Travelling at 200mph without leaving the ground would be, most people would agree, an exciting prospect.

Smooth tarmac in a high performance car would be thrilling enough for most, but for that extra frisson of excitement, some take to the water in Class 1 Offshore Powerboats.

To achieve 200mph on the water takes a lot more effort than propelling a car along tarmac. Two 9-liter, turbocharged V-8 engines producing around 1350 HP each, with a fuel consumption of around 170 US gallons per hour per engine is required to propel a 47 foot catamaran at these speeds.


Apart from the extra power required for high speed on water, is the fact that water has the annoying characteristic of not being smooth. So to achieve these speeds the boats are designed to ‘plane’ on the tops of the wave with only the propellers constantly submerged in the water.

There are a number of ways that the boat is designed to help achieve this objective of keeping the hull stable and skimming across the surface of the water, one of which is ballast tanks.

These tanks are molded into the boats structure and filled with seawater using a mechanical pick-up mechanism and emptied using an electric dump pump. The tanks are monitored and trimmed when, for example, the boat is to change direction or the wind direction changes, altering the wind loading on the hull.

To allow the throttle-man to optimize the use of the ballast tanks, they need to know the level of water in each tank. Despite the best efforts of the vessel to keep smooth and steady as it crosses the water, it is seldom a smooth journey – in fact, it is a punishing environment with repeated extreme vertical shock loads, plus the corrosive environment of salt water.


World-renowned racer and eight times World Champion Steve Curtis, MBE found that the typical sensors supplied with the tanks lasted between 1-2 races before the physical environment lead to their failure.

So Steve sourced stainless steel capacitive level sensors from Gill Sensors & Controls, a company with a reputation for providing sensors that endure in the most severe environments. With a solid state, integrated electronics design with no moving parts, the sensors had more chance of surviving for more than a single race.

And they did. The sensors lasted for eight years without a single failure and provided a level of accuracy and reliability that enabled Steve and his teams to continue to perform at the highest level.

So whilst you may not want to travel at 200mph in a powerboat, if you want a sensor that is proven to last in the toughest conditions, visit

Steve is currently throttle-man with the Miss Geico Racing team, which can be seen in full flight in the image above. We are grateful to Steve for his help with this case study and wish him and the team good luck in future competitions

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