The 2016 Cowes-Torquay-Cowes race will surely go down as the roughest ever run; only three boats made it to Torquay within the time limit and only two made it back to Cowes.
With a calm ride through the Solent, the 14 starters were then faced with Force 7 westerly winds, which made the trip to Torquay more a test of endurance than a race.
Early front-runners Vector Martini Rosso (Peter Dredge / Simon Powell / Malcolm Crease / Jason McVicar) encountered technical problems at Portland and then Silverline (Drew Langdon / Giancarlo Cangiano) dropped out of the running with transmission failure. To make matters worse for Langdon and Cangiano, their stricken boat was then swamped by a huge wave and the Mercury-powered Outerlimits sank with only the bow buoyancy keeping it afloat. The crew were swiftly rescued and a line was attached to the UIM Marathon Class A boat.
With the retirements of Italian entrant Tommy Racing (Maurizio Schepici / Gabriele Giambattista) and Hendricks 55 (Miles Jennings / Markus and Vincent Hendricks) the way was left clear for Cougar 46 throttled by eight times UIM Class 1 World Champion, Steve Curtis MBE with Richard Carr and Paul Sinclair to push the Mercury-powered aluminium monohull to Torquay at an average speed of 58.42 mph.
Blastoff Racing (Dorian Griffith / Shelley Jory-Leigh / Will Stevens) was second, a full 47 minutes behind with Belgium Buzzi RIB Biretta Due, (Jean-Pierre Neels / Thomas Vandamme / Marijke D’Hondt / Dmitry Schiller) taking an impressive third, 33 minutes in arrears of the Yanmar-powered Fountain.
Incredibly, the 53-year-old hull Thunderstreak (Robin Ward / Jeff Hall) finished fourth but sadly did not complete the course within the stated three hours, 51 minutes time limit.
The depleted fleet meant just three boats would start the Torquay-Cowes race and then almost immediately after the start Biretta Due experienced oil pressure loss, which left just Cougar 46 and Blastoff Racing in with a shout of winning the Beaverbrook Trophy.
Curtis carefully throttled the Cougar through the huge seas and crossed the finish line for an emotional win; the British racer has won nearly everything in the sport but this race had eluded him – until now. Driver and owner Richard Carr has followed the race since a child and has always dreamt of Cowes glory – so now it is a dream come true.
Dorian Griffith has strived for a Cowes-Torquay-Cowes finish since 2008, and with his team, he not only accomplished that, but stood on the second step of the podium.
It was an incredible day to add to the 56-year powerboat racing history at Cowes.
By John Moore
Editor – Powerboat Racing World
Photos courtesy of Malc Attrill
Race results for Cowes-Torquay-Cowes and Cowes-Poole-Cowes Races.