Drag boat racing brings thrill-seekers to the river

If you get a thrill from fast boats and loud engines, then you should be in the audience for the 25th annual Augusta Southern Nationals.


Friday through Sunday, contestants from more than 25 states will be competing in drag boat races at Augusta Riverfront Marina.

"The real fast boats, they'll go over 250 mph within a quarter-mile of distance. You pair them up, side by side. Our top speed here is 252 mph. They're very fast and very loud," said event chairman Dayton Sherrouse.

The family-friendly races draw about 25,000 people each year, Sherrouse said.

"This is the 25th year of the race, which is pretty significant. Not many special events last that long, either here or other parts of the country," he said.

Drag boat racing is an acceleration contest over a measured quarter-mile straightaway between two high-performance race boats. As a safety precaution, drag boats use a slight moving start because it's difficult for the driver to determine whether the boat will launch straight from a standing start, according to the Augusta Southern Nationals Web site.

The winner of each round advances to the next round until one boat remains as the class winner. There are 11 classes of boats competing in this year's race, Sherrouse said.

Gates open at 8 a.m., and racing is from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday is a "test and tune day" for contestants. Starting at 7 p.m., the Night of Fire will be held at the Augusta Common. Contestants will fire up their boats on trailers and shoot flames out the back at dark, Sherrouse said.

Qualifying will be held Saturday, and eliminations are Sunday, he said.

Bring a blanket or chair, but no food, beverages or pets are allowed.

Proceeds support the Georgia Special Olympics.