The E1 electric powerboat championships featuring the 58 mph hydrofoiling RaceBirds will hold their inaugural race in January 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with 6 more races currently slated for the rest of next year.
In the E1 format, teams compete in head-to-head time trials to decide who will move on to the quarter finals, semis and then the four team finals (see chart below). There is room for 10 teams and 20 pilots. Each team must field two pilots of different genders, who rotate driving duties throughout the race weekend.
Confirmed teams at time of writing include Team Venice, Team Mexico, Team Nadal and Team Drogba. The ownership of Team Mexico includes Checo Perez, the Formula 1 driver for Red Bull (auto) Racing. Team Nadal is owned by tennis legend Rafael Nadal, who came onboard this past January.
Perez welcomed Nadal at the time with a cheeky greeting via mobile phone. “Hola Rafa! It’s Checo Perez. It is great to hear that you are joining the (UIM) E1 World Championship with Team Spain. I know you have 22 Grand Slams, but let’s see who is the champion of the water in E1. Vamos!”
On May 31 E1 announced that Ivory Coast football star Didier Drogba and his partner Gabrielle LeMaire will be the owners of Team Drogba under the colourful Ivory Coast flag.
Four cities confirmed for 2024
The competitions need to take place in cities with waterfronts that accommodate the best spectator sightline. For 2024 those cities include Jeddah, Venice, Monaco and Rotterdam.
“It’s a fantastic day for the UIM E1 Championship as we confirm our first ever racing calendar.” said Rodi Basso, Co-Founder & CEO of E1. “After opening the racing in the Middle East, the action will move to Europe where we will be racing in the historic and beautiful harbours of Venice and Monaco, before culminating in the vibrant port of Rotterdam.”
He said the organization is keeping the door open on other venues and expects to confirm at least two more coastal cities very soon.
In Jeddah, the RaceBirds will ‘fly’ above the waters of the city’s impressive waterfront on the Red Sea. E1 said they are conducting feasibility studies to determine the starting line, finishing line and other parameters of the final course.
RaceBirds have 150kW motors, can hit 50 knots
Sophi Horne of Norway designed the RaceBird, working with naval architect and marine engineer Brunello Acampora. They are powered by 150kW (200 hp) electric motors from Mercury Racing and can hit speeds of 50 knots (93 kmh / 58 mph). The lithium-ion batteries from Austria’s Kreisel have capacity of 35 kWh, which E1 says is two full charges per race event. QiOn is the Official Charging Supplier for the Series.
The original RaceBird prototype 1 underwent a rigorous testing programme and fine-tuning that has led to the race-ready prototype 2 which will be manufactured and assembled by Victory Marine. Teams will receive delivery of their RaceBird boats later this year.
The boats include telemetry and data viewing software developed by McLaren Applied. The tools allow the engineers from E1 and SeaBird Technologies to view and analyse live and recorded data from the raceboats.
Positive impact of electric powerboat championships
One of the goals of E1 is to make a positive impact on coastal habitats around the world by accelerating the development of clean technologies and blue restoration programmes that will help repair already damaged ecosystems.
The organizations E1’s Blue Action Programme is spearheaded by Chief Scientist Prof. Carlos Duarte. During his decades of dedication to ocean health, Professor Duarte has published more than 900 scientific papers and has been ranked within the top 1 per cent of Highly-Cited Scientists by Thompson Reuters.
Professor Duarte says “Half of the global population lives in urban areas, most of which are coastal cities. We are confident that showing people in these cities that reversing biodiversity loss is achievable will encourage them to extend their restoration efforts.”