Gee

Gee – Forty years of racing!

In 1966 and The Hon Edward (Ted )Greenhall (retired Racing Driver and Heir to the Greenhall Brewery Co) and his wife Mary had moved to the Channel Islands. Ted Greenhall had given up motor racing before they moved to the islands but still hankered for a speed fix but with the islands 20 mph speed limit in force he resorted to buying a powerboat to satisfy his craving, in fact not just any boat but a Donzi 28′ one of the latest American designs powered by a single 470hp Chrysler and called her GEE. Ted Greenhall may have been coerced into entering his first race, the 1966 Cowes Torquay, by ex motor racer Keith Schellenberg and wallpaper heir Billy Shand-Kydd, (Shand-Kydd raced a Donzi 28′ the year before powered by 2 Daytona’s) GEE finished a creditable 15th.

In 1966 and The Hon Edward (Ted) Greenhall (retired Racing Driver and Heir to the Greenhall Brewery Co) and his wife Mary had moved to the Channel Islands. Ted Greenhall had given up motor racing before they moved to the islands but still hankered for a speed fix but with the islands 20 mph speed limit in force he resorted to buying a powerboat to satisfy his craving, in fact not just any boat but a Donzi 28′ one of the latest American designs powered by a single 470hp Chrysler and called her GEE. Ted Greenhall may have been coerced into entering his first race, the 1966 Cowes Torquay, by ex motor racer Keith Schellenberg and wallpaper heir Billy Shand-Kydd, (Shand-Kydd raced a Donzi 28′ the year before powered by 2 Daytona’s) GEE finished a creditable 15th.

1966 was the year that Jim Wynn won the race in Ghost Rider, the Donzi 28 was a Wynn Walters design and the offshore bug had bitten Ted Greenhall to such an extent that Wynn’s victory encouraged him to order a new more powerful boat capable of racing but also doubling as a high speed express between the mainland and the islands. The new boat designed by Wynn was to be built by Souter’s in Cowes and as a development of the Ghost Rider design, she had the same reverse sheer at the stern and an attractive cuddy cabin to comply with the current C1 rules. Measuring 40′ in length, she was built in typical strong Souter style of cold laminated mahogany.

She was to be powered by 2 powerful Cummins Diesels rated at 450hp each. Gee did not appear for the 1967 race but in 1968 and with the engines up rated to produce a total of 1000hp finished 4th overall and 2nd in class beating the favoured Gypsy Girl of Sir Max Aitken.

In 1969 Gee was entered in the Round Britain race and was leading the race only to retire at Dundee with fuel problems. Her outing in the Cowes Torquay Cowes that year was a big success however, when she finished 9th overall and 1st in class.

Her biggest competitors were Gypsy Girl and Spirit of Ecstacy, they always had a battle royal especially when the heavy weather conditions suited their designs.

“GEE” was raced every year by Ted Greenhall in many races not just the CTC and was one of the first boats to carry sponsorship, albeit GRUNHALLE LAGER from Greenhall’s Brewery! GEE retired in the 1970 CTC and finished 1st in class one in the 1971 race.

She was originally built and raced in the unlimited diesel class, with race No185, powered by 2 x Cummins Indiana diesels, totalling 1000BHP. As a race boat she had a small blister type coach roof, with a centre cockpit. Over the years she has been turned into a sports cruiser, with various different engines, the cabin coach roof – a Don Shead design – and now offers better space below decks.

John Bates of Bates Wharf Marine, who built the Star Crafts, lovingly restored “GEE” during the late 1980’s and into 1990’s, when he completely overhauled her. He enjoyed the boat for many years as his pride and joy.

In 2001 Chris Clayton became the proud owner and custodian for this beautiful boat and after over 40 years since she was built, “Gee” is now back racing. 

Chris Clayton carried out a complete internal and external refurbishment of “GEE” in 2007. Currently with twin Ford Sabres 300BHP, she will be refitted for the 2008 Round Britain Offshore Power Boat Race with twin Cummins QSB 480BHP diesel engines, being the original engine manufacturers during her successful racing days and she still carries the trademark racing no 185 and union jack flag on her pristine white livery, being instantly recognisable as “GEE”.

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Renato (Sonny) Levi.

Renato Levi, known to all as Sonny, was born in Karachi, India in 1926.
His father ran a shipyard in Bombay(now Mumbai), so Sonny naturally took an
early interest in boats & ships.

Sonny became an apprentice in his fathers shipyard in Bombay, but with the coming of World War 2, he joined the RAF, becoming a Pilot Officer. No doubt his interest not only in boats but also aircraft was heightened by this part of his life.

Sonny became primarily interested in marine design, especially in relation to smaller, fast craft, and the ability of such craft to withstand the varieties of sea conditions often encountered. He designed craft for his fathers yard during the 1950’s, but moved to Italy in 1960. In Italy, Sonny managed Cantiere Navaltecnica (Canav), in Anzio.

No one of a certain age can forget “A’Speranziella”, built by Canav to Sonny’s design for the 1961 Cowes-Torquay Race. She finished sixth, after experiencing mechanical problems, but had led the race for a considerable distance, dueling with the eventual winner “Thunderbolt”.

After partially re-building the boat in light of the experiences of 1961, success dawned with a win in the 1962 Viareggio-Bastia Race. Further developments resulted in great success with “A’Speranziella” winning the 1963 Cowes-Torquay Race.

Sonny became a world renowned designer of fast craft largely as a result of these successes, and the many fast craft he designed culminated in the 1965 launch of
“Surfury”, often thought of as one of Sonny’s most memorable designs. This boat
made a name for herself, winning Cowes-Torquay in 1967. “Surfury” was the first of Sonny’s much lauded Delta designs.

This success brought more commissions, and Levi designs were sought world wide,
where fast sea-going boats were needed.

In the 1980’s, Richard Branson commissioned Sonny to design “Virgin Atlantic
Challenger II”, which was successful in recording the then fastest trans-Atlantic crossing, despite contaminated fuel issues en route. This famous boat was certainly a fabulous marker in Sonny’s career. “VAC II” not only had its design by Sonny, but also the Levi Drive system too.

Developments in high speed propeller and drive systems have been part of Sonny’s
great contribution to fast boat development over the last forty or more years.

Martin Napier

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