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Story: Powered water sports

Since New Zealander Bill Hamilton developed the jet boat in the 1950s, the country has dominated jet-boat racing. New Zealanders are also strong competitors in other powered water sports including power-boat racing and water skiing.

Story by Peter Clayworth
Main image: Thundercat racing, Mt Maunganui, January 2012

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Power-boat racing

Motor boats were developed in the 1880s. While they were mainly used for recreation, some people began to race them competitively. Power-boat racing clubs were set up around the country and races were held on harbours, the ocean, rivers and lakes.

New Zealanders and Australians compete for the E. C. Griffith Cup, first held in 1919, and the A. E. Baker Cup (which is for hydroplanes – boats which skim over the water’s surface). The Masport Cup, first contested in 1925, is the New Zealand championship power-boat race.

Other kinds of races include:

  • offshore races, which are generally long races on the ocean
  • thundercat races, which involve inflatable boats with outboard (external) motors.

Jet-boat racing

Jet boats are propelled by a jet of water thrust from the back of the boat, rather than by a propeller. They were developed by New Zealander Bill Hamilton in the 1950s. Jet boats are used for recreation and tourist trips on rivers, as well as racing.

Jet-boat races include:

  • rallies, which test a range of skills including boat manoeuvring, speed and first-aid
  • marathons, which are races over several days
  • jet sprinting, where a driver and a navigator race around a shallow-water course
  • jet-ski racing.

New Zealanders have dominated the sport for much of its history.

Water skiing

In water skiing the competitor is towed behind a boat.

Competitions consist of three events:

  • slaloms, where skiers ski through a course
  • tricks, where skiers perform flips and spins
  • the jump, where skiers jump as far as possible from a ski ramp.
  • barefoot skiing
  • water-ski drag racing, which is about speed
  • wakeboarding, where skiers use the wake from the boat to do jumps and tricks.

There are also other kinds of water skiing:

How to cite this page:

Peter Clayworth, 'Powered water sports', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/powered-water-sports (accessed 24 February 2017)

Story by Peter Clayworth, published 5 Sep 2013