Speed, money, politics, powerful people and engines—from its beginning at the turn of the century, powerboat racing has careened on a rollercoaster ride of international prominence. Today, the sport continues under the direction of the Union Internationale Motonautique. From its seat in Monaco, the governing body intends to play a significant role in racing’s future.
A colorful past
Historically, a cast of characters infatuated with speed and competition has piloted the sport of powerboat racing. It was an Englishman and newspaper magnate, Sir Alfred Harmsworth, who in 1902 created the first powerboat-racing trophy to pit nation against nation. The trophy was hotly disputed between France and the UK for years. But the United States soon became a hotbed of power racing and remained so for decades. Racing boomed in the Roaring ’20s after boatbuilder and inventor “Gar” Wood (who enjoyed endurance runs from New York to Miami and even made a name for himself by racing a train) went to England to compete for the Harmsworth Trophy and won.