Bert Henderson got his first chance at driving an H1 Unlimited hydroplane in 2016, when he took the U-57 Spirit of Detroit out for a few exploratory laps during the Detroit event. He showed enough skill as a driver that owner Dave Bartush hired “Hot Foot” Henderson last year to drive his newly purchased hull, the U-7, also named the Spirit of Detroit. In 2017, he qualified as an H1 Unlimited driver and received his license at the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Hydrofest on the Detroit River.
Although Henderson ran just two races in the 2017 H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series he is still considered one of two rookies in 2018.
During last year’s President’s Cup and American Power Boat Association’s Gold Cup, Henderson qualified for both events with speeds in the 148 mph range, then took second place in four out of five preliminary heats and placed fourth in the President’s Cup’s winner-take-all final.
He crashed out of the Gold Cup final and was disqualified when H1 Unlimited officials ruled that he caused the collision with the U-12 Graham Trucking. Fortunately, Henderson was not injured, but the damage to the boat forced him and the Spirit of Detroit racing team to sit out the remainder of the season.
“Hot Foot” Henderson says he likes H1 Unlimited hydroplanes because they are “very BIG, very FAST, very STABLE (mostly), and BAD ASS.”
A naturally humble and first-class competitor, Henderson insists that he shakes the hand of his opponents before each race. For him, the handshake is an important way to consider his competitors and the sport at fair value.
Henderson also attaches great importance to his preparation before each heat of racing. He isolates himself from fans and crew and thinks of the strategies he will use while visualizing the race in his head several times from start-to-finish.
His goal throughout the season is to be a contender in every heat and make forward progress.
With a degree in business marketing from Sir Sanford Fleming College, the 46-year-old Henderson operates a successful race boat building and repair company, Henderson Hydroplanes. During the off-season, his company repaired the U-7 boat, making several upgrades in the process. His company also upgraded a second H1 Unlimited hydroplane, the U-2, which is also owned by the Spirit of Detroit race team.
When Henderson isn’t building and repairing boats he continues to compete in the 2.5 litre and Grand Prix hydroplane classes of racing, adding to his 22-years of racing experiences. Those experiences include two Canadian Boating Federation’s 2.5 Litre Hydroplane National Championships (1998, 2000), a one-mile world record of 112.786 mph average in a Grand Prix hydroplane, and three Hydroplane Racing League Grand Prix national championships (2012, 2015, 2017).
A resident of Brockville, Ontario, Canada, a city south of Ottawa that borders upstate New York, Henderson and his wife, Jennifer, have two children: daughter, Kaitlyn (16), and son Owen (14).
1996 Rookie of the Year
1998 CBF National Champion 2.5L stock
2000 CBF National Champion 2.5L stock
2001 CBF National Champion 5L
HRL National Champion in Grand Prix class: 2012, 2015, 2017
Grand Prix 1 mile world record: 112.786 mph 5 laps
5L Canadian Record holder 2010
2010 Triple Crown winner in 5L and Grand Prix
Winner of 5 of 8 Grand Prix races in HRL series 2017
5 time Valleyfield Winner in the Grand Prix class: 2010,2012,2014,2016,2017