Prior to the ‘big race’ all manner of predictions were being made as to who would collect the silverware. Steve Curtis and crew were deemed favourites aboard ‘Cougar 69’ after their convincing victory last year in appalling conditions, while Drew Langdon’s ultra fast Outerlimits hull ‘Silverline’ could not be ruled out.
Photo: The first three teams into Torquay were introduced to the Mayor of the town.
James Shepherd and Miles Dobson are this year’s Cowes-Torquay-Cowes winners in their American built Dragon hull powered by Ilmor
Photos: David Ormiston & Tim Tapping
In sea conditions that resembled a snooker table, we took up our usual vantage point on the end of Bournemouth Pier to watch ‘Silverline’ scorch past chased by ‘Cougar 69’ around 400 metres behind. The bright red ‘Halcyon Connect’ held third place with Markus Hendrick’s monster 55 footer a short distance behind in fourth place. However, this was only the early stages of the marathon, anything could happen and it did.
Last year ‘Silverline’ sank off Portland Bill due to broken outdrives which allowed water into the hull. This year it was the power steering pump which caused problems for Drew Langdon and Miles Jennings when ‘Silverline’ overheated the steering pump which in turn seized up and threw the drive belt. They continued to Torquay at around 37mph on one engine for the first leg of the race, but with a broken belt on the power steering made it very difficult to handle Drew and Miles realised their chance of overall victory was gone almost an hour before the finish line. Coincidentally, ‘Cougar 69’ also had belt problems although it was the first into Torquay having averaged 69.2mph. ‘Halcyon Connect’ missed the finishing gate in Torquay allowing ‘Hendricks 55’ to secure third place.
After an almost three hour break in Torquay the fleet assembled for the return voyage and it was from here on that positions changed dramatically as corrected times came into force. Although ‘Silverline’ had cured its pump and belt problem it kept up a relentless pace on the trip back to Cowes. The team from Exeter, Devon had almost an hour to make up from the outward trip, an impossible task.
Apart from its navigational ‘hiccup’ in Torquay, ‘Halcyon Connect’ never put another foot wrong and the crew of James Shepherd and Miles Dobson collected the winners silverware. Perhaps Miles Dobson is not a familiar name to offshore race fans, but he started his offshore career in the Honda Series and won that championship around ten years ago in an ‘Extreme 21′ powered by a Honda 120hp outboard. Miles’ co-pilot James Shepherd made national news when he was aboard Chris Parsonage’s Class 1 cat ‘King of Shaves’ which crashed spectacularly in the Plymouth GP. ‘Halcyon Connect’ is an American built Dragon hull powered by Ilmor (not to be confused with the UK Dragon, builders of F1 cats in Cardigan, Wales) Halcyon Connect started its UK career in the hands of Jackie Hunt and Mike Standring as ARPRO when they competed in the P1 Supersports class. The craft changed hands and became ‘Smokin Aces’ in the hands of the Devonian Dobson brothers which rumour has it, sold the boat as they did not think it was fast enough to win the Cowes – Torquay marathon !! Messrs Dobson and Shepherd took over and we know what happended.
Tom Mongomery-Swan and Poland’s Mike Galezewski aboard the outboard powered Phantom ‘Sunus’ collected the silver medal ahead of Ireland’s All Black Hiberia despite sporting considerably less power. The Irish team of John Ryan, Philipp Fitzgibbon, Denis Dillon and guest Glen Chidzoy aboard the diesel powered Hiberia is designed for offshore record breaking and their 3rd place was a just reward for this hard working team . The veteran Cigarette ‘Dry Martini’ skippered by Christian Toll filled 4th place, while Dorian Griffith’s diesel powered Fountain ‘Blast Off’ which occupied the runner-up berth last year had to be happy with 5th place.
Ironically the slowest boat in the race, Frances Whitley’s ‘Fugitive’, was the filling in the score sheet sandwich as ‘Silverline’ was awarded 6th place, then ‘Fugitive’ 7th, and 8th place went to ‘Cougar 69’. ‘Hendricks 55’ was deemed a non-finisher and the Belgium entry ‘Birette Due’ was a non-starter. Nine boats started the race and eight finished the 191 mile marathon.
Frances Whitley’s ‘Fugitive’ has completed all of the recent CTC races and although the Shakespeare cruiser is not the fastest in the CTC fleet, it certainly is the most reliable and at 78 years old, Francis deserves a medal for that alone. He says he is fitting new engines in Fugitive for next years race, is there no stopping the man and his son Stuart.