Tag Archives: thunderboat racing

Learning Inboard Thunderboat Circuits


The contest of speed can be found in many sports such as running, driving, sailing, riding, etc. This includes the world of boats aka Thunder boat races.

There are risks involved when participating directly in these types of races but a regulatory organization can usually be found, and strict safety measures in place. Can you imagine being a pilot in a high speed boat race?

Science behind Speed

Hydrodynamic ‘lift‘ increases when the speed of a hydroplane boat increases.. Water is used for lift, propulsion and steering, rather than for buoyancy. A high speed boat used in the ‘Inboard circuits‘ refers to hydroplanes that race on inland waters such as lakes and rivers. These are usually built as a light speedboat with a shaped bottom which helps lifts the hull out of the water at high speeds.

The use of different hulls will give each boat a different outcome but speed

Thunder boats ride on fluid not on solids, and they use aerodynamic, hydrodynamic, and propulsive forces. Attention to wind gusts and waves are also used. One must know the science of Physics involved and usually designers of such boats are Engineers.

Tweaking the Designs of Hydroplaning

A few shared features found on hydroplanes, is their ‘flat run aft‘. This refers to the near flat hull that runs in a near straight line from front to back (aft to stern) of the boat. The shape of the hull will cause the water into a ‘downward‘ flow creating an upward force, and mixed with speed, causes the vessel to ‘plane‘.

Most hydroplanes will have short ‘wings‘ called ‘sponsons‘ which uses the science of hydrodynamics, and helps the boat stay stabilized during ‘take off and landing‘. Sponsons are considered a main element in the over all design of this particular boat.

A second detail that can be found, is an adjustable ‘canard‘ wing which is placed between the sponsons. This helps raise and lower the sponsons in/out of the water for easier maneuverability with controlling speed and turning corners.

Most boats are built as ‘3 Point’ design meaning only 3 sections touch the water and this refers to the rear of the sponsons and propellor. Boat designers have learned that the less resistance in water attained meant more speed.

Other boats may use a hydrofoil design similar to an ‘air foil‘, which refers to ‘any surface that’s designed to help lift or control an air craft‘ and usually attached beneath the hull, which also helps lift the boat out of the water, when it’s moving forward, and helps reduce hull ‘drag‘. These can be quite expensive to have added to one’s boat.

racing thunder boats
racing thunderboats

Noise Factors of Thunder boat Racing Circuits

A noise factor occurs when attending a Grand Prix race car event and this can also be found when attending a hydroplane race. This is due to the engine designs used ranging from actual airplane engines to ordinary car engines and usually all liquid cooled V-12 engines.

The noise factor earned hydroplanes the nick name of ‘Thunderboats‘ and ‘Dinoboats‘. Today, some engines have incorporated the use of helicopter engines. These particular types of engines help the hydroplane easily enter the ‘planing‘ realm and apply the ‘power-to-weight‘ ratio to gain acceleration from velocity of their boat and overcome the forces of gravity and drag.

Turbine engines from airplanes and helicoptors are favored and used in building these particular race boats. These engines basic function is bring air into the engine, through a compressor and increase up to 3-12 times, it’s original pressure.

This helps propel the hydroplane with speeds up to 200 mph and still standing, record breaking speed, of 288.6 mph, by Ken Warby.

turbine engine -thunderboats
plane turbine engine for Thunderboats

A Course and the Circuit

A hydroplane racing event usually provides a course, that has the boats running in an oval shape for 4-6 laps around.

Food and gift vendors, music, along with beer gardens are available next to regular business sections of the hosting township.

Spectators can meet with boat crews, the pilot and viewings of boats. Some may even get opportunities to ride in one of the speed boats. Seating of spectators is provided for the most optimum viewing.

One that’s on water rather than tarmac. You may think you’ve gone to a car race till you see those boats flying across the water, and noisy as car races.

Early Days of High Speed Boat Racing

The early beginnings of hydroplane racing had high fatalities of the driver aka the ‘pilot‘ due to their boat ‘flipping‘. Today, there is a process that must be followed that ‘builds the skills and experience‘ of a new driver, slowly, and assure that knowledge of all rules and regulations is in place.

This is to help protect the life of the pilot though accidents cannot be foreseen and high risk is known. People still enter these races hoping to break records, win titles, enjoy the camaraderie of a team, enjoy the over all thrill of driving an extreme speed boat.

Check around your area to see if you have a Hydroplane race coming up or where your nearest one is being hosted. Experience a race that’s far different, though somewhat similar, from a car race.

Enjoy Thunderboats at Home

We can still enjoy the thrill, beauty and wonder of Thunderboats at home. There are computer boat racing games that can be found online, and race against other players aka multi-player sites.

Model kits are available to build replicas of Thunderboats from days of Yore and boats from recent years. There’s also Remote Control boats available for ‘racing‘ in a small pond or backyard pool. Check online or your nearest RC model stores.

Lastly, there is a Museum, The Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum. It’s considered as ‘the nation’s primary resource for historical and educational information on hydroplane racing‘. They have memorabilia from the ages of this type of racing, along with vintage and restored original Thunderboats, and information about the many ‘Pilots‘ of famous winners and their Thunderboat. Visit their site for Virtual visits and information.

Learning in Motion 

Extra Learning Resources

RCU Forums -Thunderboats

Absolutely Free Boat Plans

2022 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Schedule

The Aerodynamics of Unlimited Hydroplanes

20 Surprising Things Most People Don’t Know About Speed Boats

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