Project “Thunderbolt”

Project “Thunderbolt”

Place ; Cowes I.O.W
Date ; August Bank Holiday 1961
Event; Cowes Torquay Powerboat Race

Thunderbolt
Thunderbolt

On August Bank Holiday the weather was overcast with a threatening sky as 27 craft lined up for the first modern day powerboat race in Europe. The fleet was a mixture of craft including a Shakespeare cabin cruiser with 2 outboards and cupboards full of china, a beautiful Dorset Lake built cruiser of 40ft driven by Steve Macey and called Gay Gazelle, a Prout catamaran (There is nothing new in this sport) powered by 2 Evinrude outboards, an American Bertram driven by Sam Griffith and Dick Bertram, YO YO another Bertram driven by Jim Wynn, several Fairey Huntsman 27’s, 1 owned by Billy Butlin and several, 5 in fact Bruce Campbell Christina’s one of which was called Thunderbolt driven by sports car racer Tommy Sopwith (left) son and heir of aviation pioneer Sir Thomas.

 

Thunderbolt

 

At the drop of the flag the fleet shot of towards Southsea with Billy Butlin’s “Huntsman No 1” in the lead hotly pursued by Bertram in Glass Moppie and 2 Christina’s Campbell’s own boat “Christina” and “Thunderbolt” plus the Italian Sonny Levi in A’Speranziella. By the time they had circumvented the Isle of Wight and headed past the Needles onto Bournemouth the weather had struck with force 5 winds and an extremely lumpy sea, speeds fell to 10 knots but the Italian swept into the lead as they rounded Poole bay, This was to be her undoing, behind her the stragglers fought their way into the winds and many fell by the wayside including the Shakespeare with cupboards full of now broken china and her domestic glass windows threatening to shatter with every wave they hit. The Prout cat beached at St Catherine’s, holed, and Butlin lost a prop.

7 hours and 25 minutes later Thunderbolt swept into Torquay to average 25mph for the 159 mile course followed by Yo Yo and Huntsman 27 to win what was to become the holy grail of powerboat racers world wide, the Beaverbrook Trophy and the Cowes-Torquay.

Now aged 47 and in need of major restoration Thunderbolt sits in a Brockenhurst Farmyard awaiting hospitalisation for repairs to her stern ,topsides and cockpit coamings. Since that famous win back in 1961 (she was entered again in 62 and 63 ) design had moved forward with such pace she was outclassed by the new breed of powerboats being built for this race. In early summer 1964 Thunderbolt was sold as a family day boat and taken to the med where she changed hand approximately 4 times and was finally abandoned on the dockside of a boatyard by her last owner a German woman, who had failed to pay yard fee’s. She was discovered in that same yard by Don Shead powerboat racer and designer who paid the storage due and sent her to the Bordeaux Powerboat Museum run by Kevin Desmond where she was to have sympathetic restoration carried out . (Shead had a hankering after a Christina as his father had been the owner of the prototype 23 built by Campbell).

The Museum ran into difficulties and unknown to Shead had closed, Thunderbolt now sat behind locked doors under a leaky roof and with rats gnawing at her stern. Rescued once again she was brought back to England on a low loader and placed in Shead’s Stockbridge garden.

Slightly the worse for wear and missing items such as navigation lights some engine covers, rear hand rail and with 2 totally seized Cadillac Crusader engines. As the years rolled by Don Shead’s intention to restore her gradually faded, although the engines were removed and cannibalised for parts to repair his Allard Racing Car.

I had read a Motor Boat and Yachting article 5 years ago on famous designers, that particular month was Don Shead and in the article it was mentioned that he had “Thunderbolt” the Christina I fell in love with as an 11 year old on Brixham jetty that August bank holiday 1961, so she was still with us! Nothing more was thought about this snippet of information until Christmas 2005 when I sent a letter to Don asking if she was still in his possession and if I could come and see her and what if she came up for sale would he ask. There was no reply, his Fareham office was now closed, so I contacted Sunseeker for Dons address and finally made contact in February 2006 ,visited him and was shown the sad sight of Thunderbolt resting on sleepers and tyres behind his outbuildings, I could feel my eyes watering, taking the bull between the horns I asked how much he would want for her, if she were for sale, Don’s reply came as a bit of a shock….. “If she is restored and you arrange crane and transportation she is yours but you will have to move quickly she very nearly became part of Nov 5th celebrations last year!”

Move quickly , where to keep her, crane, trailers, the hunt was on, slowly everything fell into place and on April the 1st at 12 noon she was in her new home, sitting on a Fairey Yard Trailer, for me a childhood dream come true.

Since that Saturday in April my garage has filled with a multitude of boat associated parts, all awaiting stripping, blasting, re-chroming, re-varnishing, re-building re-covering etc etc…. and slowly piece by piece the restoration has started. Fabric sourced to re-upholster the cockpit, Rev counters sent to be rebuilt and my prized possession at the moment the Steering Wheel relaminated and restored by Moto Lita.

Thunderbolt

The Hull is now awaiting “hospitalisation” and after several nightmare quotes will be going for repair in a couple of months time, new stern new flanks and relamination in internal area’s. The cabin structure will be lifted off and sit on my drive to be sanded, sealed and repainted in her original colours. I am still hunting for some commercial backing for the project and to date have received help from Robbins Timber Bristol, trade discount on supply of new items promised and a pledge of £1000.00 from Tommy Sopwith towards “expenses”. She will be rebuilt to historic condition as the 1961 race and will be re engined with modern GMV8’s using the original layout of one thro V drive and the other direct drive.

I cannot believe that it is already 7 months since she arrived and the planned 2 year restoration is passing so quickly, maybe a rethink is called for but I will persevere!

Lastly, when completed Thunderbolt will attend as many race venues, shows and marine events as possible and will be acting as a visual fundraiser for the SEAFARERS UK charity otherwise known as the KING GEORGES FUND for SAILORS which was for so many years a charity associated with the Cowes–Torquay as its nominated charity.

THUNDERBOLT SPECIFICATIONS

Designed by Ray Hunt and built at Hamble by Bruce Campbell

25′ LOA

9′ 8" BEAM

Hull by Walter Lawrence three layers of quarter inch ply cold moulded stiffened and strengthened with internal plates under both engines, externally, unlike most Christina’s she also has a final diagonal laminate keel to waterline plus another length of veneer from the bow to stern between the 2nd and 3rd spray rails.

Power 2x 325hp Cadillac Crusaders

Steering; mechanical on right angle gearing box’s and solid shafts with universal couplings to 2 spade rudders

Controls; Bloctube aircraft type using hollow bronze tube and ball joint couplers.

Fuel Tanks; 5 aluminium welded aircraft grade total capacity 175 gallons

Instrumentation; 2 oil pressure 2 oil temp 2 water temp 2 amp meters 5 fuel 2 electric repeater compasses and 2 rev counters.

Drive; 2 x1 and a quarter inch stainless steel shafts close coupled with 1 driven thro V drive.

MAX SPEED 1961 42 knots

As for my final dream…to be present at Cowes on August Bank Holiday 2011 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that most famous race the COWES –TORQUAY! With of course the first winner “Thunderbolt”

THUNDERBOLT NEWS UPDATE 15/03/07

The future is looking good, Thunderbolt is now at the INTERNATIONAL BOATBUILDING COLLEGE at Oulton as of the 20th of April to undergo her hull rebuilding, which will include : New Transom, new spray rails, relamination of the topsides at the stern, relamination of the hull where areas of separation have been found and internal lamination repairs.

The college at Oulton is famous for training attendees in all aspects of boat building from traditional through to modern day glass techniques and I am grateful that their recognition of Thunderbolts unique history and provenance has provided her with a “second chance”, I know she will be in safe hands! I am also grateful to ROBBINS of BRISTOL who will be supplying new timbers for the hull at bulk cost. Without the assistance of the above “friends” her future was very shaky, as the marine industry really did not want to know or help which is a sad reflection on how they view their history.

I have also spent 8hrs belt sanding the teak decks which were very weathered and in some places a grey black, they are now a lovely honey brown after the removal of 2mm off the quarter inch planking that’s saved me another load of money!

I am also fortunate to have on board Mr Ken Raybould who worked for Bruce Campbell from 1959 to 1963 (Ken is famous for his driving expertise in the early years of the Cowes Torquay with Bert Figgins in his boats Silver Spray and Thunderfish) he will be offering valuable advice and assistance during the restoration. Ken oversaw Thunderbolts birth back in 1961 and was instrumental in testing her once completed, he also said that she was temperamental! The Crusader engines gave many problems during set up, primarily with fuel feed and he kicked her the day before the race. They were all amazed when Tommy Sopwith won!

It is hoped that new pictures of the restoration will be posted soon …keep checking.

THUNDERBOLT PICTURE UPDATE 14/05/07

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Thunderbolt Thunderbolt

THUNDERBOLT PICTURE UPDATE 24/05/07

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The transom showing the worst area of rot.

Cabin lifted for removal.

Thunderbolt Thunderbolt

Cabin and sanded deck.

Bow after eight hours of sanding, no longer grey and grained.

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Deck again showing how teak has revived and caulking all intact.

Black and white shot to show contrast of sanded and old surface.

Thunderbolt Thunderbolt

Internal of cabin after removal of fittings.

View forward from rear engine bay, bronze tubes part of
Bloctube Controls.

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Helm, wheel now restored, top pod carriers, two rev counters, two oil temp, 2 water temp and warning lights. Grab rails all now recast.

Navigators instrument panel before restoration.

THUNDERBOLT PICTURE UPDATE 05/06/07

Thunderbolt Thunderbolt
Thunderbolt Thunderbolt
Thunderbolt

THUNDERBOLT UPDATE 27/06/07

THUNDERBOLT…QUITE A FEW “HAPPENINGS ON THE REBUILD FRONT.

1. I had the pleasure of talking to Tony Burnell over the past few days the result of which will be a custom built trailer for Thunderbolt. Tony’s company PRECISION TECHNOLOGY is responsible for building and supplying trailers to trade users but primarily for the Marine industry. The trailer for Thunderbolt will be painted in her racing colour ENDEAVOUR (OXFORD) BLUE and I am forever indebted to Tony for his help in supplying me with her mode of transport.

2. Following discussions between Nat Wilson of the IBTC and International Paints they will be supplying her with the necessary products to complete her transformation FOC as will WEST EPOXY.

3. With regards to the rebuild, the new transom has been formed and laminated and is ready for fitting once the internal framework has been fitted. This is the most major part of the rebuild and hopefully things should now progress at a rapid pace.

Further pictures will be posted once received from Nat at the IBTC.

Precision Technology

Pictorial sequence of her rebirth – UPDATE 09/04/10

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Thunderbolt



Thunderbolt - Restored 2007 with generous help from...

International boatbuilding training college, Oulton Broad
Robbins Timber, Bristol
Dolphin International Travel, London
International Paints
Martin’s Rubber, Southampton
Wessex Resins / West Epoxy
Endeavour Holdings
Moto Lita
CAI Instruments / Speedy Cables Swansea & London
"Precision Engineering" Custom built trailers, Lincolnshire
Big "L" Wonderful Radio, London
Fabrics-n-Stuff
GOA Ltd

THUNDERBOLT UPDATE 26/08/2010

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“Last night’s red wine had a strange effect on Paul !”

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AGM AUCTION OF MEMORABILIA

TO DATE…

AGM AUCTION LIST…IF YOU CANNOT ATTEND YOU MAY REGISTER YOUR BID BY EMAIL TO TOMMYSTBOLT@AOL.COM MINIMUM BID £5

1. 1981TOYOTA COWES TORQUAY POSTER SIGNED BY WINNING TEAM “ROMBO”
NO 85…INCLUDING CMDR A PETRONI..
OPENING OFFER £15..

2.1981 TOYOTA CT PROGRAMME

3.2008 ROUND BRITAIN RACE PROGRAMME

4. BEKEN CALENDAR  (donated by Mike LLoyd)

5. BEKEN CALENDAR    (donated by Mike LLoyd)

6. BEKEN CALENDAR    (donated by Mike LLoyd)

7. 36 INS SCALE FIBREGLASS MODEL OF THE FAMOUS SURFURY. READY TO MODEL. OPENING OFFER …£75

8. CARLO BORLEGHI CALENDAR BY KAOS..1989….ITALIAN POWERBOAT SHOTS LARGE FORMAT…..MOSTLY CATS BUT A FEW CUV MONO’S ….£20 OPENING OFFER..

9. The original Racing Instructions for the 1972 London to Monte-Carlo Race organised by the Offshore Powerboat Club of Great Britain. With thanks to Mike LLoyd

 

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