The Race

Speed, strategy, driving skill and a hint of danger make up the elements of outboard boat racing; these combine to create a sport that is as thrilling for the spectators as the participants. Races run two heats of three laps. There are as many as twelve boats on the course during a heat all trying to enter turn one in first place. Those following behind bounce around in the lead boat’s wake and are caught in the traffic jam going in the first turn. They’re also running on aerated water which gives less bite to their propeller. The lead boat runs on solid water with a clear view of the course. When you see a boat head for the outside to find “solid water,” it may be the long way around, but with luck, skill and a fast boat, it may be the fastest way to the finish line.

Starts are traditionally clock starts. A horn will sound signaling the drivers to leave the pits. Drivers are given three minutes to get their boats on the course and in position for the start. The first two minutes of this “milling” period are run under a Green Flag. With one minute until the start, the White Flag is raised. The object of this period is to get to the Starting Line just as the clock strikes zero. Too early, you jump the gun and are disqualified. Too late and you’ve given the advantage to your competitors.

There are no lanes assigned to drivers. You fight to get your lane and have to clearly establish it 500 feet before the Start Line. This can often be the most exciting part of the race for the spectator. Once the boats start, it’s on to the first turn, with boats still battling for their lanes through the turn. The inside lane is the shortest route and the toughest to obtain. Everyone wants to be there.

One of the unique things about boat racing is that while the outline of the course remains the same, the water is constantly changing, forcing drivers to stay sharp: watching the waves as well as the other boats. Since the race at Newberg is run on the Willamette, in Turn 1 the current is driving the boats toward the inside course markers and in Turn 2 it drives them out away from them. This makes racing at Rogers Landing very tricky compared to a similar race run where there is no current.

Race Flags                    

Three minutes before the start, the three-minute horn is sounded and the green flag is raised. One minute before the start the white flag is raised and is dropped when the clock hits zero indicating the start of the race. If any boat starts before the official start they are disqualified or penalized. The white flag is also raised to indicate the last lap. As each boat finishes, a checkered flag is raised.