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Unlimited hydroplanes delayed by swollen Ohio River

One factor that makes boat racing unique in the world of motorsports is the fact that the racecourse itself is constantly changing.

An Ohio River swollen by recent rains proved to be too big of a challenge to the world’s fastest boats on Friday, causing the start of the H1 Unlimited Racing Series event in Madison, Indiana, to be delayed until tomorrow.

Today’s schedule called for testing and qualifying to get underway this morning for the 111th running of the APBA Gold Cup, but high waters first caused a delay in getting the race teams settled into their pit area along the banks of the river, then the amount of debris floating through the racecourse forced race officials to cancel the day’s action altogether.

An H1 Unlimited hydroplane speeding across the water at nearly 200 miles an hour can be severely damaged and the driver injured if it were to collide with a chunk of wood or other floating object.

Despite the efforts of the crew at the Markland Dam upstream from Madison, who tried their hardest to prevent debris from going down the river, and of the dozens of volunteers who constantly patrolled the river to catch anything the dam operators may have missed, they simply couldn’t get it all.

Testing and qualifying has been rescheduled for Saturday morning, along with the event’s first preliminary heats later in the afternoon.

This year’s H1 Unlimited race in Madison has special significance for several reasons. It marks the 70th anniversary of when the sport of unlimited hydroplane racing first came to the city.

It also is the 60th anniversary of when the city first became the owner of a hydroplane, which occurred when Samuel DuPont donated his boat Nitrogen to the citizens in 1961. The Madison Racing Team has been a part of the racing circuit ever since and has become the second most successful owner in the sport’s history.

Finally, this year marks the 50th anniversary of when Madison hosted the APBA Gold Cup for the first time and when the city’s Miss Madison hydroplane won the race in what was one of the greatest Cinderella stories of all time.

The event was the subject of the feature film “Madison,” which was released in 2005 and stars Jim Caviezel, Mary McCormick, and Bruce Dern.

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