Sprint Boat Racing – Boating Like You’ve Never Seen Before!
It’s rare that after photographing a good number of different motorsports over the past 48 years that I attend one for the first time. Even better when it’s close to home and is at a high level of excitement and professionalism. Such is Sprint Boat racing at Extreme Sports Park in Port Angeles, Washington. Think of it like AutoCross racing for boats.
Though I’d seen it on screen, like most other motorsports, the live experience is far better. Located on the Olympic Peninsula the facility here is beautiful, the course surrounded on three sides by a man-made terraced bowl without a bad seat in the house. It was the dream of local business operator and racer Dan Morrison whose Wicked Racing is a World Champion Jet Sprint Boat team.
This event was one of a pair of two day races the track holds in 2023 and was attended by 38 entries in three classes. Though most came from the Pacific Northwest area, there were entries from western Canada and as far away as New Zealand (where the sport originated in 1973 with the advent of the jet drive).
Sanctioned by American Sprint Boat Racing, the three classes are Modified, 400 and Unlimited. Craft must be between 12 and 14 feet long. The engine rules in Unlimited reading: “Any engine minimum of 231ci must be forced induction, 350ci to 419ci must be fuel injected or must be multi carbureted running on methanol. All engines larger than 420ci have no restrictions.” Nitrous is not allowed in any class.
Oh yes, one striking thing is these boats have roll bars…for obvious reasons once you see them run. Also of note is the water depth is anywhere from just knee high to around four feet. The course is laid out so that there are several different configurations with as many as 26 turns. The quickest times are in the mid to high 30 second zone.
Staff here ranges from those who pull the boats in and out at the launch ramp, a flag starter, and the infamous ‘Island Hoppers’ named for the fact they kinda do just that as they assist in getting boats back into the water after the many off-track excursions.
All-in-all it’s a fabulous two days of entertainment that starts mid-morning and rarely goes to dinner time. The northwest is the hotbed of this kind of racing with a number of tracks in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
Photos by Larry Pfister