The Vosper

The Vosper Built “Flying Fish”

In 1966 the Savundra era came to an end but not before he had commissioned another raceboat to carry on from the Jackie S series. His downfall which went with the collapse of the Fire Marine and Auto Insurance group left Vosper holding the baby, that baby being a boat which could have been the Doctor’s best chance of winning the Cowes Torquay a prize he desperately sought.

The craft was the immensely purposeful and stunning “Flying Fish”, fashioned in Aluminium and powered by 2 x 550hp Daytona’s. This was the age of the Daytona engine which was powering many of the current soon to be winners of offshore races including Surfury, Ghost Rider Delta’s Synthesis and Blu.

Flying Fish had been purchased prior to the ‘66 race by Albert Figgins who had previously raced the Halamatic Christina hull Thunderfish powered by Ford Interceptors hence her name.

One wonders what the good Doctor would have called her it would probably been Flying Jackie a name used for another of his aborted boats built by Watercraft to a Teal design.

Flying Fish was driven in the race by Mike Trimming with Albert Figgins on board and being one of the most powerful craft in the race it was inevitable Flying Fish would be vying for honours she in fact led the race for much of the first legs.

Then as they entered the open waters off Portland Bill in a battle for the lead with Ghost Rider, it happened and whether they hit a submerged object, a rogue wave whatever, the bottom split and the dreadful result was her total loss as this amazing sequence of photographs show.

We have to thank Sam Mace for letting us have the complete set showing her demise, Sam found the dusty old prints in her late fathers archive and though many of you have probably seen the 2 most published ones, the whole set makes compelling viewing.

The most interesting aspect of this, especially when you look at the neck and neck racing with Ghost Rider is that they show Jim Wynn’s co driver Bob Sherbert standing in the cockpit! Bear in mind this was prior to him breaking his ankles! Is it therefore possible that both boats hit the same bad patch of water /object each suffering the consequences but in different ways?

Maybe John Mace had in this sequence of pictures the reasons as to why both craft suffered now we will never know of course but it will certainly raise new questions.

Had the incredibly strong Souter hull, which was an inch thick on the hull bottom as specified by Wynn, been able to survive an impact albeit at a cost catching Sherbert unawares as the shock jolted the hull!
Yet the stressed Aluminium hull of FF which had been subject to many calculations by staff from Mitsubushi for lightness and rigidity not been given enough plate thickness where it mattered most?. resulting in a seam failure!

Either way Ghost Rider went on to win the race and a fascinating race boat sank to the the bottom of Lyme Bay and though discovered by Royal Navy divers was deemed unrecoverable.

The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying Fish
The Vosper built - Flying FishPhotographs courtesy of Sam Mace

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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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