Ask people to identify the objective of racing and most will agree that it is the search for greater performance that drives designers, builders and competitors but in recent years and with safety as a priority, the definition of performance has changed. It is no longer enough to get the best from an engine for now, alongside performance on the water, the target is the parallel pursuit of higher performance from the structure of the boats themselves when something goes wrong and this is a consideration in offshore, circuit and formula racing alike. The human body is fragile, particularly when subjected to physical battering in an accident or collision and the structure of the cockpit/canopy is the only protection from impact damage so construction and attachment is critical.
The problem was highlighted in early 1998, when following a fatality in a canopied Class II offshore monohull, the UAE Marine Sports Federation decided to cancel all Class II and Class III 6-Litre racing in the Middle Last until the question of cockpit protection had been investigated and designs improved. With the advent of canopies ten years ago in offshore, the problem appeared to be more psychological than practical, as drivers apparently believed that they were invincible once behind and below a perspex screen but almost all boats shared the common failing that their cockpits were often not properly engineered as part of the boat's structure and this shortcoming has been addressed.
Despite previous testing and development, formula boats suffered from the same problems so all branches of the sport have concentrated on looking behind the cosmetics of canopies and safety cells. Tasked in 1998 by the UIM and Cees van der Velden, Benetton Formula's Steve Davies instituted a detailed and onerous programme evaluating existing F1 cockpits with the objective of producing a single test standard by which all future manufacturers would be measured High speed side impact was considered to be the worst case encountered on the water and the material evaluation used was a 3-point bend test on 300mm x 50mm sample panels submitted by three top builders. Davies' conclusion was that the tests he had performed highlighted the need for a more extensive and specific programme but that optimistically, boat cockpits could be massively improved with more diligent research by the builders.
One major recent advance in boat safety has been initiated by Guido Capellini. Conscious of the difficulty experienced by the Osprey Rescue teams in recovering drivers from their boats after a barrel roll or flip, when either the boat is impossible to right or it floats with its cockpit and thus driver submerged, Cappellini has developed a two stage automated stability system.
Firstly, it allows water ballast to be taken on rapidly to pull the transom downwards and in parallel, fires off a 200 litre capacity airbag located behind the driver's head restraint. Jointly, the weight of water brings the boat into a vertical position while the air bag raises the cockpit clear of the water to facilitate easy access and rescue and it is viewed as a most significant advance by independent observers and drivers alike.
Other significant safety measures adopted in 1998 included a re-wording of the rules covering pickleforks. The most forward end of the sponson must now be deformable starting at a maximum of 140kg. and be designed to crush with the main body of the sponson ending in a minimum lOOsq.cm. forward bulkhead of a minimum 5mm marine plywood or equivalent material. This bulkhead must be an integral part of the structure and must have a rounded area of at least 10cm. length. Additionally, the picklefork must be demountable and have nothing inside, have a front end of a minimum horizontal radius of 35mm. with a minimum radius of 20mm. in all other directions and have a GRP lay-up of three, two and one layer at its tip.
Further rules immediately instituted include mandatory cockpits for both 0.500 and 0.700 classes, where the driver races in the sitting position and a series of new minimum hull weights and weights including boat and driver of l2Okg./l9Okg.(0.250), 30kg./210kg.(O.350), 18Okg./26Okg.(O.500 0.700), 100kg/17Okg.(OSY.400) and 200kg./250kg.(HR. 1000). All branches of the sport remain under the most vigilant scrutiny by the UIM's Commissions and safety continues to be at the forefront of all future developments.
|Thani Al Qamzi||143|
|Ahmad Al Hameli||84|
|UIM F1H2O World Championship|
|date and venue could be changed|
|Grand Prix of China - Xiamen|
|02||Philippe Chiappe||+ 0.91 secs|
|03||Jonas Andersson||+ 2.75 secs|