Posted on November 21, 2014
The Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF) plays host to the 2014 Oryx Cup UIM World Championship, the final round of the H1 Unlimited series, on Doha Bay this weekend. Established in 2009 by His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani, president of the QMSF, and the then chairman of H1 Unlimited, Sam Cole, the race has become one of the most popular rounds of the US-dominated series and has attracted 10 of the world’s fastest on-water race craft, which will grace the waters of Doha Bay from Thursday.
The RORO ship arrived in Doha from the United States last Friday with all the equipment and race boats and the entire H1 caravan transfers to the Doha Corniche over the next two days. Staff at the QMSF are relishing the prospect of welcoming some of the most spectacular racing boats on the planet. “We started H1 here in Qatar in 2009. It has been very successful for us in terms of hosting and in terms of teams representing Qatar,” said Sheikh Hassan. “Sam (Cole) did a wonderful job setting this up and getting all the boats from the US to come half way around the world to compete here in Doha.”
Sam Cole stood down as head of H1 this season and his place at the head of the sport was taken by former racer and multiple National High Points champion Steve David – himself a favourite with the Doha crowds following his spectacular performances at the helm of Oh Boy/Oberto Miss Madison in recent seasons. “Now, I think, with Steve (David) being a racer and taking Sam’s seat there is huge potential for the sport to grow. I know a lot of people talk about the rules. I know Steve is working on new rules to maybe implement next year.
“Expansion of the H1 series to other countries all depends on what people’s perception of the sport is. There was talk about China and the UAE, but nothing tangible has happened. I think with more exposure for H1, there is always the potential for new countries to come into the fold. The big hiccup is the movement of these boats around the world. If you are committed to six or seven rounds, it takes at least two or three months to get the boats to places like Qatar, the UAE or China in terms of sailing time.
“The beauty of the format of H1 racing is the short nature of the races. When you do a three or four-lap heat, the race is over in maybe three minutes. It depends on whether you are racing on salt or fresh water. I don’t envisage any problems in making the races longer on fresh water if your boat is hosed down by another boat but, if you get hosed down with salt, you know your equipment is done. Four laps on salt water are okay, but with spray and salt mist in the air that can damage the turbines.”
Sheikh Hassan thinks that a change from the sport’s traditional Lycoming turbine engines built for helicopter and military use could be a step forward. “For me, I think there is potential for new power systems, new engines. I’m sure if they convert to these new engines, then it would be possible to do more laps. “The beauty of the Oryx Cup is that it’s a championship on its own. The overall points go towards the main National High Points Championship in the US, so it is important for everyone to win, but it is also important to the Spirit of Qatar Team to win the Oryx Cup as a stand-alone championship race.”