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Powerboat Racing

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 the BPRC. 

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.

Laurence Bellamy


 

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