Thundercat racing -with a salty twist!

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    Just punched this into Google hoping to come up with images of speeding Yamahas (a few thundercats were raced in the late 90’s at the Iom), but came up with this!

    What is Thundercat Racing?

    Thundercat racing is a high adrenalin, high action sport with explosive wave jumping and tight competitive surf racing in a tunnel hulled inflatable boat. The crew consists of a driver steering the boat and a co-pilot who uses their weight to stabilise the craft and obtain optimum speed.



    Thundercats have taken New Zealand by storm, entertaining thousands of spectators at some of the most popular beaches around the country such as Whangamata, Omanu, Waihi, Waipu, Papamoa, Pauanui, Orewa, Takapuna Beach, Piha and Mount Maunganui.

    Thundercat Racing has been seen on various TV programs over the years such as the Nestle Lion Bar Thundercat Series aired on TV One’s Countrywide Grandstand, Prime TV and Sky Sport in 1998; the Challenge Series aired on TV One’s Countrywide Grandstand & Sky Sport in 1999, and the 2001 Trans-Tasman series aired on Suzuki Sportzone & Sky TV in 2001/2002. The NZ Championship Series was seen in 2003 and in early 2005 the King of the Cape SurfHaul at 90 Mile Beach was seen on SKY TV.

    There are four types of racing:-

    – SURF-CROSS (as seen on TV). Racing is run traditionally at surf beaches which provide spectacular jumps, thrills and spills with boats reaching 80kph in the surf. Surf-cross races start with a ‘Le-mans’ style start where the driver dashes out into knee deep water to the co-pilot holding the boat. The teams then battle it out over several laps on a rectangular shaped course running parallel to the shoreline in as little as 300mm of water. The finish is dramatic as boats skid up the beach for co-pilots to leap out the front of their boats and run to the FINISH line.

    – SPEED-CIRCUIT. More identified with traditional speed boats and raced on a buoyed course on flat water (ie Lake Karapiro).

    – LONGHAUL. Long distance racing on either rivers, lakes, bays, or down the coastline. During a longhaul event there are compulsory stops where competitors must come ashore. Some of these stops involve compulsory re-fuelling. Endurance, reliability and team organisation become very important. Longhaul races can range between 100 – 200km with generally a mass start of all competitors.

    – SURFHAUL. Unique to New Zealand, this type of race was first seen in 2004 and is run down the coastline where all boats must remain within 200 metres of the shoreline. Typically 60 km in length for the 1st leg, then refuel and repair and then head back down the beach to the finish line. Very demanding on crews and gear alike as a combination of rolling surf, changing tides and running in shallow waters can change the course in an instant. Great for support vehicles and spectators to follow along the beach in their vehicles

    There are two race classes:

    S-750 Class – For production short shaft outboard motors of between 551c – 750cc (Yamaha & Tohatsu 40/50hp) with very limited motor modifications. Re-boring is allowed as long as it is within the motor manufacturers specifications and original parts are used. This class has the most competitors.

    Bandit Class – For any production outboard motor rated at up to 60hp at the propshaft, with a standard production short shaft gearbox. Some motor modifications will be permitted.

    The Thundercat Racing Association, which has exclusive rights to marketing & promoting Thundercat Racing in NZ, allows all brands of qualifying boats and motors to race together just as they do in South Africa, Australia and USA. These include:-





    Southern Pacific

    A complete new rig including trailer, standard motor, hull, stainless propeller and prop guard can be purchased for around NZ$16,000 to NZ$19,000. This will get you an awesome boat that can be raced hard one day and used for less strenuous activities like fishing, water skiing and diving the next!

    Thundercat Racing began in South Africa in the early 80’s when local crews raced inflatable boats down treacherous rivers and along the rugged coastline. Since the days of those extreme thrill-seeking pioneers, inflatable boat technology has come a long way and the sport has crossed the oceans of the world to many countries including New Zealand.

    Our Organisation:
    While Thundercat Racing appears to be a wild looking sport, it simply masks what in reality is a highly regulated sporting organization, the TRA-NZ, who is affiliated to the New Zealand Power Boat Association, is recognized by Sport and Recreation NZ and is closely supported by marketing and promotional expertise.

    Public Image:
    Rules that protect the public image of Thundercat Racing are embodied into the codes of conduct and are strictly enforced by TRA-NZ to ensure the protection of the sport, and the investments made by the sponsors and advertisers. Safety and public perception is given top priority. The TRA-NZ is dedicated to full co-operation with environmental offices, local bodies, Harbour Masters and the representatives of the Maritime Safety Authority whenever racing is held.

    Thundercats have mass appeal to all ages, male and female, offering great summer entertainment. Sponsors and advertisers have been quick to secure their names on team race boats and race events, taking full advantage of the media frenzy, promotional opportunities and the thousands of spectators who now follow Thundercat Racing which is positioning itself to become one of the most prominent new sports of the twenty first century.

    Interested in Becoming a Member or if you’re simply after further information, don’t hesitate to contact the Club Secretary.

    Copyright © 2002-07 TRA-NZ
    all rights reserved
    Revised: February 2007


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