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 Predictwind.com, 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: http://www.ybtracking.com/?page_id=2624
You can also link to the Yellow Brick tracking via the official Cowes Torquay website: http://cowestorquaycowes.co.uk/yellowbrick-tracking/
*Note: Some of these links will not be operational until 2/3 days before the race