Performance boats vary widely in propulsion and size. Outboards come in 20, 25 and 30-inch drive shaft lengths to accommodate a variety of applications. Mercury (and other brand) outboards are fitted with a standard gearcase for most applications. Hulls that can take advantage of the high power-to-weight ratio of an OptiMax 300XS may benefit from its wide range of gearcase options. Similarly, Mercury Racing offers a variety of sterndrives for differing power capacities and hull types.
Mechanical control: High performance outboards are usually rigged with with dual steering cables, a shift cable, throttle cable and fuel line. With performance sterndrives, throttle and shift are accomplished with cables, but steering is hydraulic. These include 525, 600, 662 and 700 Mercury Racing packages.
Digital control: On SmartCraft Digital Throttle & Shift compatible outboards, such as the Verado 350 SCi and sterndrives including the 565, 1100 and 1350, mechanical throttle and shift cables are gone — replaced with a single electronic cable. Steering is either electric (Verado) or hydraulic (MerCruiser).
OpiMax 300XS models feature a heavy-duty swivel/clamp bracket and trim cylinder to endure the rigors of extended use in rough seas. The trim cylinder is actuated via a remotely mounted pump. A majority of today’s outboards feature trim systems mounted within the swivel clamp bracket assembly. Verado outboards come equipped with integral power trim and steering. OptiMax outboards come standard with mechanical steering.
Two steering system types are available: Full Feedback and No Feedback. With Full Feedback, steering loads from an outboard or sterndrive are continually transmitted to the steering wheel. This is the preferred system used by tunnel boat drivers for “feel” of their craft while driving at the limit. One disadvantage: steering forces increase as engine or drive height or trim is increased. The steering wheel must be secured at all times to maintain control.
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