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What is a Sportsboat?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 23, 2024
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A sportsboat is typically a sailing or motor-powered, runabout-type boat designed and intended to be used for leisure and sporting activities. Commonly powered by a V-8 automobile type engine, the typical sportsboat is a high-powered and fast boat capable of pulling skiers as well as inflatable tow-behind toys. Often a mid-engine design to aid in balancing the boat, the sportsboat is a very maneuverable and agile boat capable of turning very quickly. Commonly constructed of fiberglass with a V-type hull, the sportsboat can navigate rough waters by slicing through the tops of the waves. This creates a much smoother ride for passengers, making the craft ideal for slow-pleasure cruising as well as high-speed thrill seeking.

Many of today's sportsboat owners are having large stainless steel or aluminum wakeboard towers installed that place the tow rope at a higher height than the typical towing point of a runabout-type boat. The tall tower allows the wakeboard rider to perform tricks that require a lot of speed by allowing the rider to nearly circle the boat. This gives a great deal of added speed to the wakeboard, allowing the rider to get higher out of the water for a greater period of time.

In a sailing version of the sportsboat, the planing hull design is commonly lightweight and includes a lifting keel to accommodate trailering. Often referred to as trailer yachts, the boats are stripped of many of the amenities and luxuries that traditional designs are known for. Due to the relaxed appointments, the sailing sportsboat uses the weight of the crew to offset the heeling forces created by their extra-large sail surface area. Another distinguishing trait of a sailing sportsboat is that it is self-righting. Larger versions of this type of craft are often referred to as sports-yachts.

Unlike their motor-powered cousins, sailing sportboats use a flat hull design. This hull design provides less drag than a traditional hull, though it often requires a deeper and heavier keel. The sailing sportsboat is akin to a race car when it comes to the interior of the craft. Basically nothing more than an empty hull, this type of vessel is built for speed, handling and maneuverability. Racing for this type of sailing vessel consists of single-day events with either one-, two- or three-hour races or four or five shorter races lasting from an hour to an hour and a-half.

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