The most interesting thing about hawks, as anyone who has watched them in operation will confirm, is the way they dive after prey.

That's probably not why the Hawk Racing Team selected its name, but after a day aboard one of Hawk's droopy-nosed cigarette-style "cruiser-racers" in Rhode Island Sound, you can't be sure.

"Bloody submarine," said a spray-soaked Tony Fairchild, who's in Newport to cover the America's Cup races for the London Daily Telegraph.

A group of newshounds, among them Fairchild, chartered the 44-foot Hawk so they could dash out and watch the races this summer and dash back in to file their stories before deadline. The time advantage was considered a great plus, though the skinny speedboat clearly lacks the creature comforts of broader-sterned cruisers in the observation fleet.

Intrepid boatman rode along the other day, but must confess that he found himself almost as intrigued by the boat he was in as by the 12-meter yachts he was supposed to be watching.

With twin, aftercooled V-8 turbodiesels churning away at 4,000 rpm, the needle-thin vessel could power up easily to 55 miles an hour, which on the water feels like the Metroliner screaming through New York at 120.

"Is she designed for racing, then?" boatman screamed above the diesel din to Captain Al, a New Yorker who, as driver of the Hawk, was positioned behind an exact replica of the control board of the Starship Enterprise.

"No, just for cruising," shrieked Al. "She's built for the Bimini-for-lunch bunch."

Boatman, having had a few lunches in Bimini himself, wondered that anyone would pay $275,000 for a vessel to take him at breakneck speed across treacherous waters for conch chowder, pigeon peas and rice.

But then he was wondering about a lot of things.

He wondered why the head compartment was completely encased in mirrors and polished aluminum and furry-feeling wall coverings, and he wondered even more why it had two potties under little plastic hatch covers, side by side.

"One," announced Captain Al with pride and gusto, "is a bidet."

He wondered why there was a circular stairway leading below and what all those buttons were for.

And why when the boat was on plane did it throw such a monstrous roostertail for a wake? Captain Al explained that high- performance engines such as Hawk's bury only the bottom half of each propeller in the water, since that's what pushes the boat. The top half, which provides no push anyway, was running in air, howling and flinging water like a drunken, angry dishwasher.

And he wondered why, about an hour into the day-long adventure on the water, the mighty Hawk seemed to be lumbering along like any beamy old cabin cruiser.

He went to the console to find out. There Captain Al was fidgeting with his throttle controls, a puzzled look upon his brow.

"Linkage to the starboard engine has gone out. I'll go down and have a look."

He shooed all the paying customers forward from the rear deck area, then selected a blue button from the myriad controls and pressed it.

"Boink," said the entire rear deck as it popped loose under hydraulic power and pointed skyward. Capt. Al went below and discovered two bolts had come loose from the linkage and had disappeared into the bilge.

Now then, the mighty Hawk comes equipped with a microwave oven, a stereo, Loran-C direction finder, enough buttons for a battleship, a circular couch, tricolor rolled-and-pleated rub rails, an aluminum swin platform large enough to barbecue on and a tuna tower. But do you suppose that anywhere aboard this mechanical marvel there might be a couple of spare half-inch hex-head nuts and bolts and a wrench to button them down?

Not a chance.

Captain Al eventually managed a temporary fix.

He relinked the linkage.

With twisty-ties.

From the garbage bags.

He managed to nurse the injured Hawk around the sailing race course, and we were there at the finish when Australia II blew everyone out of the water again, as she's done all summer.

When we turned for home we were right alongside a boat similar to Hawk, though this one was slightly larger and bore the name "Shahbazz."

"The guy driving that boat," said a newshound to boatman, "is the Aga Khan."

It felt real good to be in that class of yachtsman, but the joy was brief. The Aga put the hammer down and was gone at about 50 knots. We had to trundle along at a mere 30 with our twisty-tie jury rig.

At least at that speed the Hawk stayed dry.

"Frankly," said Fairchild with a grin of victory, "I like going slowly."