Creating a Safer Cockpit for Hydroplane Racing - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Creating a Safer Cockpit for Hydroplane Racing

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Rising out the wreckage that was the Miss Budweiser on the Columbia River in 1982, came a determined and monumental effort to make marine motorsports safer by an exponential leap. Only obliquely referred to previously by a handful of enthusiasts, the Safety Canopy or Capsule came forefront as the only alternative to the open cockpit-no seat belt option that had taken the lives of so many competitors.

The Budweiser Racing team, or Hydroplanes, Incorporated, organized a pool of the best and brightest that included such luminaries as Bernie Little, Ron Jones, Sr., Jeff Neff and Jim Kropfeld. Together they ultimately created the safest cockpit configuration that is still essentially in use today. Largely because of their efforts, the thunder rolled on.

Recently, the Unlimited Light Hydroplane Racing Association (ULHRA) replicated that canopy into a version that can be used as an instructional tool and training device for current and aspiring drivers. Aptly entitled "Safety Capsule Training ", the opportunities to experience this training first hand will occur at several of the races conducted on the 2009 ULHRA circuit.

Shepherded by Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel such as Joe Mayerle and Pat McQuade, the sessions will be open to the public and in some cases available for fans to experience. Hands on instruction by the SAR representatives can enable even the most inexperienced enthusiast the opportunity to become "Capsule Certified". Incidentally, this certification is mandatory for anyone intending to compete in an enclosed canopy and must be recertified at least every two years.

Historically, these sessions with the older style canopies not only were needed but developed into social occasions that created the opportunity for fans and media to get better acquainted with drivers and team members in a low pressure environment. The ULHRA will carry on that tradition with their newest safety acquisition.