All Photos Compliments of Chris Davies – John Moore: www.powerboatracingworld.com
The legendary Cowes-Torquay-Cowes endurance powerboat race finished Sunday in what will go down as the roughest in the event’s 56-year history. Thirty two to 38 mph winds stirred up 13-19-foot seas – challenging competitors and equipment.
The 190-mile endurance race was created in 1961 by newspaper tycoon and second world war fighter pilot Sir Max Aitken after seeing the Miami-Nassau Powerboat Race that began in 1956. Sir Max proposed a similar race be staged in England between Cowes and Torquay.
Competitors began their journey on calm waters along the Solent, a 20-mile long strait that separates the Isle of Wright from mainland England. Conditions would deteriorate quickly for the 14-boat field as they left the protected waters for open ocean competition. Gale force winds – stirring up 13-19 foot seas – changed the game. Endurance of crafts and crews would be tested to their limits.
Reigning Cowes-Torquay-Cowes Champion Vector Martini Rosso, a Vector hull piloted by Peter Dredge, Simon Powell, Malcolm Crease and Jason McVicar, succumbed to technical issues after enjoying an early lead. Technical issues forced Silverline, (Drew Langdon and Giancarlo Cangiano) out of the running as well. To make matters worse, their stricken boat was then swamped by a rogue wave and sank. Thankfully, no one was injured. The crew was rescued and the boat was towed to safety.
Conditions continued to take its toll on the field. Italian entrant Tommy Racing (Maurizio Schepici and Gabriele Giambattista) and Hendricks 55 (Miles Jennings, Markus and Vincent Hendricks) were the next two competitors forced to retire. This cleared the way for eight-time UIM Class 1 World Champion Steve Curtis, with team mates Richard Carr and Paul Sinclair to power through the rough in their classic Mercury Racing 1350 powered Cougar aluminum vee-bottom hull. The team averaged 58.42 mph to win the Cowes-Torque leg of the event.
Dorian Griffith, Shelley Jory-Leigh and Will Stevens piloted Blastoff Racing, a Fountain hull powered by twin Yanmar diesels, to finish 47 minutes behind the Mercury Racing powered Cougar with Biretta Due, a Belgium Buzzi RIB piloted by Jean-Pierre Neels, Thomas Vandamme, Marijke D’Hondt and Dmitry Schiller finishing 33 minutes behind Blastoff for a third overall finish. Thunderstreak, a 53 year old hull piloted by Robin Ward and Jeff Hall finished fourth but failed to complete the course within the stated 3 hour 51 minute time limit.
Attrition brought the starting field for the trip back from Torquay to Cowes down to to four. The field would swiftly be reduced to three when an oil pressure loss forced Biretta Due out of the competition.
Steve Curtis carefully throttled the Mercury Racing 1350 powered Cougar through the huge seas and to cross the finish line in what was an emotional victory. The British racer, who had won nearly everything in the sport of offshore powerboat racing, had never won the classic endurance event. Teammate Richard Carr has followed the race since a child. Richard has always dreamed of winning the coveted Cowes event. Blastoff pilot Dorian Griffith, who had been striving to finish Cowes-Torquay-Cowes since 2008, realized his dream – with a second place finish.
To endure such rough conditions is a testament to the competitors and the propulsion that carries them through. This Cowes-Torquay-Cowes victory proves the performance, reliability and dependability built into all Mercury Racing products.