Sunday the 4th September saw the 56th running of the world’s most famous power boat race - Cowes-Torquay-Cowes - and what a race it turned out to be with Force 7 westerly winds decimating the fleet, stirring up 13-19 foot seas - only 4 boats making it to Torquay - 3 within the time limit and only 2 making it back to Cowes.
It was a very memorable day for Hampshire powerboat star Steve Curtis - he finally won his first ever Cowes-Torquay-Cowes title.
He was part of the three-man team aboard Cougar 46 that was one of only two boats, out of the 14 which started, to complete the historic race.
Steve Curtis (throttleman), the eight times UIM Class 1 World Champion, was helped by Richard Carr (driver) and Paul Sinclair (navigator) to push their Mercury powered aluminium mono hull to victory with an average speed of 51.88 mph.
Their winning time of four hours 12 minutes and 36 seconds was well in front of runners-up Blastoff, who finished on five hours 33 minutes and four seconds.
Early front runners Vector Martini Rosso (Peter Dredge; Simon Powell; Malcolm Crease and Jason McVicar) who had won the race for the last 2 years, encountered technical problems at Portland and then Silverline (Drew Langdon and Giancarlo Cangiano) dropped out of the running with transmission failure.
The morning then got worse for Langdon and Cangiano, when their stricken boat was then swamped by a huge wave and the Mercury powered Outerlimits sunk 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. The boat however, could not be recovered until Monday.
With the retirements of Italian entrant Tommy Racing (Maurizio Schepici and Gabriele Giambattista) and Hendricks 55 (Miles Jennings and Markus and Vincent Hendricks) the way was left clear for Cougar 46 throttled by 8 times UIM Class 1 World Champion, Steve Curtis MBE with Richard Carr and Paul Sinclair to push the Mercury powered aluminium mono hull to Torquay at an average speed of 58.42 mph.
Blastoff Racing (Dorian Griffith, Shelley Jory-Leigh and Will Stevens) was second (average speed of 41.41 mph), a full 47 minutes behind with Belgium Buzzi RIB, Biretta Due, (Jean-Pierre Neels; Thomas Vandamme; Marijke D’Hondt) taking an impressive third, 33 minutes in arrears of the Yanmar powered Fountain.
Incredibly, the 53 year old hull Thunderstreak (Robin Ward and Jeff Hall) finished fourth but sadly didn’t complete the course within the allotted 3 hours – taking an extra 51 minutes.
The depleted fleet meant just 4 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 which had worsened from leg 1, and crossed the finish line for a emotional win. The British racer has won nearly everything in the sport but this race had eluded him. Driver/owner Richard Carr has followed the race since a child and has dreamt of Cowes Glory.
Dorian Griffithin, Blastoff Racing, has strived for a Cowes-Torquay-Cowes finish since 2008, with his team, he not only accomplished that but stood on the second step of the podium - 32 minutes behind Cougar 46 (average speed of 37.43 mph). Team mate Shelley Jory-Leigh became the highest placed British lady competitor in the history of the race, only Betty Cook from America went one better in 1980.
It was an incredible day to add to the 56-year powerboat racing history at Cowes.
To see a selection of my pics from Torquay, please visit my Flickr album: