National Boat Racing Association
By Roy Mackey
There are men, women and children ages 10 to 70 across the country competing in National Boat Racing Association’s (NBRA) boat races. Some have been racing for decades while others are new to the sport. We encourage everyone to join the fun and exciting sport we know as competition boat racing. Here is how to get started.
First, join a local National Boat Racing Association affiliate club, do this even if you aren’t sure that you want to race but might just be interested in attending races or learning about racing equipment. From the list of clubs in this article, find one that is nearest to you. Call the contact person, get an application and sign up. For $20.00 - $35.00 per year, one can become a member and be entitled to receive local newsletters, attend meetings and help plan and stage races. Local club members are the best source of specific information about getting started in boat racing. They can steer you toward classes that fit your interest, skill level and budget. They can help you find equipment, show you how to set up your boat and help you learn how to handle your boat in a racing event. You will find that boat racers help each other with mechanical issues, lifting and launching boats, sharing performance ideas, and form lasting relationships. Local clubs secures the race sites and runs the races. You will see race committee members stationed near the starting clock, at the weight-in station and inspection areas. There are other local club volunteers… families of racers, racers themselves or other non- racing club members. Everyone pitches in to help on race day. Once you have joined a local club, join the national sanctioning body, National Boat Racing Association (NBRA). For $30.00 non-racing or $80.00 racing membership NBRA will send you a rule book, membership card, newsletters and more.
Once a person has joined a local club and the NBRA, the fun begins. Choosing which class or classes to compete poses a range of questions such as: What classes are raced in the area? How interested and talented am I in the mechanics of working on motors? How much do I weigh? How much money do I want to spend? Do I have any friends or family members who can be my pit crew or will I have to rely on club members to help me unload, launch, and load my boat.
If you are not particular mechanically oriented you may want to start in one of the stock classes such as the C Stock hydro. The most common motor for this class, the Yamato 302 and is available from RPM Marine in Seattle, Washington. If you have a little more mechanical ability and yearn to tinker, then the modified classes may be more appealing. There are modified classes from the 70 mph 25 Modified Hydro, powered by Yamato or Mercury engines, to the 100mph Super E hydro class, powered by OMC’s and Mercury engines. All stock and modified motors use gasoline as fuel.
If you are between 10 and 16 years old you can start racing in the Novice class for $35.00. The Yamato 80 motors using a restrictor or the restricted OMC motors are the engines used..
For each engine size classification, measured in cubic inch displacement, in outboard racing, there is a choice of a hydroplane or runabout class. Hydros are somewhat faster and offer a smoother ride, but runabout drivers will tell you it takes a bit more skill to handle their boats.
The next step is finding some equipment. This is one of the most fun, although sometimes frustrating, part of getting into the sport. Unlike buying a personal water craft (PWC) where you can get everything you want from one dealer, putting together a racing boat usually takes shopping from several sources. Working with club members and shopping on the internet, one will be able to find boat builders, racing hardware, engines and high performance parts. Next is personal safety gear. This includes a cut-resistive type pants and jacket, life jacket and crash helmet. These items are available from suppliers. Finally, you will need some way to transport you boat to the races. Most racers buy or build special trailers for this purpose. Ask a club member for ideas on building one, having one made, or finding a used one.
One of the most frequently asked questions is “how much does it cost?” The answer is “it depends.” Stock and Modified outboard boat racing is one of the most cost-effective motor sports in the country. Getting into this sport can cost less than buying a good bass or ski boat or even a PWC. For example, if you decide to start racing in the C Stock Hydroplane class the cost might look something like this:
Boat: (new hydro) complete ……………………………… $3,500.00
Motor: Yamato race ready………………………………… $3,500.00
Propellers: two new ones ….……………………………… $ 600.00
Trailer: (used)Room for 2 boats and motor box ……… $ 800.00
Personal safety equipment: ……………………….………. $1,000.00
Dolly, gas cans and miscellaneous:………………….…… $ 300.00
You can get started with used equipment for a considerable amount less than this. Used equipment is always available but beware. Sometime what you get is first rate and other times you are buying somebody else’s problem. If you plan to purchase used equipment get opinions and input from several unbiased club members before buying.
After purchasing the race equipment, the next thing is learning how to operate it. The best way to learn is to go “testing” with other members. Each club usually has places, nearby lakes or rivers where they can try out their boats and test different set-ups before and during the race season. In this protected non-racing environment you can develop your abilities to turn your boat ( note that these boats turn left very well, but are not designed to turn right since all race courses run in a counterclockwise direction) and operate the boat at high speed. Although nothing beats the experience of actual racing, drivers want to be as familiar with their equipment as possible before the first race.
Dreams come true once racing in competition. At the first race, the referee will want you to take a few laps before the race and during your first heat run at the back of the pack, just to ease you into competition in the safest possible manner. After the referee feels you are ready for competition you will be cleared for racing. You will note that there is always an ambulance and EMTs on hand at the races. Boats do flip and there are occasional collisions, but in the majority of these situations, drivers are unharmed and protected in large part by their protective safety gear. In those occasions when someone does get injured, the emergency medical crew is standing by.
Welcome to the world of competition boat racing, NBRA style!