A motorboat has one engine or more that propel the vessel over the top of the water. Boat engines vary in shape, size and type. Engines are installed either inboard or outboard. Inboard engines are part of the boat construction, while outboatboard engines are secured to the transom and hangs off the back of the boat. Motorboat engines run on gasoline or diesel fuel. Engines come in various types. Engines vary in fuel type such as: gasoline, diesel, gas turbine, rotary combustion or steam. Motorboats are commonly used for recreation or racing. Boat racing is a sport where drivers and engineers compete for fastest boat. The American Powerboat Association (APBA) splits the sport into categories. The categories include: inboard, inboard endurance, professional outboard, stock outboard, unlimited outboard performance craft, drag, modified outboard and offshore. Engines and hulls categorize racing. The two types of hull shape are runabout and hydroplane. Runabout is a v-shape and hydroplane is flat and stepped.[1] The type of hull used depends on the type of water the boat is in and how the boat is being used. Hulls can be made of wood, fiberglass or metal but most hulls today are fiberglass.[2]

High performance speedboats can reach speeds of over 50 knots.[3] Their high speed and performance can be attributed to their hull technology and powerful engine. With a more powerful and heavier engine, an appropriate hull shape is needed.[4] High performance boats include yachts, HSIC (high speed interceptor craft) and racing powerboats.

A V-type hull helps a boat cut through the water. A deep V-hull helps keep the boat’s bow down at low speeds, improving visibility. V-hulls also improve a boat’s speed and maneuvering capabilities. They stabilize a boat in rough conditions.

Hull Type

The type of hull depends on the usage and type of water that the boat is being used in. Types of hulls include displacement hulls, vee-bottom hulls, modified vee-bottom hulls, deep-vee hulls and trim tabs for vee-bottom hulls. Hulls can be made of different materials. The three main materials are wood, reinforced fiberglass and metal. Wood hulls may be made of planks or plywood. Fiberglass hulls are reinforced with balsa wood. Metal hulls are either aluminum or steel.[2]


Powerboat racing engine categories for inboard and outboard engines range from 7.5 cu in to 60 cu in. Categories range from 44 cu in to 450 cu in for inboard only. The two types of motorboat races are speed races and predicted-log race. Speed races involve boats with powerful engines competing for quickest time and take place on freshwater bodies of water on a closed course. Races are marked by buoys. For unlimited hydroplanes the race distance ranges from 5 miles to 30 miles. Hydroplanes are drag raced. Predicted-log races involve slow cabin cruisers. Predicted-log races is a competition of planning and carrying out a sea voyage. The contestants evaluate different factors and variables that they will encounter along the way. The contestant with the least error at the end of the race is the winner. [1]


Some motorboats are also sailboats. A whole new set of factors applies when you add a sail. Sailboats with motors can both sail and motor in all conditions. It is a very adaptable vessel. With a motorsailer, there are trade-offs. Motorsailers, like many hybrids, tend to be inefficient in special conditions where either a sail only or motor only boat would be ideal. The deck and superstructure provide a place to man the sails, walk around up top and also determine the amount of living space beneath. [5]


This article in “Boat International” features 6 highly engineered and fancy power yachts. A different author writes each boat review. Kate Lardy starts off her review with a list of stats including:. The captain takes her for a ride in Biscayne Bay off Miami’s coast. Lardy notices that the boat is quite fast as they reach speeds over 45 knots. The Pershing 82 is a power force to be reckoned with, as it shoots water 30 feet into the air. This particular Pershing 82 was custom built with more horsepower and with a top speed of 52.5 knots. They call it the VHP for “very high performance”. Inside the helm Lardy feels relaxed, she cannot even tell that the boat is moving over 50 knots. The vice president of North American sales for the parent company, Ferrari Group, Randy Colman, verifies the phenomenon that Lardy is feeling. He says ‘…poke your head around the corner and you’ll feel it.’ The yacht is powered by two MTU 16V 2000 M96L engines, which generate 2,600 hp each. The top deck features a pop-up navigation system. The boat can turn on a dime at high speeds and provides a smooth ride. The Top System surface drives feature Autotrim which adjust the trim and roll automatically making for an even smoother ride and reducing drag. The drives, engines, deep V-shaped hull and even placement of the furniture all contribute to the 82’s the high speed and smooth ride. The hull is made of ‘one solid piece of fiberglass’, says Coleman. The living spaces feature luxury furniture from Italian and French manufacturers. This article on the Pershing 82 addresses my interest in V-type hulls and how a deep V can help a boat cut smoothly through the water. The geometry of the Pershing’s V hull helps keep the bow down at low speeds, improving the driver’s vision. This article is from a popular magazine. The information I got from this article is unique because it gives a first person experience from a boating layperson. The author of the article gets an interactive tour from an expert and chance to review the yacht.[3]

Military Application

A fast craft is a vessel capable of speeds over 30 knots. HSICs (High Speed Interceptor Craft) however, trump fast craft with speeds of over 50 knots. HSICs are usually either custom or law enforcement craft. Law enforcement use these extremely fast boats to catch criminals such as smugglers or drug traffickers who use fast craft as well. The military have started to use HSICs to stop international threats such as pirates, militias, terrorists and weapons traffickers. Originally HSICs were not meant to carry large weapons. Now that the military is using them, they are being built with heavy machine guns. The boats have to be fitted with robust weight control and at the same time have heavy amour. HSICs must do without propellers to account for cavitation and vibrations.  Instead HSICs use surface drivers or water jets. This article addresses my interest in different types of boat technology. It helped me understand that the sky is the limit when it comes to boat engineering. This is a scholarly journal. This article provides very unique information on military very high-powered boats. [4]


V-type Hulls.

The great things about V-hull powerboats is their speed and capability of maneuvering in severe sea conditions. V-type hull technology is a constantly evolving and improving industry. Manufacturers center their research on advanced engines and drive components. The trade-off is more powerful engines are heavier. V-type hulls were developed to account for the heavier engines. Initially, boat hulls were developed by trial and error. Nowadays the process is controlled, precise and meticulous. Today’s boat hull engineers use structural and aerodynamic modeling. These high tech methods lower design costs and save time. This article was exactly what I was looking for. It touched on both engine size and hull shape. This is a scholarly article. [6]

Engine Swapping

Powerboat racing is a 100 year old sport. It originated in the New York City area, where yachts were growing in popularity. In the early twentieth century the original boat races APBA Challenge Cup and the International Harmsworth Race were created. Gar Wood, who made a fortune from his dump truck hydraulic invention also modified water-cooled aircraft engines for use in speed boats. This modification made race boats lighter and faster. The Harmsworth races in Detroit became a spectacle that people came from all over to watch. Due to regulation, Gold Cup boats could not progress in engine size and hull design. Small boats however had the openness to experiment. Over the late 1940s, boats made large progressions in speed and technology. This article addressed my curiosity in the evolution of motorboats. This is a scholarly journal. This source is unique because it tells the history of motorboats. [7]

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Lazzara 80 Sky Lounge enclosed bridge
A motorboat with an outboard motor

A motorboat, speedboat, or powerboat is a boat which is powered by an engine. Some motorboats are fitted with inboard engines, others have an outboard motor installed on the rear, containing the internal combustion engine, the gearbox and the propeller in one portable unit.

An inboard-outboard contains a hybrid of a powerplant and an outboard, where the internal combustion engine is installed inside the boat, and the gearbox and propeller are outside.

There are two configurations of an inboard, V-drive and direct drive. A direct drive has the powerplant mounted near the middle of the boat with the propeller shaft straight out the back, where a V-drive has the powerplant mounted in the back of the boat facing backwards having the shaft go towards the front of the boat then making a V towards the rear. The V-drive has become increasingly popular due to wakeboarding and wakesurfing.[citation needed][dubious ]

Motorboats vary greatly in size and configuration, from the four-meter, open center console type to the luxury mega-yachts capable of crossing an ocean.



Model of the first motor boat constructed by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in 1886.

Although the screw propeller had been added to an engine (steam engine) as early as the 18th century in Birmingham, England, by James Watt, boats powered by a petrol engine only came about in the later part of the 19th century with the invention of the internal combustion engine.

The earliest boat to be powered by a petrol engine was tested on the Neckar River by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in 1886, when they tested their new "longcase clock" engine. It had been constructed in the former greenhouse (converted into a workshop) in Daimler's back yard.[8] The first public display took place on the Waldsee in Cannstatt, today a suburb of Stuttgart, at the end of that year.[9] The engine of this boat had a single cylinder of 1 horse power. Daimler's second launch in 1887 had a second cylinder positioned at an angle of 15 degrees to the first one, and was known as the "V-type".

The first successful motor boat was designed by the Priestman Brothers in Hull, England, under the direction of William Dent Priestman. The company began trials of their first motorboat in 1888.[10] The engine was powered with kerosene and used an innovative high-tension (high voltage) ignition system. The company was the first to begin large scale production of the motor boat, and by 1890, Priestman's boats were successfully being used for towing goods along canals.[11]

Another early pioneer was Mr. J. D. Roots, who in 1891 fitted a launch with an internal combustion engine and operated a ferry service between Richmond and Wandsworth along the River Thames during the seasons of 1891 and 1892. [12]

The eminent inventor Frederick William Lanchester recognized the potential of the motorboat and over the following 15 years, in collaboration with his brother George, perfected the modern motorboat, or powerboat. Working in the garden of their home in Olton, Warwickshire, they designed and built a river flat-bottomed launch with an advanced high-revving engine that drove via a stern paddle wheel in 1893. In 1897, he produced a second engine similar in design to his previous one but running on benzene at 800 r.p.m. The engine drove a reversible propeller. An important part of his new engine was the revolutionary carburettor, for mixing the fuel and air correctly. His invention was known as a "wick carburetor", because fuel was drawn into a series of wicks, from where it was vaporized. He patented this invention in 1905.[12]

The Daimler Company began production of motor boats in 1897 from its manufacturing base in Coventry. The engines had two cylinders and the explosive charge of petroleum and air was ignited by compression into a heated platinum tube. The engine gave about six horse-power. The petrol was fed by air pressure to a large surface carburettor and also an auxiliary tank which supplied the burners for heating the ignition tubes. Reversal of the propeller was effected by means of two bevel friction wheels which engaged with two larger bevel friction wheels, the intermediate shaft being temporarily disconnected for this purpose. It was not until 1901 that a safer apparatus for igniting the fuel with an electric spark was used in motor boats.[12]


Dorothy Levitt won the first Harmsworth Cup, driving the Napier motor yacht in 1903.

Interest in fast motorboats grew rapidly in the early years of the 20th century. The Marine Motor Association was formed in 1903 as an offshoot of the Royal Automobile Club. Motor Boat & Yachting was the first magazine to address technical developments in the field and was brought out by Temple Press, London from 1904. Large manufacturing companies, including Napier & Son and Thornycroft began producing motorboats.[11]

The first motorboating competition was established by Alfred Charles William Harmsworth in 1903. The Harmsworth Cup was envisioned as a contest between nations, rather than between boats or individuals. The boats were originally to be designed and built entirely by residents of the country represented, using materials and units built wholly within that country.[13]

The first competition, held in July 1903, at Cork Harbour in Ireland, and officiated by the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland and the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, was a very primitive affair, with many boats failing even to start.[13] The competition was won by Dorothy Levitt in a Napier launch designed to the specifications of Selwyn Edge. This motorboat was the first proper motorboat designed for high speed.[10] She set the world's first water speed record when she achieved 19.3 mph (31.1 km/h) in a 40-foot (12 m) steel-hulled, 75-horsepower Napier speedboat fitted with a three-blade propeller. As both the owner and entrant of the boat, "S. F. Edge" was engraved on the trophy as the winner.[14]

John Hacker's 1911 Kitty Hawk was the fastest boat in the world between 1911 and 1915.

An article in the Cork Constitution on 13 July reported "A large number of spectators viewed the first mile from the promenade of the Yacht Club, and at Cork several thousand people collected at both sides of the river to see the finishes."[15][16][17][18] Levitt was then commanded to the Royal yacht of King Edward VII where he congratulated her on her pluck and skill, and they discussed the performance of the motorboat and its potential for British government despatch work.[19][20]

France won the race in 1904, and the boat Napier II set a new world water speed record for a mile at almost 30 knots (56 km/h), winning the race in 1905.

The acknowledged genius of motor boat design in America, was the naval architect John L. Hacker. His pioneering work, including the invention of the V-hull and the use of dedicated petrol engines revolutionized boat design from as early as 1908, when he founded the Hacker Boat Co. In 1911, Hacker designed the Kitty Hawk, the first successful step hydroplane which exceeded the then-unthinkable speed of 50 mph (80 km/h) and was at that time the fastest boat in the world. The Harmsworth Cup was first won by Americans in 1907.[13] The US and England traded it back and forth until 1920. From 1920-1933, Americans had an unbroken winning streak. Gar Wood won this race eight times as a driver and nine times as an owner between 1920 and 1933.


See also


  1. ^ a b Wagnalls (2017). "Motorboat Racing". World Book: 1. 
  2. ^ a b West, James (1975). Modern Powerboats. International Marine Publishing Company. 
  3. ^ a b Lardy, Kate (2018). "Boat International". 
  4. ^ a b Annati, Massimo (2007). "When Speed Matters". Military Technology. 2007: 123–130. 
  5. ^ Pike, David (1976). Motorsailers. Stanford Maritime Limited. 
  6. ^ French, R.M. (2007). "Flow Visualization on a Powerboat". Experimental Techniques. 10.1111: 1747–1567. 
  7. ^ Honhart, Frederick (28 January 2010). "From Sport to Business: Evolution of Unlimited Hydroplane Racing 1946–60". The journal of Popular Culture. 10.1111: 1540–5931. 
  8. ^ http://media.daimler.com/dcmedia/0-921-1303725-1-1303019-1-0-0-0-0-1-11694-614318-0-1-0-0-0-0-0.html?TS=1302091862634 Daimler AG homepage on Daimler Gedächtnis Stätte in English
  9. ^ Reuß, H.-J. Automobil und Motorschiff haben dieselben Wurzeln. In: Hansa, issue 2/2011, p. 20–21, Schiffahrts-Verlag Hansa, Hamburg 2011, ISSN 0017-7504
  10. ^ a b "Catalogue of the naval and marine engineering collection in the London Science museum". Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 
  11. ^ a b "Motorboat" (PDF). 
  12. ^ a b c Bernard B. Redwood. "A Short History of Motor Boating". 
  13. ^ a b c [1]
  14. ^ "Where it all began!". 
  15. ^ The British International Harmsworth Trophy
  16. ^ Hydroplane History, From Rowboats to Roostertails – A Brief History of Unlimited Hydroplane Racing, [1986] by Fred Farley, APBA Unlimited Historian
  17. ^ Hydroplane History – Duby Looks Back 25 Years [1987], One speed record that still stands by Larry Paladino
  18. ^ Scarf and Goggles, Dorothy Levitt – The Fastest Girl on Water. Profile of Levitt's Motor Yachting races.
  19. ^ The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England),Saturday, November 17, 1906; pg. 309; Issue 2373. The Sensational Adventures of Miss Dorothy Levitt, - Champion Lady Motorist of the World. Available at British Library, British Newspapers, [2] Search for Dorothy Levitt
  20. ^ Autosport, The Nostalgia Forum, Historical Research, Complete transcription of The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (London, England), Saturday, November 17, 1906; pg. 309; Issue 2373. The Sensational Adventures of Miss Dorothy Levitt, - Champion Lady Motorist of the World

External links

  • The dictionary definition of motorboat at Wiktionary
  • Media related to Motorboats at Wikimedia Commons