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F1 Powerboat Racing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An F1 powerboat racing in the ChampBoat series
An F1 powerboat racing in the ChampBoat series

Inaugurated in 1981, the F1 Powerboat World Championship is similar to Formula 1 car racing and similar rules apply. Each F1 Powerboat race lasts approximately 45 minutes following a circuit marked out in a selected stretch of water, usually a lake, river, or sheltered bay.

Qualifying periods decide the formation of the grid, and timing equipment records the performance of competitors to decide the final classification and all-important allocation of championship points.

The sport is governed by the Monaco based Union Internationale Motonautique or U.I.M. (International Power Boating Association). Nicolo di San Germano has been responsible for promoting the F1 World Championship since 1993 and has expanded the sport’s geographical reach and its global stature.


F1 powerboat racing is a grand prix style event, similar to Fomula 1 automobile racing, in which teams compete in 13 venues around the world each season. In the 2006 season 27 drivers compete for 12 teams, with 24 boats competing in any one race. The races take place along a track of approximately 350 meters with multiple turns, over which the boats can reach 140 miles per hour (220 km/h). The races are longer than most power boat races at approximately 45 minutes, but still shorter than most automobile races.


F1 racing uses tunnel hull catamarans that are capable of both high speed and exceptional maneuverability. Overall, the boats weigh 860 pounds (390 kilogrammes), including 260 pounds (118 kilogrammes) of engine. They are 20 feet (6 metres) long and seven feet (2 metres) wide, keeping weight low through extensive use of carbon fiber and kevlar. the tunnel hull design creates an air cushion under the hull, so that at speed only a few inches touch the water, leading to the high speed possible with these hulls.


F1 boats are powered by a Mercury V6 two stroke that burns 100LL Avgas at a rate of 120 liters per hour, generating 350 horsepower at 10,500 rpm. This engine can propel the boats to 100 km/h (62 mph) in less than four seconds and to a maximum speed of over 220 km/h (136 mph).


Although F1 boats have not changed much in appearance since the start of the event the construction and safety has been dramatically improved from the original open-cockpit plywood boats.

The first major development was the hard composite cockpit capsule designed to break away from the rest of the boat in a hard crash. This also inaugurated the practice of securing the drivers to their seats with a harness. First developed by designer and racer Chris Hodges, this system was optional for a time due to the opposition of the drivers but, after it saved several drivers in major crashes, the UIM mandated it for all boats. In the early 1990s F1 boat builder Dave Burgess introduced a canopy that fully enclosed the cockpit to protect the driver from the full force of water in a nose-dive. In the late 1990s boat builder DAC introduced an airbag situated behind the driver that prevents the cockpit form completely submerging if the boat flips.

These specific changes in safety features were also accompanied by a progression of lighter and stronger composite hulls that also reduced the hazards of racing. F1 drivers now also wear a HANS (Head and Neck Restraint) device similar to that worn by their Formula One automobile racing counterparts to combat head and neck injuries.

Future developments may include collapsable bows that would deform rather than penatrate another hull.


Before obtaining a Super License to drive an F1 boat, drivers undergo a stringent medical and also an immersion test. This involves being strapped into a mock F1 cockpit. The cell is flipped over and the driver has to make his escape while being judged by safety officials.

Once awarded a license to race in F1, a novice then starts the long haul to stardom and there is ample evidence to show there is no easy route to the top. Too much enthusiasm spells disaster as the lightweight outfits leave little room for error. Too much caution though, and you are permanent back marker.

Although the reigning F1 World Champion Guido Cappellini can now boast a record of 9 world titles, his rise to the top has been a long and often painful process. It took him five years before he won his first F1 race. Indeed in his early years he was nicknamed Crashalini as he barrel-rolled his boats on a regular basis. However that learning curve proved invaluable, as his experience has led to him becoming one of the world’s leading builders of F1 boats.


What does the future promise for F1 Powerboat racing? In terms of safety, there is always room for improvement as Nicolo di San Germano and the U.I.M. work closely to find those improvements. In 2003 the HANS (Head and Neck Safety) device was introduced to the sport to protect the driver from serious injury in the case of an accident.

“Safety is one of my key priorities,” explained di San Germano. “F1 Powerboat safety officers work closely with the U.I.M. to make the sport safer. Since the 1980s we have adopted many measures to improve safety, including: safer cockpits with flexible and shock-absorbing ‘pickle fork’ construction; air-bag crash protection systems; and the HANS (Head and Neck Safety) device.”

“The number of fatal accidents has decreased, but a risk is always present and so research for improved safety is a never-ending effort,” he added.

Talks are currently underway with motor racing engine makers with a view to introduce 4 stroke inboard engines into F1 but many problems have to be overcome before we see a Porsche or BMW engine on the start line.

See also

  • Motorboat racing
  • Offshore powerboat racing

External links

  • Formula 1 Power Boat Racing Official Site
  • Champboat Series
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