Wet and Windy with Occasional Sun

The Classic Rally 2012.

Through the eyes of Thunderbolt.

Firstly congratulations to Ben Curtis and Paul Hooper for organising another tremendous weekend for the Classic Powerboat brigade to coincide with the C-T-C…..secondly to the owners of the magnificent 25 plus fleet that braved the Bank Holiday elements! This event is growing in stature each year since its inception and celebration at Torquay back in 2010, we hope that next years will see even more of these incredible craft appearing from their slumbers.

Where does one start with the entrants that made it to Yarmouth on Friday afternoon prior to the race weekend….well firstly lets start with Paul whose Triana “Le Scarron” was barely finished on the previous evening after being fitted with a new single V8 in a high state of tune with incredible open exhausts!

After having major engine problems last year the decision was made to fit a single engine of adequate horsepower, instead of the original low powered twins, for this Levi cruiser. Not an easy task in view of the work involved but Paul was determined to attend with his own boat albeit in untried condition and to his credit he duly arrived in Yarmouth late but a very happy man.

Amongst the craft assembled that afternoon as the first heavy downpours started were the ex Charles Curry Huntsman “Here and Now…a Cowes Torquay prize winning entrant in 62..sharing the pontoon with her was “Thunderbolt” again late in the water after some summer revamps..there were also 10 plus Fairey craft including John Vaudin’s famous Fantome “BASTA”, Swordsman of varying ages including Robin Ward’s rear cabin version “Sabre ” which escorted Thunderbolt across from the Hamble at a stately 22 knots, 3 Triana’s, a Tarentella and the tiny Britannia Plastic built Belinda 2 an entrant in the 62 Cowes Torquay! which had motored across from Lymington….one of the last arrivals was Clive Baker in “Warrior” shortly followed by Flora McDora ex Corsair of C-T fame.

As we all enjoyed some beers and bubbly stuff the rain decided to set the tone for the evening, as the first of the predicted weather fronts began moving through and it was time to take sustenance in the local Kings Arms and to bed down on board for a squally night!

Remarkably Saturday dawned sunny which did not last long but as the fleet departed at 10ish for the run up to Cowes the skies looked on us favourably..though sea conditions were lumpy the tide was with us but producing some deep troughs and plenty of bow spray…little Bellinda did the obvious thing and hugged the coastline whilst the big boys charged off to Cowes,Thunderbolt bounced along comfortably with me at the helm and Charles Lawrence enjoying himself immensely as crew!

At Cowes the South Haven suddenly found itself invaded as 25 plus Classic’s edged their way into position, once on the pontoon it was obvious some craft had some niggles. Peter Farmery’s Lady Emma, was having thermostat problems despite have changed them with new brought over the previous day and Thunderbolt was having another tantrum having sprung a small leak on one of the spray rails!

As the day and banter progressed it became obvious that the planned BBQ was under threat from the weather but who cared? No one, such was the camaraderie! With the Cowes Powerboats in the North Haven the scene was complete for judging the entrants carried out by John Vaudin and Tony Hamilton Hunt

The trophies presented at the Pimms and BBQ, with La Garoupe a very close relative of Thunderbolt powered by Sabre diesels taking the Wooden Boat prize!

 

Sunday dawned sunny! The big race would take place and most of the classics scampered off down to Hurst to watch the off…aboard Here and Now with Paul Fairall we were doing safety boat duty in the Solent we had an enviable view of proceedings. Once both races were underway a lay up for lunch in the shelter of Hurst Castle was most welcome especially as the sun beat down warmly…just across from us was Ben Curtis aboard Playtime (another Charles Curry boat for the early races) enjoying the sun in his deckchair!…The C-T-C had started approximately 10am and the Cowes Poole 40 minutes later by the time we had snacked we were seeing boats racing back to Cowes from the smaller classes then in a lull Needles Control announced that the first boats had turned at the Ore Stone mark and were homeward bound! It was time to get back on station!

 

12.30 Found us drifting up the Solent with the incoming 3knot tide saving Paul’s expensive diesel and steering wayward yachts clear of the incoming leaders approaching Hurst narrows at 70 plus mph and there they were…rooster tails on the horizon denoting the lead boats, unfortunately we were mid channel and they were on the Island side but we were able to follow them through with Fury leading club member Markus Hendricks in Cinzano…he would not repeat his win this year unfortunately.

Meantime Mr Hooper had experienced problems with his new engine and was sat in Yarmouth with a very mangled water pump impeller! Waiting to be towed back to Cowes.

After following the 8th and final craft back to Cowes we returned to the Haven around 4pm with all who ventured out returned safe and sound but Le Scarron’s water pump in pieces whilst they hunted lost pieces of impeller….and a new one waiting to be fitted.

The evening dinner was to conclude the rally at the Royal Corinthian but I had to charge of to the Squadron to be present at prizegiving when Mike Bontoft and Christian Toll collected the Thunderbolt Trophy for the first historic boat home. They finished 6th by the way not bad for a 39 year old! Then it was across the road to join in the dinner party a superb end to an amazing week end.

As we tumbled into our berths at midnight plus, the weather again was threatening, Monday morning broke with forecasts of storms racing up the Channel, John Vaudin could not motor back to Jersey as they already were experiencing Force 8 gales….Paul Fairall departed single handed at 7.30 and myself and Ian Swinney aimed for 10am in the company of the now repaired Le Scarron, Sabre and Scheherazade Adrian Motts 25ft David Still Delta. As our mini fleet left the south haven a brisk wind was rising Thunderbolt does not like wind and as we went to manoeuvre around the final turn one engine cut out despite being warmed up nicely and we redocked on the Cowes Roads pontoon how embarrassing! Engine restarted and we were off out into the Solent behind Sabre and Scarron for a steady trip across to Hamble. The mouth of the river beckoned although the tide was flowing quite rapidly and the wind brisk, nearly home and dry….then Paul stopped dead on the curve of the bar…he started again moved forward then we heard a tremendous squeal form his drive belts and nothing.

If ever you hear the saying “heart in your mouth” this was it, Scarron was being dragged towards the bar and rocks, Thunder turned round with Ian Swinney ready to catch Paul’s rope, engine cuts again, restarts, Ian catches rope, wind pushes Scarron further away, wet rope and not enough of it means it could be dangerous for Ian to secure to cleat without crushing his fingers, Ian releases rope!…Paul manages to get anchor down with seconds to spare …Thunder is now trying to avoid yacht’s of various sizes as we manoeuvre around for a second time, we close in as a Folkboat appears to be heading into the ever decreasing gap between us…she changes course… Paul throws, Ian catches, round the cleat…move forward but not to far….Paul gets anchor up we are within inches of the bar GO!GO!GO!

Phew! I never ever want to be faced with that situation again! Paul has helped immensely with Thunderbolt and I owe him many, many, favours but I never intended to repay those favours in such a situation as this. I am just so relieved that even with my limited experience I was able to react in a way that saved him, his children and his craft from one of the most dreaded obstacles in the area!

A quiet chug up to Hamble Point and safety….it was one hell of a way to round off a fabulous weekend…anyway Paul can I book for next year?

Pictures courtesy of Dave Ormiston & Charles Lawrence

Mike

PS …Expected entries for next year will include Gerry Pols “Miss Speedbird” and Ian Toll’s “Magnum”…I am awaiting confirmation that Magnum is the original WHITE TORNADO that was recovered from Lyme Bay.