For those who love their adrenalin rush a little bit on the wet side, allow us to introduce you to the sport of sprint boat racing, otherwise known as jetsprint. Basically, a jetsprint is a race between jet boats, generally with a crew of two on board. The jet boats race against the clock along twisting courses at breakneck speeds, generally through very narrow waterways of no more than a metre in depth, and usually with thrilled spectators lining the banks.
A short history of jet boats
Jet boats got their name from the jet of water that shoots out the back of the boat, propelling the craft. While traditional motor boats use a propeller underneath the water, jet boats draw water from beneath the boat into a pump, and then it is expelled through a nozzle at the stern.
Because of this different style of motion, jet boats can be used on relatively shallow bodies of water; in fact, this is precisely the reason jet boats were invented in New Zealand in the 1950s, as the NZ waters were shallow and motor boats would often scrape rocks as they made their way down the channels.
The jet boat evolves
While the NZ jet boat was originally built for more practical purposes, the fact of the matter is that the design was so exciting that it didn't take long for the jet boat to take on more recreational purposes. For starters, jet boats are used around the world to give thrills to passengers who hop on the boat with an experienced driver and experienced the sharp turns, breakneck speeds and amazing 360-degree turns and tricks that are possible with the technology.
And then, of course, there is jetsprinting. The natural instinct of human beings to race whatever vehicles and craft they invent has led to many brilliant racing sports, but none are quite like jetsprinting. Racing is quick and raucous, with the boats usually powered by V8 motors well of over 500 hp.
The race generally involves predefined courses in channels with over 20 twists, turns and changes of direction. The boats take these turns at incredibly fast speeds -- in fact, the average course is completed in about 45 to 60 seconds.
The boats themselves are around four metres in length, with strakes on the sides that offer traction by preventing the boat from sliding across the water and out of control when high-speed turns are being conducted.
The jetboat's crew is always two -- one being the driver and the other being the navigator. As expected, the navigator's role is to help guide the driver through the winding course, usually with basic hand signals.
Jetsprinting in the past and today
Jetsprinting began in New Zealand in 1981 on the natural rivers for which the jetboat was originally invented, but when the sport made its way across to Australia a few years later artificial courses needed to be made, and these days artificial courses are made for most jetsprinting events. The USA is also competitive in the world of jetsprinting, with New Zealand, Australia and the US competing in a three-way world championship.