Overrun by the Poker Run

Poker run boats are among the world's most highly engineered ways of turning money and fuel into noise and pollution. They also happen to exhibit some of the best craftsmanship and rigging in the powerboat world today. And we just had a hundred, maybe more, of these beasts roar through Kingston.

Donzi 38 ZR (2007)

The poker run isn't a "race", per se. Nobody's scored on time or speed; the winner is the boat that has the best hand after picking up five playing cards from five waypoints along the course. Of course, the nature of the classes- "over 80" versus "under 80" (mph cruise speed)- attracts a certain type of boat , and it's a type not generally associated with leisurely cruising.

Needless to say, things got a bit tight between the docks at Confederation Basin, with many of the poker run boats being more than double the length of the finger piers. Marina regulars were shunted to outer docks for the weekend to help keep things orderly and navigable.

Busy docks at Confederation Basin

A few of the more serious racing teams have enclosed cockpits, for obvious reasons- it's not uncommon for boats like this to cruise well north of 100 mph (the hot boat culture is mainly US-based, and they use American statute miles). At such high speeds, insects become dangerous projectiles, wind-driven spray is a serious hazard, and slight driver errors can have the boat going end-over-end. Some of the smarter designers specify relatively flat decks, such as on the boat below, to make maintenance and dockside tasks safer and easier.

Poker run boat exiting Confederation Basin

Someone's always trying to sell you something at a boat show. This one's no different, except for the details of the merchandise: here, a 46-foot Douglas Skater catamaran with a pair of Seatek diesels, Arneson #8 drives, and a price tag too large to fit on the hullsides.

46-foot Douglas Skater catamaran

46-foot Douglas Skater catamaran

The hose running down atop the trim ram will no doubt raise eyebrows among those used to more conventional drives- why would one intentionally suck air into the props? But the Arnesons are meant to run this way- the blades acutally leave the water at high speeds, running fully aerated. At lower speeds, they need a bit of help from that vent hose. The rigging on all these boats is meticulous- every bit of stainless steel precisely machined and polished, every hydraulic hose secured in place, every bit of wiring protected by anti-chafe conduits and clamps.

The bridgedeck structures of these cats have something of an airfoil shape to them. At the speeds these boats run at, aerodynamics matter just as much as the underwater shape, and the bridgedeck provides a significant fraction of the boat's lift.

Racing catamarans at Confederation Basin

Only during the poker run does a boat like this 50' carbon-fibre Mystic appear perfectly normal. At least, it does at first. Time for a "what's odd about this picture" test- notice anything to indicate that this isn't your average power cat? (Other than the mountaineer-style piton cleats, the mast full of cameras, and the mirror-finish paint scheme.)

200 mph racing catamaran

Good for you if you caught the exhaust ducts from the twin 1900 hp Lycoming helicopter turbines, which are coupled to custom TNT surface drives. The boat's crew have clocked her at a hair over 200 mph, and she's crossed to Bimini- and back- in under 44 minutes.

200 mph racing catamaran

Needless to say, I stayed off the water for the duration of the event.

More details to come in a future post.


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