Everything you need to know about... Thundercat racing

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The Independent Online

What is it?

An international powerboat championship in which adrenalin-filled teams of two, comprising a pilot and co-pilot, negotiate a 200 metres x 400m “M” circuit. It was born in 1980s South Africa, where amateurs took advantage of huge offshore surf to drive motorised, inflatable lifeboats. It has since expanded hugely to incorporate dozens of other countries.

What are the boats like?

The original boats were little more than lifesaving, single-hull craft that had to be capable of dealing with both calm waters and surf. In harsh conditions the boats have to resist powerful buffeting and often end up perpendicular to the sea. Over two decades, the technology has evolved hugely. Today’s boats plane across water, allowing their hulls to ride on an air-bubble cushion which lubricates the contact between vessel and water. So long as they comply with regulations, pilots are invited to enter any make of boat, engine and propeller.

Who are the stars?

Teams compete with an array of peculiar names. VoomVoom, whose pilot and co-pilot are pin-ups James Tapp and Byron Smith, are the champions.

When does it happen?

British national championships take place in summer, beginning with an event at Looe (CRCT), in Cornwall, on 2 May. International championships take place throughout the year. In New Zealand, a haven for enthusiasts, the fifth round of a national tournament began on 14 February.

How can I watch it?

Sky Sports 1 has highlights from the latest races in New Zealand on Tuesdays at 2pm. There are plenty of clips on YouTube, and much more can be found at thundercatracing.co.uk.