This weekend (3rd – 4th September 2016) will see the 56th year of offshore powerboat racing at Cowes.
Once again the Solent will reverberate to the sound of high powered, high octane powerboats when the Cowes Classic 2016 Powerboat Race roars into town.
Just as the hubbub of Cowes Week has died down along the shores of the Isle of Wight, and life seems set to resume to its usual pace on the slide into autumn, powerboat racers arrive to stir up the pace of life.
It’s time again for the 2016 edition of the world’s most prestigious offshore powerboat race, the Cowes to Torquay, Torquay to Cowes.
The Cowes – Torquay – Cowes race covers a distance of 190 nautical miles. The course record speed was set last year by Peter Dredge, Simon Powell, Mal Crease and David Gandy driving Vector Martini Rosso at a staggering average speed of 94.55 mph.
Cowes is recognised as the birthplace of international powerboat racing. It is therefore fitting that every year some of the biggest, brightest, loudest and most powerful boats in the world assemble to re-enact the famous race from Cowes to Torquay, then turn around and race back from Torquay to Cowes where the first race was hosted in 1961.
After the success of a new race format in 2013, which saw the fleet stopping in Torquay, the organisers have agreed to run the race in two parts for a third year.
The format is a bonus for powerboat racing fans on the mainland as it provides a chance for viewing of the boats from Torquay’s Haldon Pier between the races. Access to the pontoons will be limited to officials and race teams but drivers will meet with spectators on the pier. There are also several vantage points on the headlands of Torquay Bay where fans can watch the boats both arrive in Torquay and race back toward Cowes.
With 14 boats competing this year the start just off the Royal Yacht Squadron will be critical as the racers jostle for the most advantageous position on the line. Spectators should choose their spot early to ensure the best view. The start at Cowes provides excellent spectator opportunities at Egypt Point where the fleet will be accelerating on their way down the Solent and out into Poole Bay.
Winner for spectators
The format is a definite winner for the spectators on both the Isle of Wight and at Torquay, giving fans an absolute feast of powerboat action with two starts and two finishes. Four exciting opportunities to see the action.
Dawn in Cowes will break to the sound of roaring engines and activity on the water will be evident from approximately 08:45 when the racing fleet will muster to the east of the Cowes Harbour entrance. Race boats will then pass at speed in a convoy past the Snowden sailing mark before starting the actual race immediately to the north of Gurnard North Cardinal Buoy at 09:30.
The fastest race boats should be approaching Berry Head by 10:30 and will continue on northward to a mark at the Ore Stone before turning and heading into the finish off Haldon Pier, Torquay. At Torquay the boats will form up and parade past Haldon Pier at 13:00 before lining up for the race start back to Cowes at 14:00.
Depending on the conditions, the fastest boats should appear back in the Solent at approximately 15:30 for a finish off the Gurnard North Cardinal Mark at Egypt Point.
The boats will be located at the wet pits at each end of the race course and excellent viewing opportunities will be available for spectators. Remember to allow enough time to get back to your favourite vantage point once the boats start their engines.
The drivers are keen to meet with their fans, however, from a safety perspective we have to change the way this interaction takes place so this year there will not be access to the pontoon and the best place to chat with the race crews is at the Pier above the pits; the drivers will come to you.
The races form two parts of the RYA National Marathon Championship with the Cowes to Torquay being RYA National Marathon Championship (Heat 1) plus UIM International Ordinary Race. The Torquay to Cowes being RYA National Marathon Championship (Heat 2) and UIM International Ordinary Race.
There is also a Cowes-Poole-Cowes in which 19 boats have entered. Using the same start procedure, these boats will be starting at 09:45 and racing to Poole Bay and back.
Event Director Martin Levi commented: ‘It should be a fabulous weekend, the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes is the only race of its kind in the world. It’s also international, we haves teams from Belgium, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Ireland, the US and the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey.”
Viewing Places and Times
09:30 and 14:30 to17:30 – Egypt Point, Isle of Wight
09:35 to 10:00 and 14:20 to 17:30 – Hurst Castle
09:35 to 10:00 and 14:20 to 17:30 – Fort Victoria, Isle of Wight
09:40 to 10:10 – Bournemouth & Boscombe Piers
09:55 to 11:35 and 14:00 to 16:50 – Anvil Point
09:55 to 11:35 and 14:00 to 16:50 – St Albans Head
10:00 to 11:45 and 14:00 to 16:30 – Portland Bill
10:45 to 12:40 and 13:35 to 14:30 – Berry Head
10:45 to 12:40 and 13:30 to 14:30 – Daddyhole Plain, Torquay
10:45 to 13:30 Haldon Pier, Torquay
Cowes – Poole – Cowes
09:45 and 10:20 to 12:00 – Egypt Point, Isle of Wight
09:50 to 12:00 – Hurst Castle
09:50 to 12:00 – Fort Victoria, Isle of Wight
09:55 to 11:00 – Bournemouth & Boscombe Piers
*All timings are approximate and subject to change depending on weather conditions Access to the Cowes Yacht Haven, Cowes and the pontoons at Haldon Pier, Torquay is limited to race crews and officials.
To find out more, check out the Race website: www.cowestorquaycowes.co.uk
See also Cowes Local Notices to Mariners No 53(T) of 2016.
Photo credits: Malc Attrill.
Pre-race report provided by John Moore, Cowes Torquay Media.