The first Round Britain race in 1969 enjoyed the support of the Dailey Telegraph and BP. The race of 1459 miles, was divided into 10 racing stages and one slow cruise; flat calm seas under blazing skies, a thick pea-souper fog, and a rough coastal run; 42 assorted boats ranging in power from 100hp to 1,000hp.
The most outstanding feature of this marathon was undoubtedly the freak weather conditions. It was reported by most participants that for the first 700 miles to Oban conditions were as near perfect as they could be, and then it was fog on the Inverness-Dundee run, and the rough seas of the Dundee-Whitby leg were greeted almost with glee.
For the Mercury outboard powered ‘Avenger Too’, crewed by Timo Mäkinen, Pascoe Watson and Brian Hendicott, the 1969 Round Britain race was a success story from start to finish. They won the first leg to Falmouth and the second leg to Milford Haven; on the run to Douglas they were third, but still retained their overall lead. Only once during the entire race were they pushed from that leading position, and they had such a handsome lead that they could afford to tuck in behind a slower radar-equipped boat on the foggy run to Dundee, and still emerge the leaders by two hours. Their final victory, in a total time of just over 39 hours, represented an average speed, sustained over 1,381 nautical miles of racing, of 37mph.
ROUND BRITAIN 1984 EVEREST DOUBLE GLAZING
Once again the course for this race, organised by ex powerboat racer Tim Powell, was going to duplicate the 1969 version. After two years in design Tim managed to obtain sponsorship from Everest Double Glazing which ensured the success of the race. With famous racers such as Fabio Buzzi, Lady Arran, Colin Gervase-Brazier, Peter Armstrong, Ted Toleman and Renato Della Valle and many others, the fleet set off on 14 July 1984, once again from Portsmouth on its 1,400 mile journey around the British Isles.
The two main contenders were Buzzi’s cruiser-based ‘White Iveco’ raced by Buzzi himself, and Renato della Valle’s Shead designed CUV ‘Ego Lamborghini’. ‘White Iveco’ was a single-step monohull powered by four Iveco diesels, while ‘Ego’ was an aluminium hull powered by a pair of 7-litre, V12 Lamborghini petrol engines. Weather conditions for the first leg were poor, and of the 28 starters at Portsmouth only 18 boats reached Falmouth, and by the end of the second leg only 12 remained. By the halfway stage, ‘White Iveco’ led on elapsed time with ‘Ego Lamborghini’ behind. British hopes lay with ‘Double Two Shirts’ lying two hours back, a Shead-designed, Planatec-built hull powered by Sabre diesel. An indication of the performance of these powerboats can be gauged from the Dundee to Whitby leg. Over a distance of 157 miles ‘White Iveco’ averaged 69 knots, although Buzzi dismissed this with a typical Italian shrug saying, “In Italy this is just a cruising boat.”
However, at Ramsgate, while ‘White Iveco’ was being craned out of the water for an overhaul bottom clean she slipped from her cradle, landing on a bollard and gashing her hull. A feverish 36 hours followed while repairs were made so that she could complete the final leg and still managed first place at the finish with Colin Gervase-Braziers ‘The Legend’ second and Ego Lamborghini third.
ROUND BRITAIN 2008
After a period of 24 years another ex-powerboat racer Mike Lloyd, made the decision in 2006 that this great race should be brought back to life. He and his small team – including Peter Myles – fought for two years to ensure it did take place. Supported by 47 competitors the fleet eventually left once again from the premises of Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth at 09.30am on 21 June 2008 for the start of another ten-leg twelve-day race.
Fabio Buzzi had decided to take part in his old but famous four engined ‘Red FPT ‘(ex ‘Cesa 1882’) and was joined by Austrian Buffallo breeder and Casino owner Hannes Bohinc in another Buzzi designed and built monohull ‘Wettpunkt’. There was a strong contingent of three boats from Goldfish Boats of Norway, and competitors from Sweden, Greece, Germany, Scotland and Ireland.
As in the previous race the weather at the start was awful and the fleet of 47 boats also had to negotiate the many spectator boats within the Solent before entering the serious seas off the Needles by which time the fleet knew they were in for a tough leg.
Before reaching the Solent Fabio Buzzi retired with damaged drives after hitting an underwater obstacle, and the infamous Lyme Bay between Portland Bill and Torquay took out several more including ‘Wettpunkt’. The German owned ‘Blue Marlin’, driven by Markus Hendricks, sank in Lyme Bay in 50 metres of water, and as the Ministry of Defence use this stretch of water for submarine training, divers were unable to attempt recovery of the craft. All crew, however, were rescued and returned to safe land.
The leg to Plymouth was won by a British crew in ‘Silverline’ (owned and driven by Drew Langdon) with the Norwegians’ ‘Lionhead’ second with the surprise of the day being the Greek boat ‘Blue FPT’ coming in third. The 2nd leg next day had to be cancelled because of huge seas in the Bristol Channel, so the fleet made its way by road to Milford Haven in South Wales to be ready for their run to Northern Ireland the following day.
Conditions down the Eastern side of the U.K. for the remaining legs were excellent so high speeds were able to be maintained. The overall elapsed time winner was third at Portsmouth after averaging 67.94 mph. This was the Greek entry ‘Blue FPT’ driven by Vassilis Pateras and navigated by Britain’s Dag Pike, who at 75 years of age was the oldest competitor in the event. They returned a constant performance throughout always finishing among the leaders but never overall. It was a tactic that paid off and they celebrated in fine style on the Portsmouth podium. Vassilis was also the first Greek competitor to take part in a British Offshore event and the first to feature in this major marathon. Among the many heroes finishing further down the fleet was the all women team of Scorpion ‘Dubios’ driven by Sarah Jane Fraser and Miranda Knowles. They finished 12th at Portsmouth, 12th overall and third in their class.
The Round Britain Powerboat Race is the last remaining long distance offshore powerboat race of more than 1,000 miles anywhere in the world and is a real test of strength, determination, and speed and shows how the best results can be reached by boats that are well built, able to maintain consistently high performance levels, thanks to the reliability of their technical equipment.
Whether there is another Mike Lloyd lurking in the quiet backwaters of Cornwall remains to be seen, but we are sure 2008 will not be the last ‘jaunt’ around the British Isles. The enthusiasm for this famous race was clear at the party held in a Southampton hotel to commemorate the three races, and the majority of those attending confessed they would still be keen to take part in any future Round Britain marathons with or without medical clearance – even Dag Pike.