialised safety items are required. You will NEED to be a member of an affiliated club, see list, and will also need an APBA licence. This is not such a bad thing as you will have $20 million insurance cover.

What sort of races are there? All Kinds such as:-

Handicap Races:

Most people start here. In this event you do a time trial, that is a lap around the course, the handicapper will then determine the time it should take you to complete a full race. This time is deducted from the Race Time and this will be your starting time. A clock is displayed and the point of the exercise is to cross the start line right on your start time, and finish right on the end of race time, you go too fast you lose, simple right.

You can see here that almost anything can be competitive, many factors come into this and its not that simple. Fast boats will normally not run flat out, but at a regulated speed,so as not to wear out the boat, and you may notice them bunching up behind you in the last part of the race, just beating you across the finish line. This is called Foxing, drivers with experience can do this without being obvious, if it is obvious the handicapper may make an allowance for it in the next race Start times are adjusted each race and many different tactics have been used to win these, without actually cheating.

Scratch Races

These are races run without handicap and are started with either the clock, counting down to zero, or by another boat with a flag, just don't start before zero or when the flag drops. In these you can't go too fast, so all things being equal the fastest boat wins. With two boats of about the same speed pole position can be a deciding factor.

Championship Races:

These are conducted under sanction of the APBA you will need an APBA Competition Licence and to have had it signed by a club official at three different race meetings you have competed at, before you can enter a Championship Race. To obtain this licence you will needed to be prodded and poked by a doctor to say you are fit, as well as an eyesight test to see if you are colour blind. This is the top of the line racing, with many different classes for inboards and outboard's from 25hp to Unlimited.

Can my children get involved?

Passengers in race boats are not encouraged. Offshore being the exception, with most classes requiring at least 2 people. However Formula Future racing is a large part of the APBA. To start kids use boats with 6hp motors and there races are all handicap events, they can then progress to 15hp motors, and need the same basic equipment as regular boats. There is even an Australian Championship for them. Many of our present day champions started in junior programs, Craig Bailey being one.

Drag Races:

This is a test of outright acceleration, starting off a set of lights. There are classes for engine sizes also for speed classes. In speed classes, like handicap events you go too fast you lose. Top line boats are comparable to land dragsters and can top 200 miles per hour. The slowest classes have a 50 miles per hour limit. So like circuit racing you can get involved with whatever you have.

Ocean Races:

These are races for specialised boats, usually large boats, that compete in the open ocean, mostly these are scratch type events, but they do have handicap sections, There are classes for Production Cruisers right up to Class I boats. Naturally safety here is of paramount importance. For more information please visit the Australian Offshore Powerboat Club web site listed on our links page.


 Apart from inboards and outboard's there are;

Displacements: Are like regular ski boats that displace water, some are Deep Vee, others Flatbottom, all are displacement.

Hydroplanes: Are specialised race boats that when at speed ride on two sponsons hanging off the side of the boat and the propeller, using ground effects they are supported also by the air rushing under the boat. These throw a lot of water into the air, they are also the fastest type of boat, in a straight line. Cornering is not as good as displacement boats.

Tunnel Boats: Strictly are classed as hydroplanes, they are the catamaran type boats with full length sponsons, Formula one boats are an example of these. Most are outboard's, but some have inboards, usually with stern drives. These are not quite as fast as regular hydroplanes in a straight line, but have exceptional turning abilities. True outboard hydroplanes are very rare in this country.

The Bridge to Bridge

This is a one of yearly event and has been conducted on the Hawkesbury River since the 1920's. It is a race from the bridge at Brooklyn near the mouth of the river to Windsor bridge. A distance of about 100 km. This is almost the same course as the water ski race of the same name, although the skiers start from Dangar Island. This is where some people get into the sport, they go out for a burn up the river and find they like it. Classes from the Super Class to Social Ski boats are catered for. Formula Futures also compete but in a group all staying together accompanied by safety boats to ensure their safety.For more information see the Upper Hawkesbury Power Boat Club web site, listed on our links page.

How do I become involved?

 First off join a boat club (see member club pages), some are specialised and some tend to polarise around certain classes of boats. Ask questions, most boat racers are approachable. As you will probably start in handicap races watch these carefully work out the strategies employed. Take your time, concentrate on improving your driving skills. More races are won by good driving than by the latest engine trick of the week. In your first few races keep out wide, until you get out there you will not believe how hectic corners become with a few boats in them. Above all use your common sense, and don't do silly things.

How to get started in power boat racing