The second annual tunnel boat races known as “Showdown on the Sabine,” sponsored by the city of Orange and area businesses, will be Sept. 20-21 at the waterfront / boat ramp area off Simmons Drive. 

Three classes of boats will compete, provided by SPORT, or the Southern Professional Outboard Racing Tour, which also races in Port Neches, Baytown, Bryan, Somersville and Lubbock.

Attendance in Orange last year was about 16,000, said Darlene Zavada with the Orange Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We will have more boats and drivers this year,” she said. 

“We expect a much larger audience because last year a lot of people weren’t familiar with tunnel boat racing and what it was. There’s free admission and parking. Bring your lawn chairs or tents and sit along the river and enjoy the action.”

Drivers usually test their boats in the morning and races generally get underway around noon. There will be plenty of food and craft booths, ATV, golf cart and boat displays. Sunscreen is suggested.

No pets or coolers are allowed, and beer or alcohol cannot be brought on-site. Beer will sold inside the gates. Sponsors include Bud Light, KIOC-FM (Big Dog) and KYKR-FM. 

Tunnel designs leave an open bottom part of the boat, which can make them go fast (and also flip).

In a piece by Jim Russell, a nationally-known engineer and tunnel boat designer, the hull weight (including engine, driver, fuel, accessories, payloads, etc.) must be exactly equaled by the lift forces generated. 

“This is true for any boat (or airplane, too) in stable flight,” he wrote. “The tunnel hull must, however, always be in ‘stable flight’, and so this balance is especially critical. Too much lift and we take off like an aeroplane; too little and we have more ‘down’ than we have ‘up’ and this can be a distressing event for a planing craft.”

More from Russell can be found at

For more information on the Sabine event, call the Orange CVB at 883-1011, e-mail; or go to or