This one was written by Pat Kants, one of TORC's past Commodore's and a boat racer.
in stock outboard racing can be an enjoyable or frustrating experience depending on how
well prepared you are in terms of your equipment and your level of knowledge about the
sport. If you are new or relatively new to boat racing, you obviously have more questions
than answers concerning boats, engines, hardware, propellers, safety equipment, etc. First
and foremost, use the resources that you have available... the TORC membership! Talk to as many experienced
drivers as you can and ask as many questions as you can about things you're not sure of or
want to learn more about. Attend club meetings and sanctioned regattas and keep your eyes
and ears open. You'll be surprised at what you can learn just by listening in on
conversations among drivers in the pits.
Lesson #1... never pass up an opportunity to learn something new!
One of the most common questions asked by newcomers is "should I build a boat or
buy a boat?". The answer is fairly simple. If you have the tools, experience and
facilities necessary for wood working then you could probably build a race boat. Just
remember that contrary to popular belief, a stock outboard hydro is not a
"seaflea" out of Popular Mechanics. There is very little similarity between the
two and the level of difficulty in building a good stock outboard hydro or runabout is far
beyond a few weekends in the garage. If you're not that handy with a hammer and saw then
your best bet is to buy a boat. If the answer is to buy then I would strongly recommend
that you buy a good "used" boat to start with. Here again, going to races will
allow you to actually see "For Sale" stuff on the water. Buying a good used boat
or building a boat works out to about the same amount of money. A mistake that far too
many newcomers make is to buy an outdated boat and/or engine because the price was right.
Make sure that the boat or engine meets current CBF or APBA rules and is competitive.
Lesson #2... you only get what you pay for!
OK, so once you've made your decisions and you have your equipment its time to
head for the water and go racing right?... wrong!! In my opinion, only about 5 to 10% of
your time is spent on the water and of that time most of it should be devoted to
"testing with a purpose". That means that you test your setup in a logical and
pre-determined way, keep written records of the results and re-test those areas that
didn't give you the expected results. Here again, most newcomers would be prone to the
shear enjoyment of just going out and driving their new outfit until the gas can is empty.
Unfortunately, this approach will do nothing to improve your situation on the race course.
Believe me, the drivers that are winning races are drivers that do their homework both off
and on the water. They spend very little time joy riding. The majority of time is really
consumed out of the water primarily with safety and maintenance items. You can't win races
if you don't finish races. Boat and engine maintenance and general care are extremely
important. A smooth, flat, straight bottom surface is critical for top speed. A top
running engine that cranks out good RPM is only possible through proper maintenance
practices. Get to know every nut and bolt in your rig because you'll be visiting them
Lesson #3... The more time you spend, the more successful you're likely to be!
Above we learned three important lessons for those getting into stock outboard racing.
Lesson #1: Never pass up the opportunity to learn something new.
Lesson #2: You only get what you pay for.
Lesson #3: The more time you spend, the more successful you're likely to be.
One of the best things about stock outboard racing is that it doesn't take a fortune to be competitive. Sure, you do only get what you pay for but in this sport money doesn't guarantee success, it only allows you a better chance at success. So, if you're like most of us on a limited budget, how do you improve your chances for success especially as a new driver? Another easy answer...spend you money wisely! In my book, the best place (beyond your boat and engine) to invest your hard earned money is in one or two good propellers. Mile-for-mile, a propeller gives you the most bang for your buck! Today, the competition in virtually all classes is so close that a 1/2 mph difference can give you a winning edge. In most cases it's the propeller that makes that difference. Unless you are running in J class, stay away from 2-blade propellers, they just don't compare to the overall performance of a 3-blade propeller. You can custom order a racing prop or you can buy off the beach from another driver. Best to try it before you by it. Another wise investment is the purchase of an accurate competition style speedometer and a digital tachometer. Make sure that the MPH and RPM ranges of these instruments are appropriate for your setup. You can't do all that important testing if you don't have the proper gauges to tell you what the results are. Remember, a good propeller beats a nice paint job every time!
OK, now we're ready for the races. Why? Because we've done our homework, got answers to important questions, talked to other drivers, spent our money wisely on a good competitive setup and spent our time wisely with proper testing for the best possible race performance. We've also read the CBF or APBA rules on safety equipment and spent our money wisely on a proper helmet, racing life jacket and Kevlar pants and sleeves. So what if your trailer doesn't have chrome wheels and an aluminum motor box and so what if your boat doesn't look like Miss Budweiser... because none of those things matter when the clock goes to zero!
There is nothing anyone can tell you (about what to do during a race) that experience won't take care of. As a new driver it is unrealistic to expect instant results because the other drivers you are racing are naturally, at first, going to be better than you are. One thing that can help you bridge that gap a lot sooner is to treat each heat as a formal testing session. Pay attention to what your boat does or does not do in particular situations. A race offers much different water conditions than that of running just by yourself. Make mental notes about what you want to improve or work on (for you next testing session) after each heat. By treating each race as an opportunity to improve your setup it will make more competitive and a much more knowledgeable driver. Taking the view of improving your position with each race rather than trying to win the race is a safer plan for a novice driver. By following this approach, you'll see the checkered flag soon enough.
An article such as this wouldn't be complete without some discussion of the J class (where most new young drivers begin) and the ASH/ASR classes. These classes are connected in the sense that they use the same engine (OMC 15A) with the J class utilizing a restrictor plate in the carburetor to tone down the speed. Quite often, the same boats are also used for J and ASH and to a lesser extent for ASR. Being competitive with the top runners in J class can mean a special boat that is lighter than most A-class boats especially if the driver is heavier or if you want to be near the class minimum weight limits. It really depends on how long you intend to have your child race in J class. If you don't intend on running in the J-class any more than one or two years your best bet would be to start with an A-class boat. You may sacrifice some speed initially but you'll save the added expense of buying another boat when your child is ready to move up to ASH or ASR. Don't be mislead by the notion that ASH or ASR are "beginner" classes. Some of the best drivers in CBF and APBA compete in these classes with very intense and close competition being the norm. It is a "significant" jump from J to A so make sure your child is ready before you make the transition.
Good racing! Pat Kants
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