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  Racer Information

 The sport of personal watercraft racing is a very exciting sport to both watch and participate in and Great Lakes Watercross welcomes new racers!  Watercross Racing is about a lot of things including fun, competition, athletics, sportsmanship, family and friends. 
 Great Lakes Watercross would like to provide you with an excellent opportunity to participate in this exciting extreme motorsport. 

We will do our best here in this web page to answer any questions you may have however, please feel free to E-mail us at

 There are several  types of events  featured in watercross racing, the Closed Course, the Supercourse, Slalom, and the Freestyle event. 

A Closed Course Event is a contest of speed and agility featuring several competitors negotiating multiple laps of a course that varies in length.  The course consists of both right and left hand turns.  Closed Course Events in the past have been held in various bodies of water ranging from rivers and lakes to indoor arenas around the world. 

The Super Course event is also referred to as "offshore racing" and these are long-distance races that test both the stamina of the rider and the reliability of their equipment.  Racers compete head-to-head in either a point-to point race, or a race of multiple laps, around a designated course.  The length of time for each endurance race varies and the race may allow pit stops for refueling. Because there is little or no contact with endurance racing, it is appealing to a large number watercraft enthusiasts. 

The Freestyle events are intended to show a rider skill and expertise in executing difficult, challenging and creative maneuver within a set period of time.  Each participant has a two minute time period to show his or her skill to a panel of judges which determines the winner.  Freestyle is the crowd favorite, as spectators get a chance to interact with the competitors before, during, and after the competition. 

The Slalom is a timed event. A competitor negotiates a zig zag course of buoys from a start gate to the turn around buoy and back to the start gate. fastest time is the winner in each class.


Skill / Experience Levels

Racers are also separated by their skill or experience level.  No matter what your experience or skill level is riding or racing watercraft, the Great Lakes Watercross Tour has a class for you.  There are six basic skill/experience levels.


The Junior classes are split by age groups.  10 - 12 Ski Stock.  13 - 15 Ski Stock.  13 - 15 Ski Limited.


The Novice classes are where riders learn about racing and improving their racing skills.  Most riders usually race in the Novice ranks for a few seasons.  Once a rider feels they are ready, they may advance to the Expert classes.  Novice riders, men or women, may be reclassified as Expert at the discretion of the Race Director if the rider is displaying obvious riding and racing skills well above other class riders.


The Expert classes are for riders with advanced racing skills.  Expert riders have normally raced for several years and have advanced skills and equipment.  Expert riders can be moved back to Novice if it is determined that the rider is creating a safety hazard.


Professional riders have substantial riding experience and have developed advanced riding skills.  Pre-approval is required to obtain Pro status.


The Veteran Ski classes are open to riders 35 years or older in the ski divisions and 35 years or older in the Runabout Division.

The Masters class is for ski racers 45years and older. 45 years and older for Runabout Division.
This class is the combination of Expert and Pro racers. Offered on the National level for racers to compete with many others without having to obtain a Pro card.

The combination of Novice and Expert racers.  Offered on the National level, no cash payouts, so Novice racers will not lose their Novice status. 

Sample Watercross Course Layout

Below is a diagram of a sample closed course race course.  Endurance/offshore race courses are much larger with fewer turns.  Closed course races normally have a split start, depending on location, in which there are two first turns (an inside and an outside split).  Huge colorful buoys are used to indicate turns in the race course. 


A red buoy indicates a left turn.  Two or more red buoys may be in a line to form a large sweeping left-hand turn.


A yellow buoy indicates a right turn.  Two or more yellow buoys may be in a line to form a sweeping right turn.


A checkered buoy indicates the start/finish line.  A rider must pass through these for a lap to be counted.


A white/other color buoys are used to mark the outside lane of a racecourse utilizing a two-lane split start.  White buoys are also used to mark turns on the Slalom event and to mark the merge lane in the case of a split type race course.  Long hot dog inflatables are also sometimes used to establish a merge lane on a split-type racecourse.  Other color buoys are often used on the outside of the racecourse to control boat traffic from entering the racecourse.




  • Similar to motocross.
  • When possible the starting line is split in two for safety.  Half of the field goes to the outside lane, the other half goes to the inside lane and then merge together at the start finish line.  After the first lap is completed, each rider can select which split they take on each lap (inside or outside).
  • Holeshot winner is determined by the first boat to cross the finish line right after the start.
  • Buoy colors direct  the racer to turn.  Red signifies a left turn, yellow is for right. White and other color buoys will also be used, you will receive instructions as how to go around them.
  • Standard motorsports flags are used:  green = go,  yellow = caution,  red = stop,  crossed white and green = race is half way done,  white = last lap,  checkered = finished,  blue/yellow = lapped traffic,  black = warning or disqualification.
  • Obstacles.  Expert / Pro Ski racers are required to jump over the log jump.  It is constructed from ATV tires and is anchored in to the race course.  This area of the course usually yields the best crashes.


1- The Starter displays the number of laps to be run before each race. 

2- The Starter using the 1-2 card, tells the Racer what phase of the starting sequence they are in.  

3- The Starter will hold the "2" card in the air, then putting a arm in the air in a circular motion while blowing a whistle.

4- This means start your engines. 
The Starter will point to each racer on the line see that your PWC is running, keep your PWC running with the help of your holder(s). Do not bring up the RPM's yet. 

5- If your PWC is running you (the racer) will nod your head in acknowledgment for the Starter.

6- If your PWC isn't running put your hand in the air to get a 2 minute hold. You will have up to 2 minutes to get your PWC running. After 2 minutes we will start the race. We will only have 
one 2 minute hold per moto start. 

7- You (Racer and PWC) must be on the Starting Line to get a 2 minute hold. 

8- Once all PWC are running, you will then be shown the "1" card.  This means no holds for non-running PWC. 

9- The Starting Band will not snap until the "1" card is slowly lowered and up to 5 seconds have passed.

10- As the "1" card is slowly lowered you should now be bringing up the RPM's on your PWC while looking at the starting band. All eyes are now on the band. The race starts on the band snap. 

The amount of time for the Starting Band to snap will vary between 3 and 5 seconds, once the "1" card is down.

Again, the starting band snap starts the race.

A false start or jumped start by one or more riders can result in a restart.  The racer(s) that jump the band may be penalized by having to restart with a dead engine. Or we may Black flag the offending racer(s) and hold them at the start tower for 1 lap while the race continues.

Black Buoy / Make up Buoy

If a racer misses a buoy they must continue on the race course. To make up a missed buoy you must use the Black Buoy. The Black Buoy will be located near the finish line. This will be gone over in detail during the riders meeting at the start of each race day.

  • Many times A two moto scoring system is used.  The combination of Moto 1 finish and Moto 2 finish determines the winner.  In the event of a tie, the higher placed racer in Moto 2 wins.
  • When there are more racers in a class than we can safely put in the start gate we run Qualifier motos. The racers will be divided into 2 Qualifiers with the top 6 or 8 transfer to the main event. All others will go to a (LCQ) last chance qualifier, the top 2 or 4 in that LCQ will then fill the final spots in the main event.
  • All buoys must be gone around on a specific side on every lap. Topping a buoy is a missed buoy. If unsure ask questions at the riders meeting.
  • Points are accumulated to determine a Race Series Championship.
 Loading the Start Gate.

Your starting postion will be determined by the way the computer sets your name or by picking numbered ping pong balls for postion. You then pick the spot on the starting line that you want.

The main event is set by the finishes from the 1st moto or qualifiers. Again you pick your spot on the starting line.

Great Lakes Watercross Racing Divisions


You will see many different brands and models of personal watercraft competing on the tour.  For racing purposes and parity, we separate watercraft racing into three hull types.


Ski Division

Ski division water craft are designed for one person to stand on.  Skis are steered from the front with a moveable hand pole rising above the tray area with handle bars that directs a rear jet.  Watercraft currently fitting into the Ski Division include several Kawasaki Jet Skis, Polaris Octane, Yamaha Super jet and Hydrospace models.


Sport Division

Sport Division water craft are designed mainly for one passenger and include a seat and fixed handlebar that direct a rear jet.  Sport Division watercraft weigh more the 300 pounds and have a hull width that ranges from 26 inches to 38 inches.  Watercraft currently fitting into the Sport Division are the Sea-Doo HX, Yamaha Waveblaster, Polaris Hurricane and Kawasaki X-2.


Runabout Division

Runabout Division watercraft are designed for one or more people and include a seat and fixed handlebar that direct a rear jet.  Runabouts have a hull width greater than 38 inches.  The Runabouts run in separate divisions by motor cc's.  Many Sea-Doo, Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, and Yamaha PWC have models that fit into both class.

Engine Classifications



Racing classes are then separated by engine size and the types of modifications done to the watercraft.  The four classes are Stock, Limited, Open and GP.  For full class rules see the rule book.

Stock Class PWC are basically stock with some handling changed allowed.  Steering, sponsons, ride plate, intake grate, prop, flame arresters, re-jet stock carbs. 

Limited Class PWC are allowed more modifications (aftermarket pipe, head, pump, ignition, carbs and intake manifold, water routing.  No porting to cylinder or cases.

Open Class PWC are allowed most all engine modifications from same OEM and aftermarket suppliers. 

GP Class PWC may use Aftermarket Parts, OEM parts and larger engines on different brand watercraft.  

Course Flags


Race is underway.

Red Flag

Waved after a bad start or if an injured rider is blocking the course and can not be safely removed from the course.  Riders should stop racing and return to the starting line.

Black Flag

This is the consulting flag.  Riders are to report directly to the Race Director.

Yellow Flag

The yellow flag warns of safety hazard on course.  Riders are to continue racing, but proceed with caution.

Blue with Yellow Stripe Flag

This flag signals that a rider is being overtaken and lapped by a faster rider.  The slower rider must make way for the overtaking rider to pass safely.

White Flag

The white flag is displayed when there is one lap left in the race.  This flag will remain displayed until the race is completed.


Checkered Flag

The checkered flag signals that the race is completed.  All riders should report to the technical inspection area.



Everyone that enters a motorsports racing event should have a personal full coverage health insurance policy in place. Racing is potentially dangerous!  Please take this precaution to protect yourself in the event of a injury. The liability insurance coverage that is put in place by the producer of these events has no financial coverage for your health care.  Remember this will help to keep the cost of racing down. 
Be a smart and responsible racer, insurance is another  preparation done by a Champion.

General Race Information

The Great Lakes Watercross Tour   All participants must be a current competition member and  present a valid membership card in order to compete. You may purchase a yearly  membership at the race site or buy one on-line.

Participants must be 16 years old to compete at sanctioned events.  Except for the Juniors Ski Stock class where riders can be 10 to 15 years old.  Riders under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian sign an Minor Release form at the race site. You must have proof guardianship.

Race Numbers

All riders must have two sets of race numbers with the correct color backgrounds on their PWC - one on each side (port & starboard) in the front of the watercraft.   The numbers must be black, at least 16 inches high, and spaced 1 inch apart.  Standard numbers style.   We will no longer try to score you if your race number is not easily identifiable.  If we can not read your number, you will not be scored. 

Event Sign In

Whether pre-registered or not, every participant is required to check in, sign the waiver and release, and wear a wrist band,  This includes all racers, holders and mechanics.  See Race Info  page for check-in times.  Please be in line at least 15 minutes before check-in closes or you may not be able to register.

Rider's Meeting

It is Mandatory that all participants attend the published rider's meeting each day that you will be racing.  The rider's meeting normally takes place at the published time each morning (see race day schedule).  Roll call will be taken to insure that everyone' smiling faces will be seen bright and early each morning.  If you do not attend the Rider's Meeting, you may not be allowed to race that day.

Pre-Race Safety Inspection

Every participant is required to have his/her watercraft Safety Inspected.  Safety Inspection is from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.  Safety Inspection is to check to see if your boat is safe to go on the water, not to see if it is legal for class participation. 

Please bring your watercraft to the beach along with your tether, helmet and PFD.  You must be with your watercraft for it to be inspected.  Have your hoods open, handle poles up or seats removed.  Your boat must be Safety inspected before you will be allowed to practice.  Here are some of the things we are checking:  grips secured and do not turn, battery cables secured, flame arresters on, zip-ties on all fuel lines, bow eyes removed were needed, bumpers in place and approved helmet and PFD.  We also will check to make sure that your tether works properly.

Post-Race Tech Inspection

Every participant who finishes the race and receives the checkered flag must immediately proceed to the tech inspection area and submit watercraft for inspection.  Failure to submit yourself and your personal watercraft for inspection may cause you to be disqualified.

Tips for the New Racer

Pre Event Planning
Knowledge is everything!  Pre-registering (on-line) saves you time and money.  You can register on-site, know the registration times and locations.  If you do not show up on time and are not registered, you may not be allowed to race.  Registration and directions to each event can be found on the web site

Get plenty of rest the night before..
You will have a long and busy day at your first event until you get used to the routine. Get plenty of rest and leave the partying to the those you want to beat. Check the web site for the days itinerary. Be on time or early to the race site to get set-up on the beach. Remember it is a day at the beach, already a good day!

Don't leave home without..
Tools, Fuel, oil, gear, spare parts, beverages, etc.  Make a checklist of all items and equipment you will need for the race and then use it! A few other suggested items to have are a cooler, EZ-Up tent or something for shade, watercraft beach stand, watercraft tote and ATV.  If you do not have a watercraft tote or ATV to launch your watercraft, another racer may be able to assist you. Not all event locations have boat ramps.    

Sign in/ Registration
Be early, This will allow you to relax during your preparation.  For most races, plan on arriving on site no later than 7:00 a.m. for each day you are racing and even earlier if you have not parked your trailer and don't already know where the site is.  As soon as you arrive on site, park your rig,  get set-up on the beach/pit. When registration opens go to the Great Lakes Watercross registration trailer.
If you are pre-registered, you will check-in, sign the waiver and release form, check that your in the right class, get you and all your pit crew members pas
ses/wrist bands.  If you are not pre-registered you will need a little more time to fill in the registration form as well.  Once again, Pre-registration saves you a lot of time.  

Race Craft Safety Inspection.
Once checked in, you must have your boat "Safety inspected" by the Race Staff.  This is only to ensure that your watercraft is safe for racing. This is not to see what class you are in. It will be your responsibility to get your boat to the Safety Inspection area.  Listen to PA announcements and ask at registration who is doing the "Safety Inspection" of racers PWC's.

Get to know the people around you..
Do not be afraid to ask for assistance from other racers.  You will find that most racers on the tour are great people and are always willing to help out a first-time racer as they were in your place once themselves.  Do not forget to offer your help too!  Later, your good deeds may be rewarded many times over.

Know who your holder(s) will be..
For closed course events you are allowed to have one holder for the Ski classes and two holders for the Sport and Runabout classes.  Know who your holder(s) will be before you go to the line for your race.  If you do not have a holder or enough holders, ask some of the other racers if they will hold for you.  Other racers are usually more than willing to help you out.  If you ask someone to hold, make sure you remember to tell them what races you are in. Also make sure they have wrist band on, if not have them report to registration to sign a waiver and release to get the wrist band (if they have not already done so).  If you have problems finding a holder, ask the announcer before the race to call for a holder and he will try and help you find one.

Attend the Mandatory Rider Meeting
Not only is it mandatory to attend the Riders Meeting per the Race Director, there will be valuable information given at each riders meeting.  A roll call will be done to determine each riders presence at the meeting.  If you do not attend this meeting you may not be allowed to race and your entry fees may not be refunded to you.  After the race director presents the riders meeting information to all racers, he will meet with all the first-time riders to go over in more detail concerns and questions that beginner riders may have.  Pay attention and do not be afraid to ask questions.

Practice/course orientation..
Course orientation/practice should be used strictly for what it is, allowing yourself to learn the course.  The course marshall will lead you around the course for the first lap and then let you run several laps on your own. 
Once again, practice is to learn the race course and it's not a race.  There are no points or awards for riders who finish first in practice. 

Watercraft Modification..
With your wallet as your guide, start with a "Stock" boat and slowly work up the modifications ladder.  Whether you are competing in "Stock", "Limited" or an "Open" class, know which modifications the rules allow.

Practice your starts before you go to a race.
Closed course races will normally utilize a flag or rubber band method of starting.  We use 2 and 1 card in watercross. See the starting procedures above.
  At home practice starting from shore utilizing your holder/holders before racing.

During the race..
Ride your PACE and race your RACE!  Know what you can do.  If you are new to watercross racing, do not get caught up in the start of the race.  Allow others to make mistakes and then take advantage of their mistakes.  While you may be running only a 10-15 minute race, it will feel like you are out there much longer - Trust Me.

Be a Leader..
Don't follow others on the race course.  They may be going the wrong way!  If you think you missed a buoy or course marker do not go back to pick it up. We use a make up buoy (Black buoy) to go around if you miss a course marker (buoy). The Black Buoy will be located on the end of the course. You must go around it before crossing the finish line of the lap you missed it on.  If you do not use the black buoy you will be docked a full lap for each buoy you miss. Make sure you do not miss any buoys and that you know the race course.

Report to Tech
All riders are required, if requested, to report to Tech immediately after each race.  Make sure you remember to do this or you will be disqualified.

Pit Board..
The pit board will tell you what races you are in and how you finished in your races.  Make sure you check the pit board when it is announced in the morning that it is posted and make sure you are in the correct classes.  After you race, it usually takes at least thirty minutes for the results to be computed, confirmed, entered, and posted.  Check the pit board to see how you finished and if you qualified for the main event or need to go to the Last Chance Qualifier.  If there were not heats for your class (heats are required if there are more than the maximum number of riders allowed on the line at one time in your class), you can assume you will be automatically in the final or the second moto if the moto scoring system is being used.  DO NOT assume that you made it to the main event without checking the pit board.  You may have missed a buoy and did not even know it.

                                         Safety Gear

 The Best Tip
The best source of information is those riders around you.  Racers in the sport are very friendly and very willing to help their fellow racer.  They will help you gain the knowledge that will make you a confident watercross racer. Watch, ask questions, learn and have fun!  

Motocross pants or wetsuits
It's a personal preference but, in general, the pants are cooler and the wetsuits protect better.

As they say, "a ten-dollar helmet is good for a ten-dollar head".  A good full face motocross style helmet that is Snell/ DOT approved is required. No face shields, you should use goggles. You want comfort and safety.

Proper protective gear
PFD (Personal flotation Device):  A Coast Guard approved life vest. Don't get in the water without it.
Helmet:  Fullface motocross style Snell/DOT approved only. See your PWC dealer for info.
Footwear:  Watercraft racing boots, wrestling shoes, high-top tennis shoes, etc. Find what works for you.
Gloves:  Watercraft racing types are good.  Some like to use water-skiing gloves.
Goggles:  A good pair of goggles is very important when racing watercraft.  Rain-X on the goggles definitely helps to keep water off and your goggles from fogging.  To prevent you from losing your goggles, use duct tape or a pair of "Goggle Grips" to keep them from falling off.
Wetsuit: Will help keep you warm and protect you.

 Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different classes I can race in?
New racers can race in the Novice classes.  The rules separate the riders into classes based on the type of watercraft you own (i.e. Ski, Sport & Runabout) and the modifications (Stock, Limited). 

CLASSES are organized by:

    • Boat type:  Ski, Sport and Runabout
    • Engine modification:  Stock, Limited and Open
    • Skill level:  Junior, Novice, Expert, and Pro
    • In addition, there are several specialty classes:  14-15 year old ski, Vets ski (35+), Vet's runabout (35+), Vintage ski (older ski watercraft), Sport Spec, Masters ski (45+)

What kind of safety gear do I need and where do I get it?
Safety is a critical part of racing and is to be taken very seriously. PFD, Helmet, goggles, footwear, wetsuits, and gloves are necessary equipment and all may be available at your local watercraft dealer.

 What about Race Numbers for my boat and what number can I run?
 e-mail - - for race numbers or if you are unsure of your number.

The rules require a specific size and color of backgrounds to race depending on skill level. Clear legible numbers are very important.  Remember, if the numbers cannot be read while the watercraft is moving, the rider stands a good chance of not being scored properly.  It is the responsibility of the rider to have the proper size and color numbers and backgrounds.  See the rulebook for the correct size background and number.  Riders can pick any number from 101 to 999.  Numbers 1-100 are earned numbers.  We suggest you buy the numbers before the races, that way you can get the size and style you like. Remember to go big on numbers. Much easier for the scoring staff to see.

Racing skill levels by BACKGROUND COLORS -


How do I enter a race?  Go to
Click on the registration page tab on the left side of the screen. This will take you to the on-line registration page of the web site.  This on-line page is secure and you may use check, pay-pal or credit card to sign up for a race.  Check the race schedule and pre-register.  Please keep in mind that each event has a specific deadline for registration and there may be penalties or additional fees for late registration.  You may also sign-up at the race site for an additional cost.

What are the rules and were do I get them?
The events are run using the Pro Watercross rulebook.  You may also go to the Pro Watercross Web Site and view the entire rulebook for a quick reference.  Because new rules are implemented during the course of the year it's important to check the web sites for rule updates.  It is the racers responsibility to check this before competing!


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Great Lakes Watercross Racing
Madison, Wisconsin 53714

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