Powerboat racing includes inboard, offshore, drag, performance, and unlimited categories with different boat types, speeds, and age requirements. The American Power Boat Association oversees inboard racing, the largest category with varying horsepower and speed requirements for racers aged 14 to 21. Offshore racing features power catamarans and V-hull boats with speeds up to 180 mph and a minimum age of 18. Outboard, drag, and OPC racing have their own unique characteristics and age requirements, with unlimited or cigarette racing featuring turbine rocket-powered boats reaching speeds over 220 mph. Local organizations overseen by the APBA provide details for prospective riders of all ages and ability levels.
While “boat racing” can refer to any type of boat racing from hand-powered boats to remote-controlled boats, it typically refers to motor boat racing. Powerboat racing encompasses a variety of racing categories, including inboard, offshore, drag, performance, and unlimited, which features boats commonly seen in cigarette racing. Each of these types of racing has unique characteristics from boat type to average speed. They also have different minimum age requirements for participants.
Inboard racing is the largest category in the American Power Boat Association (APBA). It features many classifications of seaplane and runabout style craft. The horsepower and size of these racing boats vary drastically, meaning top speeds will range from 80 miles per hour to 170 miles per hour (about 129 to 274 kilometers per hour). The minimum age required to race on these boats ranges from 14 to 21 depending on engine size and top speed.
The offshore racing category includes power catamarans and V-hull boats. These boats are capable of speeds up to 180 miles per hour (about 290 kilometers per hour). The minimum age to drive one of these racing boats is 18 years old. This is one of the more spectator-friendly forms of racing, largely due to the teamwork required to operate a boat such as a catamaran.
Three categories: stock, modified and professional racing, make up the class of outboard motor boats. The racers of an outboard boat lie flat first, travel at a top speed of 60 miles per hour (about 97 kilometers per hour), and are just inches above the water. Races are completed in laps, generally three per race.
Drag boat racing is conceptually similar to the car race of the same name. Drag boats have engines of up to 300 horsepower and can reach 200 miles per hour (about 322 kilometers per hour). Races are in a straight line over a quarter mile (about 400 meters) or an eight mile track (about 13 kilometers). As with offshore racing, the minimum age to drive is 18 years old.
Outboard Performance Craft, commonly referred to as OPC, boats are referred to as tunnel boats. Typically 12 feet (about 3.7 meters) long with large turning circles, racing with these boats is fan-friendly. The boats reach top speeds of 140 miles (about 225 kilometers) per hour using powerful V-8 engines. Riders as young as 14 can drive these boats, depending on overall horsepower and top speed.
Races typically broadcast on cable networks are billed as unlimited, but commonly known as cigarette racing. The boats are powered by turbine rockets, leap across the water and reach speeds in excess of 220 miles per hour (about 354 kilometers per hour).
In the United States, to get involved in one of these categories of racing as a spectator or driver, organizations such as the APBA oversee local groups. The APBA has racing clubs based in 16 regions of the United States. Each local organization can provide details for prospective riders of all ages and ability levels.