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Safety Projects

The ULHRA has continuously supported initiatives and projects to improve safety, instead of taking their prior safety improvements for granted. Three of their current projects are particularly notable at this time. These are: an improved head restraint to support the drivers head (especially useful in the corners), a program to measure the loads incurred by a driver as the boat hurtles across the water, and a materials testing capability aimed at determining the strength of the composite layups that are part of the boat’s structure.

The ULHRA’s continued attention to education, technology, and enforcement will continue to pay dividends for fans by providing the excellent racing experience they come to see.

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Following the rules

ULHRA maintains a set of referees and inspectors that form a team that is able to consistently enforce the driving, motor technical, and safety rules throughout the season. It has been shown that the consistent enforcement of these rules enables exciting, close, side-by-side, racing. The racing game is ever-changing as teams work to improve their performance and excel.

In the next post we will focus on the ULHRA safety projects

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Learning the rules

The ULHRA achieves its safety through more than just boat technology. Improved safety also comes from education and enforcement of the rules. For example, a driver new to ULHRA racing doesn’t just put in some test time, show up, and race. New drivers are quizzed on rules and procedure. They need to have a certain amount of “seat time” to qualify for a race, and are required to run behind the pack of boats in their first race(s) under observation before being given a “green light” to begin racing. Driver education is not only important in improving a driver’s performance, a better driver is a safer driver.

Coming up next: following the rules.

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Better driver protection

The enclosed cockpit and canopy design is now approaching its 30th year of development, and the materials and design have undergone tremendous advancements from the first models, which, in fact, also saved lives immediately upon their introduction. The core material improvement, coupled with carbon and Kevlar, provides improved strength while also reducing weight. The canopy lid that covers the driver also retains the strength of an enclosed cockpit. The latching mechanisms and hinges have been continually refined to withstand the impact of a crash and then still open easily to allow the driver to exit. Wrapping the driver in a strong, egg-like structure is only good, though, if the driver is properly held in place. So the driver’s seat has padding and support to withstand the rigors of racing and reduce shock to the spine. The restraint belts are positioned precisely in order to minimize movement of the driver in a crash situation. There have been a lot of advances with head and neck restraints to minimize the potential of whiplash and undue strain on the neck. The interesting thing is that these devices, which may sound cumbersome to wear, actually make it easier to drive the boat, allowing the performance of the boat and driver to improve. And what if the boat is upside down and the cockpit fills with water? The manufacturers of the driver’s air system continually refine their helmet and air mask systems to improve comfort and ensure that they will function if needed.

In our next two post we will focus on the Rules.

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ULHRA works to make racing faster and safer at the same time

Unlimited Light Hydroplanes certainly provide awe and fascination among spectators and fans lining the shore, but in the back of these fans’ minds, not far from the surface, lurks the question: “How safe are those boats?” The sport of hydroplane racing has, like other motor sports, gone through its dark periods of numerous injuries and deaths. The lessons learned from  these experiences have resulted in innumerable improvements in racer safety, so that today, the ULHRA circuit enjoys an enviable safety record.

In upcoming posts, we will discover how these safety changes are implemented.

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