How to im­prove your top speed.

Boating - - FRONT PAGE -

Whether run­ning a ded­i­cated go-fast boat, a sport boat or a hard-charg­ing cen­ter-con­sole, many boaters would like to garner more per­for­mance from their craft but aren’t sure where to start.

MMaybe it won’t plane quickly enough, the rough-water han­dling is un­pre­dictable, or the pro­peller ven­ti­lates in hard turns. For many, top speed is the is­sue; who wouldn’t want a few more miles per hour? What­ever your speed con­cern, it can prob­a­bly be im­proved — though it may not be cheap or easy. Here are eight tips for im­prov­ing speed and ac­cel­er­a­tion.


What once was a pain (a friend with a cam­corder) is now easy-peasy. Have your buddy use a phone to video your boat at speed so you can cri­tique its per­for­mance. This is a great way to show setup ex­perts and prop shops. Look to see if all or most spray ex­its the boat at the tran­som (none or very lit­tle ex­it­ing the hull from the sides means more ef­fi­ciency). If there’s a rooster tail, it should be long and low — be­hind the boat 20 to 40 feet and no higher than the top of the out­board cowl — not high like a jet boat’s noz­zle spray. The boat’s bow should be rid­ing (“car­ry­ing”) at an an­gle of ap­prox­i­mately 3 to 5 de­grees pos­i­tive in­cline, max­i­mum. If you see any­thing other than these vis­ual clues, the boat-and-mo­tor setup is not right. More per­for­mance is there for the tak­ing, and pros can show you how.


Your pro­peller is the trans­mis­sion that con­verts power into mo­tion. Check that your prop’s blades are in good con­di­tion — clean and sharp, with no dings or nicks. If not, it may be time for a tuneup at a prop shop.

What type of pro­peller do you have? Is it right for your per­for­mance ap­pli­ca­tion? A round-ear pro­peller is good for over­all lift, delivers strong per­for­mance un­der vary­ing con­di­tions, and ex­cels at low-end and midrange ac­cel­er­a­tion per­for­mance. Cleaver-style pro­pel­lers work well on light boats, or boats that have a lot of nat­u­ral lift built in (e.g., tun­nel hulls or cata­ma­rans). Cleavers typ­i­cally do not ac­cel­er­ate well but pro­vide op­ti­mum top speeds. Larger, thicker blades with more sur­face area are bet­ter for larger, heav­ier hulls with larger gear cases. Smaller blades with less di­am­e­ter and sur­face area will not pro­vide enough thrust to carry larger hulls.

Dis­cuss your boat’s per­for­mance with ex­perts at a prop shop and show them your props to de­ter­mine what changes are needed and what re­sults are re­al­is­tic. Last, re­mem­ber the old racer’s adage: Never turn down the op­por­tu­nity to try an­other pro­peller.


Tun­ing your boat’s bot­tom is a time-con­sum­ing and back-break­ing chore but can yield

strong re­sults. Gains of 3 to 5 mph would cost thou­sands in pro­peller and en­gine modifications but cost merely hun­dreds in time and ma­te­ri­als. The goal is to achieve a straight, sharp and crisp bot­tom from the tran­som to at least 6 feet for­ward. The tran­som, chine and strake edges should be filled and sanded un­til they are sharp so water does not cling to the cor­ners. A straight­edge pressed against the hull will re­veal humps and hol­lows to be filled or taken down.


Out­board­ers can ben­e­fit from the ad­di­tion of an en­gine set­back/jack plate, ei­ther man­u­ally or elec­tro-hy­drauli­cally ad­justable. With re­mote elec­tro-hy­draulic ad­just­ment, minute changes can be made on the fly to com­pen­sate for chang­ing water and load con­di­tions. A jack plate should be con­sid­ered a must-have for most out­board per­for­mance buffs.


Most boaters carry too much stuff. Rid your craft of ex­tra weight that robs speed. Years ago, we con­ducted tests on a fast bass boat. An old friend with the same boat as our tester ap­proached me af­ter­ward and called our speed re­sults baloney. After un­load­ing well over 250 pounds of gear on the dock, he achieved speeds within 1 mph of ours. Les­son learned: Re­duce weight, and for the gear you must carry, place it strate­gi­cally to max­i­mize bow lift and speed.


An­other old racer’s adage: You can’t win the race if you can’t drive the boat. Boat con­trol is key to a safe and fast ride. Be sure your steer­ing sys­tem is up to the task and ad­justed reg­u­larly to re­move all po­ten­tial slack. Make sure your en­gine is mounted se­curely to the hull, with solid mounts if nec­es­sary. For the best driv­ing con­trol, strongly con­sider a foot-con­trol throt­tle and re­mote-mounted power trim, jack plate and trim-tab con­trols (on the steer­ing wheel, steer­ing col­umn or floor). Last, in­stall and wear an en­gine emer­gency-cut­off switch.


If your boat’s steer­ing wheel tends to pull hard to one di­rec­tion, that’s en­gine torque. A torque tab, mounted to the gear-case skeg, will help ease that ten­sion on the wheel and aid in driv­ing. For those boats ca­pa­ble of speeds over 70 mph, other gear-case modifications — like ex­tended nose cones with low-water in­take pick­ups — will add speed and han­dling.


Boats that ex­pe­ri­ence han­dling prob­lems such as poor plan­ing, list­ing, chine walk­ing and dif­fi­cult rough-water driv­ing will ben­e­fit from the ad­di­tion of dashad­justable trim tabs. The tabs can be de­ployed down­ward for quicker plan­ing and to smooth out an up-sea run, and can be ad­justed up­ward to let the bow rise and re­duce the wet­ted hull sur­face. —John Tiger

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