“Powerboating” is a word I never heard in my youth but now it is one of the most important sectors of sport afloat! In this blog we have a look at it's past and it's rise to fame!


When I was growing up in a simpler world we had “Motorboats”, “Yachts”, “Sailing Dinghies” and punts. Now we have PWC's, RIBs. Powerboats, Motor boats, Motor Cruisers, Motor Yachts, Sailing Dinghies, Skiffs, Cruisers, Yachts, Superyachts and MegaYachts!

Seagull Outboard EngineTo me a “Powerboat” is anything that is powered by an engine. To distinguish it from a “Motor Cruiser” we could say  that it is a boat we do not sleep on – so it is mainly used for short hops. Back in the days of yore if we put an engine on a boat it was more likely to be a “Seagull” one and a half horsepower of to be really snazzy a 3hp engine! Faster “speedboats” had bigger engines and eventually other makes were available for smaller boats and were more”flash” looking and usually delivered more power. But it was still an “outboard on the back of a punt” 

The 1960's was a decade of change in every sense and the boating world saw huge changes – not least the increase in consumer spending. More people wanted to get afloat and wanted to use smaller, user friendly boats. We began to see outboard motors on bigger craft and many of these boats had flat hull sections aft to enable them to skim across the water or to “plane”. Once a boat got planing she could travel at high speed with less power. Among these were boats that were easily trailable making the water accessible to more people. Names like”Dell Quay Dory” became well known and boats began to multiply and the “Powerboat” was born. Dell Quay Dory

Many dive clubs used “inflatables' with outboard motors which would plane easily but were not rigid enough in big seas. The “speedboat” was good at cutting through waves but dangerous if stopped in rough conditions. Different materials were used – timber, plywood, rubber, fiberglass and aluminum. More and more people now gained access to the water and boats got faster but were they safer? This is a question that was asked at Atlantic College in Wales by Admiral Desmond Hoare – they sought a safer boat. What did they come up with – the combination of a deep V hull of a speedboat and the safe, stabilising tubes of an inflatable – the RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) was born. The “powerboat” had come of age. 

RIBNow that there was an easy way to get afloat people wanted to do it quickly – they didn't want to serve a long apprenticeship as in sailing and allied watersports. One can learn to drive a powerboat relatively quickly – it doesn't misbehave like a sailing dinghy – it wont capsize in the first gust of wind! But what about learning about the safety aspect? Well the RYA in the UK were very quick to step in to the breach in in the 1980's developed a Powerboat Scheme for training new and improving powerboaters. 

On my visits to some of the top sailing schools in the UK I saw this scheme in action and was determined that it would work in Ireland – so with the blessing of the Irish Sailing Association I headed off to be trained in Wales to be Ireland's first powerboat instructor. This was almost 20 years ago and now the National Powerboat Scheme is a very integral part of the setup at SailCork and other leading Irish establishments. We run courses from beginner to advanced instructor with our porgramme running all year round. We run courses for adults and also special courses for juniors. So do come aboard and join the Powerboat scheme and get your qualifications to save on your insurance premium, to have a ticket to hire a boat abroad – but most of all to learn in the correct way and learn to be safe afloat at all times!

If you are interested in getting qualifications we have a National Powerboat Course (for beginners and improvers – leading to the International Cert of Competence (ICC) which insurers and hirers of boats look for) over 2 days Sat 13 + Sun 14 Nov. 

We will be running a Safety Boat Course on Dec 11+12 for those of you who want to learn to drive a safety boat to help with sailors and other water users afloat.

The top end course the Advanced Powerboat Course (Navigation by day and night at high speed and advanced skills afloat) will be held at the end of Jan – Fri evening 21, Sat 22 and Sun 23. 

We will be running Powerboat Instructor Courses for the different levels too – see our Powerboat Instructor page. 

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