Hi-Performance Boat Operation – Part 1: Introduction

It’s boat show season – the perfect time of year to check out the latest performance boats and Mercury Racing propulsion. For those of you who are about to purchase your first performance hull, congratulations!

With Winter in full swing, now is the time to review the basics of high-performance boat operation to ensure you and your passengers have safe experiences out on the water.  We include a Guide to Hi-Performance Boat Operation with every engine we ship. We encourage new and current owners to review the book and then take in-boat driving lessons from your local high-performance dealer or boat builder.

Our operation guide is packed with general performance boating information, including  propellers, hull types and overall boat performance. Let’s first review the various performance-boat hull configurations.


Project 1080, Florida Powerboat Club’s official pace boat is a year 2000 Cigarette 38 Top Gun with a traditional vee bottom hull.

The traditional vee-bottom is the most common hull design. It offers good speed and a softer ride, especially in rough water. The softness of the ride depends on the angle of the “V” (called deadrise), radius of the keel line and the use of strakes.

If your boating is mostly in larger bodies of water such as the Great Lakes or open seas, you may want to consider a boat with this hull type.

This Outerlimits race boat features the stepped vee-bottom hull design.

The most recent change in this design over the past decade has been the incorporation of strategically placed notches or steps in the hull. The steps create air bubbles, raising the hull off the water on a drag-reducing cushion.

Some high performance hulls such as Allison feature a vee-bottom with a pad at the rear of the hull. The boat is designed to run up on the pad, minimizing drag for maximized speed and performance.

Some vee-bottom hulls feature a small flat area toward the rear of the keel called a pad. Similar to steps, the pad reduces the wetted surface area the hull runs on, increasing top speed with minimal effect on the ride quality. Mercury Racing offers a full array of outboard and sterndrive propulsion options for the vee-bottom boater.


Outboard tunnel boats are the fastest-turning race vehicles on earth. The sharp, 90-degree transfer where the tunnel sides meet the bottom of the sponsons helps the boat settle in the water as it enters a turn.

F1H20 competitor Thani Al Qemzi slams his DAC tunnel boat through a turn at the 2018 Grand Prix of Sharjah race event.

The submerged sponsons make the boat turn as if it were on rails. It is common for drivers to experience 4.5 to 5Gs as they enter a turn at 120 mph and come out at 90+ mph. Obviously, only experienced racers should consider this type of hull.


I like to refer to catamarans (or cats as they are often called) as tunnel boats on steroids. The design principal is similar. The boat rides on two sponsons or hulls separated by a tunnel. Air entering the tunnel generates lift as speed increases. The wetted surfaces and hull drag are reduced, for enhanced speed and ride quality. This design is not for the novice operator.

Catamaran boats ride on two sponsons or hulls separated by a tunnel. Air entering the tunnel generates lift as speed increases. The wetted surfaces and hull drag are reduced, for enhanced speed and ride quality.

The air entrapment hull is sensitive to engine trim, wind, and water conditions. In general, they produce a smoother and faster ride over a vee-bottom in calm to mild chop. The vee bottom is king in rough water.

The fastest recreational cats on the water today are powered by the venerable dual calibration 1550 sterndrive. The V8 4.6L 300R FourStroke is a popular choice for those who choose outboard power for entry into the cat experience.

In Hi-Performance Boat Operation – Part 2: Rigging Fit & Function, I will review the important things to consider when preparing your new Mercury Racing outboard – or sterndrive-powered boat for the upcoming season.



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3 thoughts on “Hi-Performance Boat Operation – Part 1: Introduction”

  1. good morning guys, in the meantime I wanted to congratulate you all for the excellent work you do giving us the opportunity to be able to solve our problems even from afar. i have a 24 foot boat with av hull with pad in the back, the weight of the inflatable boat including outboard is 2500 lbs, the outboard is a mercury 300r with sport master foot and hydromotive propeller step 24 with 4 blades, the speed is about 70 mph. I know that the sport master foot is not appropriate for this configuration but I await the replacement with the 544hd. While waiting, I wanted some advice on what could be the right propeller since I can’t get the bow of the boat up and therefore the hull remains immersed, unable to go fast enough, thanks.

    1. Massimiliano,

      The HD gear case will solve your problem. The size of the Sport Master generates more stern lift when submerged, thus causing your issues. If you really want to make the most out of the Sport Master while you still have it, an easy improvement would be to cut the barrel down on your Hydromotive. Somewhere between 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch. Any skilled shop should be able to handle that.


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