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The Kyōtei (競艇?), literally "boat racing" and referred to as BOAT RACE, is a hydroplane racing event primary held in Japan. It is one of Japan's four "Public Sports" (公営競技 kōei kyōgi?), which are sports events where parimutuel betting is legal.
Kyōtei was introduced in Japan in 1952. In April 2010, to promote the sport to a wide variety of people as well as internationally, the Kyotei Promotion Association began referring to the sport as BOAT RACE, and the organization itself has been renamed the BOAT RACE Promotion Association. Accordingly, all of Japan's 24 kyōtei courses now refer to themselves as BOAT RACE courses.
A Kyōtei race is conducted on man-made lakes with a 600-meter oval boat course. Six boats race three laps around the course (1,800 meters). Races are generally over in about two minutes.
Kyōtei employs the flying start system of beginning races. The process begins with the Standby Warm-up, when the boats receive the signal to leave the docks and select a starting position while a large clock situated at the start line begins a one-minute countdown. At approximately 12 seconds before the clock reaches zero, the boats race up towards the start line at full speed. Boats must cross this line within one second after the clock reaches zero. If a boat crosses the line too early - a false start (フライングスタート furaingu sutāto?, "Flying Start"), or crosses too late - called a "Late Start" (出遅れ deokure?), it is scratched from the race and bets on that boat are refunded. The Japanese term for this exclusion is "return absence" (返還欠場 henkan ketsujō?). In a sense, the flying start system can be compared to the mobile start used in harness racing.
If a boat causes an infraction during the race or becomes disabled, the boat is immediately disqualified (失格 shikkaku?). Competitors must pass any disabled boats during the race to the inside or outside as designated by the referees - passing on the wrong side results in the competitor being disqualified. No refunds are given for disqualified boats, unless all boats are disqualified.
Prior to the start of a race, competitors conduct several practice runs around the course to ensure that their boats are functioning properly, and to provide the bettors with useful information before bets are made. The first stage is called the "Start Exhibition" (スタート展示 sutaato tenji?), when competitors choose the group in which they wish to start in - either the slow group (which begins closer to the finish line) or the dash group (which begins farther away). Competitors then race to the start line as the clock counts down, and the time difference between each boat and the clock are recorded. Since it is an exhibition, there are no penalties for flying or late starts.
The second stage of the practice run is called the "Lap Exhibition" (周回展示 shūkai tenji?). During this stage, the competitors practice their straight runs and cornering, after which they conduct a timed run of 150 meters which is announced. An announcement is also made if competitors replace their propellors or any boat engine parts.
Competitors are assigned an engine and a boat at random to use for race day. Competitors are only permitted to tune their assigned engine and in addition, they are permitted to use their own propellers.
A unique aspect of the sport is the fact that women can compete as equally as men. As the weights of racers make an important difference in hydroplane racing, female racers, often lighter than their male counterparts, have certain advantages. Roughly 10% of Kyōtei racers are women.
Due to the once-common practice of excessive weight loss by competitors to make their boats lighter, there is a minimum weight requirement (men must weigh in at 50 kg or more, while women must weigh in at 47 kg or more). If any competitor is short of the minimum weight, their boat will be loaded with weights to compensate.
The current advertising slogan for Kyōtei racing is "Battle of 6/BOAT RACE". The official theme song for promotional purposes is "Everything will be all right", performed by the J-pop group Do As Infinity. Theme songs in previous years have been performed by singers Akiko Wada and Yuki Koyanagi, and pop group Tube.
- Gambling in Japan
- Nippon Foundation, which oversees the income from Kyōtei.
- Hydroplane racing
- Monkey Turn: A manga by Katsutoshi Kawai, later adaptated into anime.
- 「競艇振興会」から「BOAT RACE振興会」へ (in Japanese)
- "Boat Race Official Web Site - Basic Knowledge of Boat Race". Retrieved 2011-07-12.
- "ABC of Kyotei: Start Exhibition". Archived from the original on 2008-04-26. Retrieved 2011-07-12.
- "ABC of Kyotei: Race Process". Archived from the original on 2009-04-17. Retrieved 2011-07-12.
- "2010年BOAT RACE 新CM楽曲が「Everything will be all right」に決定!!" (in Japanese). Do As Infinity. Archived from the original on December 31, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-25.
- 競艇 CMソング・イメージソング Japanese Wikipedia article
- (Japanese) (English) (Chinese) (Korean) BOAT RACE Official Web, Japan.