On what has to be one of the most perfect Cowes Torquay Powerboat Races in the 55-year history of the event, it was stunning to see these magnificent machines racing once more from the start line outside the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes.
Fantastic race conditions soon sorted the field as the powerboats leapt from the start line and charged out into the Solent. Within the first few miles it was evident that the racing would be both exhilarating and strategic as engines were pushed to (and in some cases beyond) their limits in an attempt to get one of the coveted positions at the front of the fleet.
Leg One – Cowes to Torquay
Vector Martini led off the mark, chased closely by Tommy Offshore Racing and Silverline.
This year, for the first time the course was changed to allow the public to experience the racing up close as the boats passed the shores of Christchurch Bay, zooming by Boscombe and Bournemouth Piers. Teams commented on the crowds that had gathered on the many headlands they passed as well as the amazing number of spectator craft that came out to watch the boats race.
Despite, or in fact because of the ideal conditions, several boats ran into difficulties over the course of the race. Past winner Microlink lost a water pipe off Swansea, broke a throttle cable and then had the ignition pack up. On arrival at Torquay driver Vahid (Vee) Ganjavian was philosophical saying, “This is Marathon racing; some days it’s good and some days it’s bad.”
After having gained the lead in Leg One, the Italian team Tommy Offshore Racing were passed by Vector Martini who reported seeing a cloud of black smoke emanating from the now stationary boat (never a good sign). The retirement of Tommy Offshore Racing was confirmed by the Race Director John Moore. Thunderstreak and HTS Perkins also retired during the first leg leaving a field of 11 in the race back to Cowes.
Vector Martini, driven by Peter Dredge and Simon Powell, with their crew of Malcolm Crease and David Gandy won Leg One from Cowes to Torquay in 01:09:39 ahead of Silverline driven by Drew and Ali Langdon (01:19:59). Smokin Aces driven by Chris and Nicholas Dodge took third place. (01:24:54)
David Gandy, better known for his modelling and fashion career, was a guest crew member on the winning boat. “It’s been one of the most amazing experiences of my life but I’m not sure if all my body’s organs are in the same place as when I started. I’m really impressed with the experience and professionalism of Peter Dredge and Simon Powell. It’s not everyday you get to do 115 miles per hour on water.”
Leg Two – Torquay to Cowes
Interviewed after winning Leg One in Torquay Peter Dredge said: “We’re going to open it up on the way home”. Sure enough Vector Martini wasted no time in once again establishing their dominance on the fleet as they raced out of Torquay Bay ahead of Microlink, Silverline and the rest of the fleet, already one competitor less with the withdrawal of Flying Falcon.
Microlink, determined to make up for their troubled run on the first leg made a direct course for Portland Bill, and while not reaching the speeds of Vector Martini, managed to keep the pressure on all the way across the bay. By Swanage, there was still very little between the two boats and it remained to be seen if the the crews and engines could keep up the effort to the end of the race.
Meanwhile, a running battle was being fought five or six miles behind the leaders between Silverline and Smoking Aces with both looking to take third place on the second leg.
In reality, Microlink was the only boat with a lot to lose as their difficulties on Leg One had essentially stolen their chances of an overall podium place on elapsed time. As a team that prides itself on its achievements, neither Vee nor Gareth Williams would be likely to let their problems on Leg One get in the way of a victory on Leg Two and in typical style committed everything they had.
However, luck was not on their side, and despite a valiant attempt Microlink once more succumbed to mechanical problems on their way out of Christchurch Bay to The Needles fairway buoy leaving Vector Martini with a clear run to the finish.
Winning in a time of 01:11.57 Vector Martini cemented their place in the history of the Cowes Torquay race with a lead of nine minutes over second placed Silverline who finished in 01: 20.59. Smoking Aces secured third place in 01:24.20.
With thanks to Race Director John Moore, British Powerboat Racing Club.
Photos courtesy of Malc Attrill.