Flying starts are exciting, but not likely to make a comeback anytime soon - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Flying starts are exciting, but not likely to make a comeback anytime soon

There's been a lot of talk lately about a desire on part of many fans to bring back the flying starts - boats hitting the start line at full speed and racing to grab the inside lane.

"I wish they would go back to flying starts," said U-6 driver Steve David.  "Fans like it and it's the legacy of the sport."

But it doesn't appear likely.  In fact, the new MU-6 is designed for the 25-28 mph "trolling" starts.  With today's boats and engines being able to accelerate quickly - to go from 70 to 200 mph in mere seconds, the days of the flying start being an advantage have largely been relegated to the history books, according to David.

"I think the flying starts - the more times that happens - the better the sport looks," said U-6's Larry Oberto.  And it brings excitement to the start for the fans, who sometimes grumble about the incredible speed of the unlimiteds being limited for the start.  It can be frustrating watching a boat capable of going 200 mph crawl along at 20 mph to line up for the start.

And David paints a great portrait.  "These are unlimited hydroplanes," he said.  "Six or seven boats, hauling up to the start, huge roostertails, everybody 180-190 up to the start.  Everybody wide open to start is pretty exciting."

Oberto called it "park and point" driving.  And it's likely to stay that way. 

"If everyone fights for the same lane, hopefully there won't be just a lot of paint swapping," said Oberto.

In Steve David's own words, from an email posting on the Miss Madison forum:

Trolling starts began in the limited hydros in the late 70's to early 80's. When I drove my own boats, or set up ones I drove, we did so anticipating a troll start and then had quick acceleration to protect our lane into turn 1.

For the current fleet of Unlimiteds, unless the inside guy/gal is off at the start, it's nearly impossible to out drag them from a trolling start and get the overlap before the first turn.

The rules have changed that we can now overtake another boat anywhere on the course so long as you have 7 boats lengths over them (this excludes the place of score up to the start/finish line). prior to about 2006, you had to maintain your lanes until the exit of turn 1, then overlap could begin. The old rule was to reduce the incidence of cutoffs and blowovers in the first turn with 6 boats meeting at the same time.

The score up buoy is generally either the entry to turn 3 or the exit of turn 4. It is at that point that you cannot pass 1 minute before the start and from which lanes cannot be changed until after the start finish and the aforementioned overlap has been gained. If you do pass it before the 1 minute gun, you must go around and regain field position or be penalized a lap.

On certain courses, (Detroit for example)and with the right set up, one can out accelerate the field if they are early, and have such momentum as to gain 7 boat lengths shortly after the start finish lane, and move quickly into lane 1.