Powerboat Basics

To put yourself at the top of the podium, it all starts with understanding your equipment compared to your competitors. Being properly informed about the components of your boat can be the deciding factor between first and last. Below is a general overview of the important information revolving around powerboating.

Hull Design

A Hydro is a type of hull designed so that much of the hull lifts out of the water and skims the surface at high speeds.  A hydro is easily recognizable by the points or sponsons at the front of the boat which create the hydroplaning effect.



Wing on the front of the boat that directs air either under the boat or over the deck line used to adjust how high the front end flies over the water. (Not all boats have canards).


The control center that includes the driver’s station, steering wheel, harness and instrument panel (dashboard) located in the safety capsule. (Not all boats have safety capsules).


Aerodynamically designed engine cover that protects the engine from water. (Not all boats have cowlings).

Lifting Sling (Crane Hook)

One to four point straps strategically placed on the boat to allow the boat to be placed or removed from the water. (Not all boats have life slings).

Exhaust Pipe

Directs the exhaust out of the engine.


Fan-shaped propulsion mechanism that is connected to the engine and creates thrust to move the boat forward.


Using a series of levers or cables and pulleys, the vertical blade that turns the boat in coordination with the steering wheel.


The two pontoons located on both sides of a hydroplane that make the boat plane over the surface of the water as well as traps air in the center of the boat providing lift.



The front or forward part of a boat.


The part of the boat below the waterline. A chine may be rounded or "soft"; or squared off—a "hard" chine.


The control center that includes the driver’s station, steering wheel, harness and instrument panel (dashboard) located in the safety capsule. (Not all boats have safety capsules).


Something, such as a machine or an engine, that produces or imparts motion.


The back panel of the boat, vertical to the water. With outboard boats, this is where the engine is mounted.


The right propeller is essential to racing; your prop can make or break your heat on the water.  Made of stainless steel, the most commonly used propellers are composed of three or four blades.  More blades reduce vibrations while maintaining efficiency, while propellers with fewer blades are best for lower horsepower engines.  To help make propellers more efficient, blades should be as thin as possible. However, thinner blades, while more efficient, also run the risk of cracking when pushed to the limit by motors with higher horsepower & torque.

Mercury Racing has published a series of propeller 101 articles that we highly recommend for those looking to learn a bit more.

  • Prop School Pt. 1 - Introduction
  • Prop School Pt. 2 - Terminology
  • Prop School Pt. 3 - Blade Rake
  • Prop School Pt. 4 - Blade Cup
  • Prop School Pt. 5 - Blade Efficiency
  • Prop School Pt. 6 - Slip

Racing Engines



While no APBA category requires gloves, many racers choose to wear them to gain a better grip on the wheel. Many outboard racers also choose to use cut resistant gloves.


Helmets must meet the specifications set forth by any of the following: American National Standards Institute, Inc., Snell, or military specification helmet designed for military aircraft. All helmets must have the top 50% of the helmets as a high visibility color (yellow, orange, florescent red). While oxygen is not required (but is pictured), some racers in enclosed cockpits choose to use it.


All lifejackets must be in compliance with APBA Lifejacket Manufacturing Specifications. In addition upper 70% of all lifejackets must be colored orange or yellow. Lifejacket variation is specific to the type of cockpit and restraints the driver is using.

Neck Restraint

While no APBA category specifically requires next restraints, many racers choose to use them to protect their necks and back from the constant stress of racing.

Driving Suit

All APBA racers are required to wear some sort of protective clothing underneath their life jackets. The suit pictured is for Inboard racing and is the required fire resistant suit. Outboard drivers are required to wear cut resistant sleeves and pants which are primarily made of Kevlar.


All APBA racers are required to wear closed toed shoes while racing. Many outboard racers choose to wear cut resistant socks underneath their shoes.