The Kyoutei, literally "boat racing", is a hydroplane racing event primary held in Japan. It is one of Japan's four "Public Sports", which are sports events where parimutuel betting is legal.
Kyoutei was introduced in Japan in 1952. As of today, there are a total of 24 Kyoutei courses in Japan, and one in South Korea, where the sport is known as gyeongjeong.
A Kyoutei race is conducted on man-made lakes with a 600-meter circular boat course. Six boats race three laps around the course (1,800 meters). Prior to the start of a race, competitors conduct a practice run around the course to ensure that their boats are functioning properly, and so that the public can view the competitors and their boats before placing a bet.
Kyoutei employs the flying start system of beginning races. Once the boats receive the signal to leave the docks, a large clock situated at the start line begins a one-minute countdown until the race begins. Boats take starting positions at the top of the straightaway based on their practice run, and at approximately 10–15 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 - called a "Flying Start", or crosses too late - called a "Late Start", it is scratched from the race and bets on that boat are refunded. The Japanese term for this exclusion is "return absence". 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. Competitors must pass to the outside of any disabled boats during the race - passing to the inside results in the competitor being disqualified.
All the boats and engines are the same type, provided by Yamato Motors. Competitors are assigned an engine and a boat at random to use for race day. Only competitors are permitted to tune their assigned engine, however they are permitted to use their own propellors.
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 Kyoutei 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.