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Cowes Torquay – An Absolute Classic
Martini take the 54th win
“It was a perfect weekend” said Alberto Comparato
Comparato Comes Out Fighting
Sunday sees the 54th running of the historic event

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31-Aug-14 23:15
Cowes Torquay – An Absolute Classic
Martini take the 54th win
John Moore

A Cowes start from Cowes - Photo: Nigel Barrett

The Cowes Torquay Powerboat Race is the toughest powerboat race in the world. The stretch of water between the Solent and Devon Coast has long been regarded as one mean piece of water.

It’s reputation however for punishing boats and crew, and crushing even the most prepared teams has been somewhat subdued for the last two years as the south west coast of Britain has turned on spectacular weather with much calmer seas and gentler breezes than the racers are used to.

The question on everyone’s lips was; ‘Who would have thought this was possible?’

South West England provided yet another stonking day, a day suited for fast racing and spectacular viewing. After the recent bad weather the sunshine and clear skies were a welcome relief. We received reports from Torquay that the sea was as flat as a billiard table, and fast times would be possible. Back at Cowes the situation was similar with a light breeze and little wave activity.

Tim Powell, a 29 year veteran organiser of the race fired the canons from the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes at 09:00 sharp this morning, setting the fleet on its way as they raced once more from their historical starting point.

Being close to shore the race start was everything that could be hoped for. The air filled with the sound of well-tuned, high powered engines. The fans turned out in force to experience the full spectacle of sight, sound and smell as the fleet powered away down the Solent.

Peter Dredge and Simon Powell got out to a handy lead in ‘Vector Martini’ and led all the way to Torquay. They were chased hard out of the Solent by ‘Smokin Aces’ driven by Chris and Nicholas Dodge and ‘Silverline’ driven by Drew and Ali Langdon, with the rest of the pack chasing hard.

The Ribs ‘Hot Lemon V’ (D50) and ‘Birretta Due’ (B41) chased the leaders fiercely, getting very close as the boats rounded Portland. They in turn were pursued by Team Barwood (C7).

It was great to see Preben Sorensen from Norway racing in his Predator 337 SuperSport. Competing for the first time in the Cowes Torquay he ran well on the unfamiliar course finishing eleventh in the first leg.

Both ‘Cube 52’ and ‘Flyin Falcon’ withdrew during the first leg and returned to Cowes.

After winning the race to Torquay Peter Dredge commented, “We had a wonderful run. It’s really great to be in Torquay. The Vector Martini Boat is going fantastically well and we have had no problems. We’re looking forward to turning around for the run back to Cowes. We’ll be going downwind and we might even go flat out on the way back.”

On the second leg of the race back to Cowes after a clean start in brilliant Torquay sunshine ‘Vector Martini’ kept their word and led by one and a quarter nautical miles after clearing the Ore Stone turning buoy at Torbay. By Swanage the lead had grown to 4.62 nautical miles and they were to extend this even further by the end of the race. They were clocked racing into the Solent at 83 knots so it was no wonder ‘Vector Martini’ crossed the finish line at Cowes to a salvo from the canons at the Royal Yacht Squadron and a cheering crowd.

‘Smokin’ Aces’ took second place on the return journey with ‘Team Barwood,’ who were competing in their first Cowes Torquay Race, taking a well-deserved third place.

With the tail wind adding to the fast conditions and full on racing on the return journey it was not surprising that two teams made navigational errors on their way back to Cowes. Both Black Ball Racing and Predator 337 SuperSport incurred a one hour time penalty for missing buoys.

After the race Preben Sorensen from Norway commented that it was great race but a bit rougher than they expected. They really enjoyed the hospitality but would need to come back with a bigger boat for next years race.

When congratulated on his double win by Dorian Griffith the Race Director, Peter Dredge of ‘Vector Martini’ said they had enjoyed the race very much and were delighted with the performance of their boat.

And so concludes another fantastic event on a magnificent summer’s day. The crowds came out in their thousands to make the most of the spectacle, lining the vantage points and headlands along the way and visiting the pits at both ends of the race to see the colourful noisy beasts up close. The drivers were once again amazed at the number of spectator boats that made the effort to come out to watch the racing, toot their horns and cheer as the boats went past.

Everyone would have to agree it was magnificent to see the boats racing once more from their historical starting point in the Solent and we look forward to another exciting event from the same place next year.

31-Aug-14 23:09
“It was a perfect weekend” said Alberto Comparato
John Moore

“It was a perfect weekend” said Alberto Comparato - Photo: Chris Davies

 “It was a perfect weekend” said Alberto Comparato, “I don’t think I could have done anything else to improve it.” As the young Italian driver stepped onto the top step of the podium to celebrate his two race wins and collect the UIM gold medal for winning the World F4S Championship, it was hard to tell who had the biggest smile on their face, Alberto or Fabio Comparato.  “More fast than Padre” said a delighted father as he watched his son receive his awards from the UIM Commissioner Pelle Larsson and Powerboat GP’s Jason Brewer.

Comparato senior, the former UIM F2 World Champion, was quick to praise his son and confirmed that the future looks very bright for him. “He will spend another season racing in the F4S series, racing his Italian built BaBa hull, before he makes the transition to the F2 World Championship. “His mother will be very happy when she hears about his success, it will make up for all the weekends away both testing and racing the boat.”
Taking the first of the three European Championship titles that were being fought for over the weekend, at the National Watersports Centre, was the Estonian driver Rasmus Haugasmagi. Three heat wins in the OSY400 class gave him a maximum score of 1200 points. “I came here to be on the podium” he said. “In my home club we train on a two pin course set up on a narrow river near by, it gave me the perfect set up to race here as I have had lots of practised at tight turns; this certainly gave me an advantage over some of the other foreign drivers. In four years I have never had to change my race set up so when I have arrived at a course giving me a huge advantage.”
In the GT30 category Britain’s Ben Jelf thought he had blown his chances of taking his fourth European Championship title when he fluffed his start in the third heat. He eventually got going but his fourth place finish made his task even harder in the face of the stiff European opposition. As the start lights went out in the final heat the reigning World Champion, Sara Pakalen, shot off into the lead and took her first heat victory of the weekend. Following her home was the Polish driver Marcin Szymczyk and it looked like he had done enough to take the title after scoring one win and two second places. A quick check on the scores soon revealed that by finishing in third place Jelf had just done enough to take the title; his winning point’s margin was just twenty five. “This really makes up for the disappointment I felt at the World Championships a few months ago” said Jelf. “I hadn’t done the maths before I started the last heat and I thought I needed second place, in the end when people started telling me that I had won it came as a huge relief. This weekend was all about putting to bed my international racing career in GT15. It’s time to concentrate on GT30 and my thoughts now turn to Stewartby where I need a second place to secure my British GT30 national title in a couple of weeks time.”
Another driver whose GT15 racing career had come to an end was Gregor Eevardi from Estonia. The reigning World Champion added the European title to his list of racing achievements when he took two heat victories to add to his second place in the opening heat. The sixteen year old was racing for the first time in the UK and initially was struggling for speed until the team discovered a problem with his throttle pedal. “Once we had fixed the problem everything went smoothly” said Eevardi. “It’s been a great year for me winning both titles. The Worlds were really hard to win, as there were so many competitors but with the top five quickest European drivers here this event was actually tougher to win.”
31-Aug-14 00:16
Comparato Comes Out Fighting
John Moore

Comparato Comes Out Fighting Photo: Chris Davies

Article: Chris Davies

After taking maximum points at the previous F4S round held in Latvia, Alberto Comparato continued where he left off by taking twenty points in the first F4S race held at the National Watersports Centre, Nottingham, re-taking the lead in the UIM World Championship in the process.

The young Italian, racing in the UK for the first time, held off Sweden’s Jesper Forss in the twenty lap race, crossing the finish line just two seconds ahead of the Scandinavian driver. “In free practice this morning I almost took off in the cross winds” said Comparato, “my father had warned me about the tricky conditions, he raced F2 here, so we knew it could get interesting. That gave us a wake up call, so we altered the weight distribution and now the BaBa boat is perfectly balanced.”

Losing his lead in the title chase was the Latvian driver Nikita Lijcs; he had to settle for third place saying the pace at the front was just too quick for him today. Separating the two of them was Forss who had been very quick in the morning’s free practice. “My main aim this weekend is to take third place in the World Championship, so I had to weight up whether I tried harder to fight with Comparato or settle for seventeen points. I’m now only four points behind Adrian Maniewski, so as long as I put enough boats between him and me in tomorrow’s race then my target will be achieved.”

The top British driver was Ben Morse, who finished in fifth place. Starting alongside him on the grid was Sam Whittle, who had put in a stunning time in the morning qualifying session. Whittle knew that the race would be a different matter though, so was more than happy when he finished in sixth place, “I kept in touch with Morse for about ten laps, then he just pulled away from me” said Whittle “for my first international race to be second British driver home has given me such a buzz.”

In the first heat of the GT15 European Championship, Latvian Uvis Lazarenoks took maximum points in a race that was virtually decided in the opening lap. Pole position driver Stefan Arand failed to get off the line leaving Lazarenoks with clear water as the pack headed for the first turn. Also failing to get off the line was Britain’s Ben Jelf, a seal on the carburettor had failed flooding his engine. Jelf finally managed to get going and would eventually finish in eighth place, leaving him with a tough battle on his hands if he’s going to capture his third GT15 European Championship title. Just ahead of him was Thomas Mantripp, who had seen off several attempts by various drivers trying to get past him. “Towards the end of the race I was having a great race with Rene Suuk until he pushed me wide” said Mantripp. “In doing that we were eventually past by a couple of other drivers, including the pole man Arand.” 

With the wash coming back from the concrete bank that line the course it was fast becoming a very physical race, which soon began to take its toll on the younger drivers. “I play ice hockey every week in Latvia” said the heat winner Lazarenoks, “this was so much harder today.”

After his disappointing GT15 heat, Ben Jelf then went out and put in a dominate performance in the GT30 category, finishing over five seconds ahead of the Polish driver Marcin Szymczyk. “I made a really good start as the red lights went out” said Jelf, “but I nearly threw it all away as I approached the first turn. Szymczyk was just ahead of me and I had planned to go wide in an attempt to pass him but my boat hooked as I had too much speed.” Luckily for Jelf he salvaged the situation and soon caught and past the Polish driver. “Lap after lap I could see him in my mirrors, he would try to get the inside line as we approached the turn buoys but I kept him where I wanted him.” 

Charlotte Newton was having a frustrating day when after making a good start she was held up by Aivar Kommisaar from Estonia. “He was slightly quicker than me on the straight but every time he took the turns he just got bogged down which meant I had to back off or I would have landed on top of him” she said.

Also having a frustrating day was the reigning GT30 World Champion, Sara Pakalen from Finland. The team had discovered a faulty fuel pump after the qualifying session which was quickly replaced. Then a loose wire on the ignition coil left her stranded on the start pontoon. “I tried to start the race because I thought we could maybe pick up some points” said Pakalen “but then I realised it wasn’t going to happen. Hopefully tomorrow we would have fixed all the problems.”

One reigning World Champion certainly not having any issues was Rasmus Haugasmagi from Estonia. Making only his second visit to the UK since he raced JT250 back in 2009, he said that the morning’s qualification in the OSY400 class was the hardest part of the day because he closet rival Cezary Strunnik was very quick. He had tested two propellers and opted to use one that would give him better acceleration rather than top speed because he knew his best chance of success would be if he got in front of Strunnik at the start. This is precisely what he did, as by the half way point the Estonian had already pulled out a two boat lead on the chasing pack. After six laps he was almost eight seconds clear and took the chequered flag in convincing style. “Our club was won four World Championship titles in a row now, I just get the feeling that we must be doing something right with the way we build our carbon fibre boats” said Haugasmagi. 

Luke Hugman was the highest place British driver coming home in fifth place and admitted that he couldn’t have done anything more. “I was holding Marcinkus who finished in fourth place for three laps and that was hard enough” said Hugman. “Everyone was going wide around the marks but having raced at Oulton Broad I know how to kiss the turn buoys. There’s only so much you can do before it gets dangerous, tomorrows another day and so let’s see how we get on.”

28-Aug-14 09:14
Sunday sees the 54th running of the historic event
John Moore

Glenn Chidzoy's UIM Marathon Class B entry Flyin' Falcon being prepared for this weekend

Article: Geoff Davies / Cowes Classic 2014 Media Team

With the 2014 Cowes Torquay Race now just a few days away the teams are working tirelessly, many burning the midnight oil, to ensure boats and crews are up to the rigours of the World’s Toughest Offshore Powerboat Race.

This year sees Mette Bjerknes from Norway make her debut in the Cowes Classic as co-driver in the thirty eight foot Fountain ‘Blastoff’ driven by Dorian Griffith.

Having won the UIM World Circuit Endurance Championship this year , Mette is a racer through and through. Her usual boat can accelerate from zero to 100km/hr in 3.5 seconds; out accelerating many of the fastest race cars. She will swap (temporarily) the single seat in her Formula Two tunnel, powered by a two hundred and ten horsepower Mercury outboard engine, for the co-driver’s seat in the much larger and more powerful boat. Used to just a quarter of the horsepower of the Fountain, she will no doubt enjoy making full use of Blastoff’s eight hundred and eighty horsepower on the extreme journey to  Torquay and back.

The transition from one type of boat to another would be the equivalent of getting out of a Formula One Race Car and stepping into a Baha Off-Road Race Truck.  The contrast; between a super refined but fast cornering flat water boat, to a rough, tough, brutal wave crusher which can take anything the open sea can throw at it.

Her race preparation was complicated when Mette had an accident in her F2 tunnel over the Bank Holiday Weekend while racing in Norway. Fortunately she survived unscathed and assures us it will not hinder her preparation for this weekend’s race. She arrives at Heathrow on Friday afternoon; determined and ready to race. Mette is one tough competitor, so guys watch out. She’s incredibly capable and focused on making her mark and we’re very lucky to have her in the Cowes Classic for 2014.

We talked briefly to Fiona Pascoe the Team Manager for the race winning Microlink PC’s 'Fury' driven by Vee Ganjavian and Gareth Williams. She said, “We’re going to give it a good go, but unfortunately due to circumstance the boat will be put in the water for the first time this year on Friday. I hope Lady Luck is in our team because we might need her.”

Chris Dodge’s team of ‘Smokin Aces’ tested their boat on Sunday, only to realise how much damage had been done to the boat in last year’s race. They found a host of problems with the engines and drives, so the team is lucky to have the services of Nick Barsch. He managed to rebuild two crash gearboxes and the manifolds on the engine, the gimbal on a mark six drive, and install re-calibrated Herring propellers.

“All looks good and we’re looking forward to the race this weekend,” Chris Dodge told us once the work was completed.

Preben Sørensen from Norway is bringing his Predator 337 Super Sport to Cowes

Another competitor is ‘Flyin Falcon’ the Apache 42 whose owner Glenn Chidzoy resides and works in Antibes in the south of France. Glenn has such a passion for the Cowes Classic that he’s had his team working round the clock to re engine the Apache despite the dreadful weather which only England can produce. He has raced at every Cowes event since 2008. His team for 2014 will consist of Daryl Grady from the USA, Ole Finholt from Norway and John Guille from the Isle of Sark in Guernsey.

When we asked John Guille how the team was going with their preparation, he replied, “We’ve installed new motors, and yesterday we got her up to power under load, but hey, it’s not the best speed, but we’re confident we can keep it going.”

Another Norwegian Team appearing for the first time this year is the Predator Boats Team with Preben Sørensen driving and Andre Bakkegaard as the co-driver. This race has always attracted an international field of racers so it’s great to see this very competitive team make the effort to take part.

With several days left before the weekend we hear that many teams are further enhancing and adjusting their boats to eke any final small gains from the boat and crew combination.

Race day should dawn fine and clear according to, with a forecast for a northerly of about 3 to five knots with a wave height of just under a metre. The weather for spectators will be fine with just a cloud or two and maybe an early shower. The temperature should be a degree or two above the average at about 21 degrees.

The race is scheduled to start at 9.00am off Egypt Point, Cowes. The race boats will line up at 8.45am then pass at speed in a convoy between Snowden and Trinity House buoys before starting the actual race immediately to the north of Gurnard Cardinal Buoy at 09:00am.

The fastest race boats should be approaching Berry Head by 10am and will continue on northward to a mark at the Ore Stone before turning and heading into the finish off Haldon Pier at Torquay.

At Torquay the boats will form up and parade past Haldon Pier at 01.00pm before lining up for the race start back to Cowes at 01.30pm.

Depending on the conditions the fastest boats should appear back in the Solent at approximately 02.30pm for a finish off the Gurnard Cardinal Mark at Egypt Point.

The boats will be located at the wet pits at each end of the race course and excellent viewing opportunities will be available for spectators. There’s nothing like the sound and sight of some of the most powerful boats in the world roaring at full speed, and this year the public have another great opportunity to take to the hills above Torquay Bay and experience it for themselves.

The drivers are as keen as ever to meet with their fans and will be available on both Haldon Pier and Cowes above the wet pits to answer questions and share their stories. To ensure safety there will not be public access down on the pontoon itself.

For those who can’t make it to watch the race Yellow Brick Tracking will once again be providing live updates from the boats themselves so you can watch the progress of the race from wherever you may be. The Android or iPhone App are available here:

You can also link to the Yellow Brick tracking via the official Cowes Torquay website:




*Note: Some of these links will not be operational until 2/3 days before the race




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