Originally published within the British Powerboat Racing Club Cowes Torquay Cowes 60th anniversary souvinenir program. The book was put together by Christian Toll, it's an amazing body of work cataloguing the race and history from those that took and still take part. Now available from the British Powerboat Racing Club site
I was asked if I could gather thoughts and
recollections from my farther Mike Bellamy who has supported the Cowes Torquay
as a racer, official and supporter since the late 60’s. Mike
continues to run Lancing Marine and go boating, so suitably I caught up for
a chat during a trip out on the water from Shoreham in Sussex. The business has been trading since 1970 from which I recall many London International Boatshows as a child.
Mike’s farther a pioneer speedway rider, used prize money
from winning on the track to set up a tyre retail business. Customer Edward
Lacy-Hulbert needed a new crew and knowing of Mike from circuit boat racing
persuaded him race a season in Sandpiper 2, a 28ft Class 2 cruiser. This
included the 1968 CTC, a very rough race. They were the only boat in their
class to the reach the Torquay half-way turning mark before the 4pm limit
following the 10am start. Completing the course, they won the “London Cowes” a
most magnificent trophy.
Following on from this success another customer, Ralph Hilton
who ran HTS a large trucking business, decided to also try offshore with Mike.
A design was commissioned from Don Shead and W.A Souter built the now legendry
HTS a Class II a cold moulded 33ft craft. As a child I recall visits over the
winter of 1968 to see the layer-by-layer cold moulded construction. The boat raced at Cowes for many years and also won the 1979 Class 2 world championship as Apache.whereupon HTS was retired and displayed at the Basildon Powerboat museum. Subsequently new owner Nick Wilkinson restored her fitting two of our surface drive units coupled to Sabre Perkins 300HP units enabling the boat to race again.
Early on the boat had reliability issues including retirement
form the 1969 Round Britain. HTS was transformed by a pair of new Ford-Sabre
275 Turbo Plus Diesels. Ford supported HTS in addition to the works Fairy
entries, this facilitated through Ralf’s Road transport connections. 1971
proved to be highly successful year with finishes at more than ten races. The
team then entered the 1972 London Monet Carlo race for which extensive preparations were made over the winter.
A few days before the LMC start disaster struck for Ralph as
he needed to pull out due to commitments to his now public company. However,
agreement was reached for Mike to race the boat. The crew was rejigged with Jim
Brooker, who then worked for Ralph, joining the crew along with Eddie Chater on
helm and Mike Navigating. Speeds were in the order of 50mph, fast through the
Atlantic rough, but not so hard as to break the boat. They chipped away stage
by stage winning by six hours and being presented the Rainier Gold cup by
Princess Grace. This the highlight of Mikes racing career and built from
learning how to race the Cowes Torquay Cowes. The Cowes events were the hardest
races of the season with the longest courses and unpredictable sea conditions.
Mike learned how to skirt around headlands so to gain calm water advantage, a
secret of this event.
Racing back then was different with little in the way of on
course safety cover. The crew needed to be self-sufficient, rescue not
guaranteed with races were held in all conditions. Navigation was via Compass
and distance. At one event when Fog descended the turn mark was only located by
stopping the engines and listening for the Sovereign turn mark bell ring! This
different to today’s GPS Navigation and the extensive safety cover provided by
HTS was renamed by Charles Gill who ran the boat as “I like
It” through the 1973 & 4 seasons. Speed increased to the mid 60’s by changing from Shaft V-Drives to Sterndrives. To further improve they needed to
race Class 1. This led to the purchase of Aeromarine III a 36ft Cigarette
powered by twin Kiekhaefer 625hp V8’s. The boat had pedigree having won the US
1972 /1973 National series with Miami’s Doc Magoon. The Cowes connection helped
as purchase was arranged through powerboat legend Don Aronow who won the 1969
CTC. Again, new boat reliability issues persisted, following resolution Charles
won the 1976 CTC. By then Mike had stood down from racing following an accident
where the “I Like It Too had span out following kiting at over 80mph.
Subsequently as a family we supported Powerboat events at
Cowes and elsewhere supporting Safety and also as Class 3 National series
sponsor. This lead to my own brief time racing which included round the island
events with Ian Cutler in Large It during the mid 1990’s.
Mike came back racing at Cowes in 1984 with Colin Stewart in
“Disprin the Fast One” a 25ft Revenger powered by a single Big Block
Mercruiser. This followed the second running of the Round Britain where they
finished third overall.
In addition to sport Mike involvement with Boats also
includes his business Lancing Marine who provide Diesel Engine &
Transmissions for marine use. Equipment as used on Mike’s Sunseeker 46 which he
and my mother spent many seasons cruising, including numerous Channel
crossings. The social events at Cowes were always fun and mainly centred around
the Gloucester Hotel with great food, company and times. Numerous bottles of
Champagne were consumed, with many stories laying untold.
We ended our chat and returned to Shoreham through a slight
following sea at 30kst . Mike keen as ever to wish the competitors, officials,
sponsors and supporters a great Cowes 2021.