At 75 years of age legendary navigator, offshore powerboat racer and self-confessed speed freak Dag Pike will be the oldest competitor when 2008 Round Britain Offshore Power Boat Race starts on Saturday 21st June. He will also be one of the most experienced, having raced in every Round Britain since its inception in 1969, and was the winner of the overall race in 1984.
Round Britain powerboat race
Racing in Blue FPT, a boat Dag claims is a ‘gentleman’s boat’, he says this will definitely be the final time he competes in the Round Britain. Competing under the Greek flag, Blue FPT is one of the largest boats in the MC1 production class with a waterline length of 50 ft and is being driven by owner Vassilis Pateras with co-pilot Panos Tsikopoulos. Powered by three 480hp Fiat Power Technology engines, Blue FPT has a total of 1400 hp with a maximum speed of 65 knots – which is why Dag’s preparation for the race included a visit to the dentist to ensure his teeth are in top form before subjecting them to bone crunching speeds over the eight leg and 1,400 nm course.
As navigator, Dag will be relying on two Raymarine C80 chartplotters which he has pre-programmed with the anticipated course. His mantra – and the reason he got into high speed navigating – is that there’s no point going fast if you’re going in the wrong direction. The easy to read, high definition colour screens show the plotted course, with the boat’s actual position showing as a clear route in real-time. Course set and actual position will be the main items Dag will be looking at. 'At these sorts of speed, there’s very little opportunity for button pushing,' explains Dag. 'The only changes I make will be to scale the display. It’s vital to have all the preparation done in advance and know you have reliable, consistent data coming up that’s easy to see.'
Consistency over the complete race is the key to winning, says Dag. With three engines, Blue FPT will already have an advantage over her twin-engined competitors, because if one engine fails she can still achieve speeds of up to 50 knots. And the same applies to the navigation – the consistency of extremely accurate Navionics charts combined with the fast processing power and GPS input from Raymarine’s integrated navigation systems is a far cry from Dag’s first race in 1969. He recalls using a compass and a watch to navigate through 65 miles of fog, managing to finish within 200 metres of the destination.
As a trained navigator, Fellow and Member of Council of the Royal Institute of Navigation, Dag will be carrying traditional charts on board as well, but he is confident he will not need them. He also hopes he will not need to refer to his encyclopaedic marine knowledge. As a prolific author he has written numerous papers and over 24 books, with four new titles being published this year - one of which is entitled ‘Disaster at Sea’ with much of the material, Dag says, based on his personal experiences.