Formula 1 Powerboat racing is the most spectacular watersport in the world. It has been described as driving the F1 race car at full speed over a ploughed field. Formula 1 Powerboats accelerate faster than even the most state-of-the-art F1 cars; they are capable of going from standstill to 160 kilometres per hour in only 4 seconds.

Impressive as this is by itself, they compete at these speeds without the use of brakes or gears. It is competitive, fascinating, challenging, daring, risky and entertaining. Formula 1 Powerboat racing is the ultimate extreme sport.

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.

F1 Boats

F1 racing uses tunnel hull catamarans that are capable of both high speed and exceptional maneuverability. Overall, the boats weigh 390 kilogram’s, including 118 kilogram’s of engine. They are 20 feet long and seven feet 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 in less than four seconds and to a maximum speed of over 220 km/h.

The circuits
Every race circuit is different in size, but are generally about 2000 meters in distance. Each circuit has at least one long straightaway and several tight turns, mostly left with one or two right turns. The turns produce a G-force of up to 4.5 on the driver, which means his weight is multiplied 4.5 times as he makes a tight U-turn at over 100 mph (F1 car drivers endure only 2.5).

Water conditions
Water conditions play a major part in the outcome of every race. With water current and wind conditions varying on every lap and spray being continually showered over the tiny console screen, pilots are quite often driving ‘blind’ at full speed, mere inches away from their rivals. In the event of a ‘barrel-roll’ (capsize), a mandatory air bag installed above the pilot’s head will inflate upon contact with water. This enables the cockpit to remain above water until rescue arrives. Some pilots have a self-contained air supply fitted inside the capsule as an added safety features.

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.

On a national level, F1 Powerboating is regulated and controlled by the SA Power Boat Association. On an international level the sport is governed by the Monaco based Union Internationale Motonautique or U.I.M. (International Power Boating Association).

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