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driverThe primary concern for most racers is crossing the finish line first, but for Seattle Outboard Association and the American Power Boat Association, the primary concem is safety. Over the years, APBA has established several safety rules aimed to protect racers and enhance the sport of power boat racing.

All outboard racers are required to wear life jackets, helmets, and protective eye wear whenever driving a boat. Life jackets are designed to roll a driver over in the water, to float face up. At least 70% of the upper portion of the life jacket must be international orange or yellow in color. All life jackets must be re-certified by the manufacturer within three years of the date of intended use. Rules also require cut-resistant, anklelength pants and full-length sleeves while testing or racing in Stock and J classes. Pants and sleeves are made of K29 DuPont Kevlar, a woven material originally used for work with explosives and in the military as a lining inside tanks to prevent shell penetration. Security Race Products of Renton is a primary supplier of Kevlar racing gear.

Helmets are required to have Snell 75, 80, 85, or 90 ratings and must have a manufacture date of I 0 years or less from the date of intended use. The helmet must be a fluorescent or bright orange color. Eye protection in the form of a helmet face shield or goggles is mandatory.

Race boats also must meet certain safety specifications. One requirement is having a tether-activated kill switch that cuts off the ignition to the engine if the driver course and the race continues. If is thrown from the boat The kill the driver does not signal or is in a switch is mounted in the boat, forward of the driver, with the tether attached to the life jacket or wrist. The cord length, at full extension, cannot touch the engine.

The goal of racing is to “go fast, turn left, and stay right-side up,” but that is not always the case. In the event a driver of an open cockpit boat enters the water, the driver is required to give an “OK” signal by clasping the hands over the head. If a driver signals and is out of danger of other boats, the blue and white flag which denotes a hazard on the course, and the race continues. If the driver does not signal or is in a dangerous location, the heat is stopped immediately. In the case of boats with cockpit safety capsules, the heat is stopped instantaneously whenever a boat flips.

In the event that a driver does not signal, the rescue boat on the course proceeds at full power. SOA is fortunate to have an open bow rescue boat that allows for easy access to the injured driver. The front floor of the boat lowers in order to slide the driver into the rescue boat without having to lift or move the racer to any great degree. Any time a capsule boat is racing, the rescue boat must carry a certified driver.

While the top goal of racing is winning, safety is a big concern for all of us. The rules may sometimes seem burdensome, but when you see your friends come away from an accident with no injuries, you definitely feel thankful for your Kevlar and helmet! Overall, outboard racing is a safe and fun sport. In the 12 years I’ve been racing, I’ve witnessed very few serious injuries. After all, the idea is: “Go fast, turn left, and stay right side up!”

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