F1 Powerboat Racing

F1 Powerboat World Championship is a competition of power yachts with rules similar to Formula 1 car racing. 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 allocation of championship points. The sport is governed by the Monaco based Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM, International Power Boating Association).


Inaugurated in 1981, F1 powerboat racing is a Grand Prix style event, similar to Formula One automobile racing, in which teams compete in 13 venues around the world each season. In the 2006 season, 27 drivers competed 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 240 kilometers per hour (150 mph). The races are longer than most powerboat 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 Marine V6 two stroke that burns 100LL Avgas at a rate of 120 liters (32 gallons) 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 240 km/h (150 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 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 from 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.

As of the 2007 season, all boats are required to have a crash box installed. Potential future safety features include collapsible bows that would deform rather than penetrate 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.

World champions

Year Driver
1981 Renato Molinari
1982 Roger Jenkins
1983 Renato Molinari
1984 Renato Molinari
1985 Bob Spalding
1986 Gene Thibodaux
1987 Not competed.
1990 John Hill
1991 Jonathan Jones
1992 Fabrizio Bocca
1993 Guido Cappellini
1994 Guido Cappellini
1995 Guido Cappellini

Year Driver
1996 Guido Cappellini
1997 Scott Gillman
1998 Jonathan Jones
1999 Guido Cappellini
2000 Scott Gillman
2001 Guido Cappellini
2002 Guido Cappellini
2003 Guido Cappellini
2004 Scott Gillman
2005 Guido Cappellini
2006 Scott Gillman
2007 Sami Seliö

Related series

The ChampBoat Series is a US-based championship that also uses F1 powerboats. The series' 2008 calendar included eight events.

See also

External links

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