The UIM F1H2O World Championship is the 'flagship' international series of single-seater inshore circuit powerboat racing.
Highly competitive, intensely challenging, risky and entertaining, the F1H2O World Championship is the ultimate adrenalin rush and regarded as one of the most spectacular and exciting sports in the world.
The series attracts up to 20 of the world's leading drivers and is a sport that has to be seen to be believed as these diminutive tunnel-hull catamarans enter hairpin turns at over 90mph and top 140mph on the straights.
Picture the scene; 18 to 20 sleek, powerful and lightweight catamarans lining up on the start pontoon. Inside each cockpit sits a lone individual peering through a tiny windscreen. One hand grasps the steering wheel, the other poised over the start button. The tension inside the cockpit is intense as the drivers wait for the crucial start. Beyond the cockpit, an eerie silence descends over the entire arena, all attention fixed on the start.
No sooner does the wait end when 10,000hp of highly tuned brute power bursts into life sending the fleet screaming towards the first corner leaving nothing but a glorious fountain of white spray in its wake.
However, with the thrilling high-speed action comes the risk of ruin as drivers endure brain-numbing G-Forces - their rigs taking hairpin turns at over 90mph while they dice deck-to-deck in often zero-visibility.
Now in its 36th year the four decades of the World Championship have witnessed considerable change and evolution; the seventies and eighties saw multiple promoters and two giant corporations of the sport OMC and Mercury vying for supremacy to be the pinnacle of the sport.
OMC were touting their 3.5litre V8 package that became known as the OZ class, Mercury pushing their 2.0litre engine and called the ON class, the disparity in power would soon lead to bitter wrangling and infighting amongst competitors.
The split came in 1981, FONDA was formed running the ON class engine with the OMC backed PRO ONE run series running the OZ class engine, both rival championships claiming the right to use the title World Championship, a dispute settled by the sport's governing body the UIM later that year awarding the OZ class the accolade.
1984 saw the beginning of yet another twist as safety became a major concern with engine development and increasing power of the V8s taking its tragic toll and signaled the slow demise of the OZ class internationally, ending in 1986.
The door was now opening for the existing FONDA World Grand Prix series to reinvent itself. From 1987 to 1989 there was no official UIM World Championship, and with no challenger, the UIM reinstated the World Championship status and in 1990 the FONDA World Grand Prix Series became the UIM F1H2O World Championship, Mercury's 2.0litre engine the preferred power-plant of the time, the Mercury 2.5litre engine coming in in 2000 and used today.
In 1993 the UIM appointed Nicolo di San Germano as Promoter; his ongoing 23 year tenure has brought stability, a new direction, improved safety and an ever broadening geographic footprint encompassing Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia and with this expansion a growing commercial value.
Over the last 35 years the sport has played out 279 Grand Prix in 32 countries across five continents, 14 drivers have captured the World title, 47 becoming members of the illustrious Grand Prix winners club.
Of the 14 World Champions seven are multiple title winners; Italy's Guido Cappellini is the most decorated winning 10, Italy's Alex Carella and American Scott Gillman with four, France's Philippe Chiappe and Italy's Renato Molinari with three each, Finland's Sami Selio and Wales' Jonathan Jones with two apiece.
While today's F1H2O catamarans bear a striking resemblance to those in action throughout the 1980's there is a world of difference in terms of driver protection and general safety.
The early boats were constructed from thin plywood with drivers sitting in an open, exposed cockpit with the risk of injury a high probability in the case of an accident.
With safety at the forefront of boat development, British designer and racer Chris Hodges set about improving the situation and constructed a safety cell that was produced from an immensely strong composite material.
Instead of the cockpit being part of the main structure Hodges' capsule was separate and was fitted to the hulls and centre section. For the first time drivers were actually strapped into their seats. The idea was that if a boat was involved in an accident, the timber hulls could break up and absorb the impact forces while the driver remained well protected inside his cell.
The new device proved itself on several occasions and the U.I.M. called for it to become compulsory, and in the early 1990's Burgess introduced canopies that made cockpits fully enclosed.
In the late 1990's further developments saw the introduction of an airbag in the cockpit that would inflate in a crash to ensure the capsule wouldn't sink before rescue crews could attend.
Over the years boat construction has been developed and today few if any are built of timber, now replaced by modern composites.
In 2019 nine teams and 18 drivers from 12 countries will compete at Grand Prix in Europe, the Middle East and Asia for the coveted World title, the prestigious number 1 plate will be carried by the defending four-time World Champion, Shaun Torrente.
The Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM) is the world governing body for all Powerboating activities. It is fully recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and is a member of the Association of the IOC Recognized International Sports Federations (ARISF) and of SportAccord for whom the UIM President serves as President and Board member. The UIM has almost 60 affiliated National Federations. Circuit, Offshore, Pleasure Navigation and Aquabike are among the main disciplines. The UIM has signed a Cooperation Agreement with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to further its range of environmental initiatives and to share expertise.
President: Dr. Raffaele Chiulli
General Secretary: Thomas Kurth
Idea Marketing is the sole and exclusive worldwide promoter of the UIM F1H2O World Championship, the UIM-ABP Aquabike World and Continental Championships and the UIM H2O Nations Cup World Series.
The company is the worldwide television and commercial rights holder for all Championships and responsible for all commercial, marketing, television, media and organisational activities.
President: Nicolo di San Germano
Vice President: Lavinia Cavallero
The F1H2O World Championship is the leading formula in single-seater inshore circuit powerboat racing and was sanctioned by the UIM in 1981. It is a multiple Grand Prix series of eight events taking place in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Points allocated at each Grand Prix count towards the overall World Championship standings.
In addition to the World Championship, points are also allocated for the Rebellion Pole Position and Team Championships and the Fast Lap Trophy.
A three-tiered qualifying session is run over 60 minutes, the multiple lap Grand Prix run over a minimum 45 minutes, not to exceed 60 minutes.
In 2019 nine teams, 18 drivers plus technicians and support staff from 12 countries will compete for the coveted World title.
Documentation and registration
Boats and racing equipment (including racing gear of the driver) must be in the pits 24 hours before starting the technical scrutineering
Drivers' briefing (compulsory for all team managers, drivers and radiomen of each boat)
Rebellion Qualifying (all drivers must participate in qualifying)
Drivers' briefing (compulsory for all team managers, drivers and radiomen of each boat)
F1H2O Parade Lap
F1H2O Grand Prix
Duration not to exceed 60 minutes
Prize giving ceremony
Pole position and starting line-ups are determined by a three-tiered qualifying session,Q1, Q2 and Q3 preceding each Grand Prix race. Stateof-the-art timing equipment records the performances of each boat to decide the final classification and starting positions.
Q1: A twenty-minute session with all boats entitled to run multiple laps at any time during the session, with the 12 fastest progressing into Q2. The times set by those that didn't qualify for Q2 denote their starting positions.
Q2: After a seven-minute break, the times will be reset and the remaining 12 boats will then run a fifteen-minute session - again they may complete as many laps as they want at any time during that period. At the end of the session the six fastest boats will progress into Q3. The times set by those that didn't qualify for Q3 denote their starting positions.
Q3: The times are reset and the top six boats from Q2 will go in reverse order dictated by the times set in Q2 and are entitled to run two laps to decide their start positions.
If a driver is deemed by the officials to have stopped unnecessarily on the circuit or impeded another driver during qualifying, his times may be cancelled
No refuelling allowed during timed trial.
Grand Prix locations are usually held on lakes, rivers, protected bays or inland waterways. 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.
Water conditions play a major part in the outcome of each Grand Prix. With water current and wind conditions varying on every lap and spray being continually showered over the tiny console screen, drivers 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. All drivers have a self-contained air supply fitted inside the capsule as an added safety features.
Each entry must have the electronic time-keeping device and lighting equipment.
Compliance is required for scrutineering clearance.
Lights signals are used in accordance with these rules to designate specific times or to give instructions to pilots. Lights and their purposes are as follows:
Reduce speed to 3000 rpm maximum - extreme caution on race course - hold current position - no overtaking - follow pace boat
Race stopped, slow down instantly and return to the start dock, identical to actual black flag.
WHITE AND BLUE caution FLAG:
Rescue boats must be given the right of way. A complaint from rescue personnel will be penalised.
Boats that have broken down and pulled to the infield or off the racecourse will be towed to the trailer or the start dock only during a "race stop" condition and if pick-up boats are available.
During the time trials and the race, one crewmember should always remain at signalling area and maintain radio contact with his driver during free practice, timed trials and race.
Each team consists of a manager, two drivers, mechanics, radio coordinator, technical coordinator and equipped with infrastructure such as trailer workshop and welcome marquee. They should have two catamarans fitted with a 2.5 litre engine and compete at 8 to 10 Grand Prix events in a season.
Hull material: Carbon fibre, Kevlar, synthetic fibre, airex & nomex
Length: 6 metres
Width: 2.1 metres
Weight: 390 kg
Fuel tank: 120 litres
Engine: 2-stroke Mercury engine
Engine capacity: 2,5 l
Horse power: close to 400 HP with 10,500 rpm
Top speed: Over 220 km/h (136 mp/h)
Acceleration: 0-100 km/h in 4 seconds
Safety features: Airbag, cockpit built in carbon fibre and Kevlar with shockproof materials i.e. HANS head and neck support, bullet-proof windscreen and plastic foam for tips of the hull to avoid penetration force in case of collision.
The Osprey Powerboat Rescue Team provide rescue services for many powerboat racing events and has a fleet of 6 specialist drop front ambulance boats, 2 of these boats are permanently assigned to providing rescue services to the UIM F1H2O World Championship.
Each boat is manned by four fully trained individuals
2 qualified rescue divers in full kit;
1 qualified helmsman;
1 radio/communications operative;
Every member of the crew holds a current Basic Life Support Certificate.
Every member of the crew wears a wetsuit as maximum flexibility is required.
Carried on board each boat are the following
2 sets of self-contained breathing apparatus;
1 stabilisation frame in the event of a race boat being upside down;
1 Lift bag to prevent a race boat sinking in the event of extensive damage;
1 fire extinguisher;
1 spine board and stabilisation blocks;
1 oxygen set;
1 radio for communications with the shore based medical team and officials;
1 comprehensive medical kit that contains specialist resuscitation and trauma equipment, details below:
To control catastrophic haemorrhage
- CAT tourniquet
- ‘Quick Clot’ ACS sponge
- 6” Haemorrhage control bandage
To control airway with c-spine control
- Suction – hand held with spare spout
- Nasopharyngeal airways - size 24 (child) & 28 (adult)
-Gels size 4 adult (50-90Kg) size 3 (30-60Kg) - gel sachet on each
To control breathing
- Non-rebreather oxygen mask x2
- Ambu-bag, connector & Facemask
To control circulation
- Cannula x2, tape, IV giving set, IV fluids – Saline 1000, Gelofusin 500
- Protection and General Kit: gloves, field dressing packs x2, tuff-scissors, stethoscope, saline eyewash, foil blanket, triangular bandage, safety pins, light bandages x2
At each event the team brings
A training rig to train and test drivers in escaping from an upturned cockpit.
An air compressor to fill diving air cylinders and drivers’ emergency air cylinders carried on the race boats.
Generators to provide power
A Global Positioning System to ensure the course is laid correctly and to specification.