The first leg of the 1,600 nautical mile Round Britain Offshore Powerboat Race that headed from Portsmouth to Plymouth yesterday, proved a very tough test for much of the 47-boat fleet.
A tough wave set across Lyme Bay slowed many, but Drew Langdon and Miles Jennings brought Silverline/Original Style home in first place, after covering the 130nm mile course in less than three hours.
But behind them was chaos.
Race favourite, Red FTP driven by Fabio Buzzi the Italian winner of the last circumnavigation in 1984, made a massive mistake leaving Portsmouth Harbour.
In attempting a short cut to the start line his 3,500hp Red FPT, he struck a submerged wartime defence barrier smashing a rudder and one of his three propellers.
Red FTP hits submarine barrier -photo Chris Davies - 2008 Portsmouth -
Buzzi and his team are expected to work through the night making repairs and could rejoin the fleet further down the course.
After setting the early pace Wettpunkt.com’s challenge to win the Round Britain was jolted during this first leg when the boat suffered engine failure and was forced to limp into Torquay. It was a disappointing end to a day that started so well with the Anglo- Austrian crew of Hannes Bohinc, Max Holzfeind and Ed Williams-Hawkes, who initially demonstrated class and power to the thousands of spectators lining the shoreline.
'We were surprised just how quickly we took the lead, and then concentrated on increasing the distance between ourselves and our rivals. The boat felt very good and the props provided by Fabio Buzzi were perfect for the job,' explains throttleman, Hannes Bohinc. 'Then the gremlins set in, the engines closed down and we decided to go sightseeing in Torquay. It even has palm trees!
'We must now decide whether to change the engines here in Torquay or travel overland to Plymouth ready for tomorrow. It will be a long night!'
The team is determined to line up for tomorrow’s second leg from Plymouth to Milford Haven, despite the likelihood of incurring an 8hour 30-minute penalty.
'These things happen in power boating,' continues Bohinc, 'it is hard to swallow but we do not intend to quit. This is the toughest of all endurance races and our competitors will face their own difficulties as the race progresses.'
It was less than ten minutes after Silverline Original Style finished that the Greek entry of Blue FPT, Vassilis Peteras and Panos Tsikopoulos, entered Plymouth. They were to take second slot with Nick Gilley and Jon Fuller bringing the Phanton hull Swipewipes.co.uk, which was only completed a few hours before the race start, home in third place less than a minute behind.
The weather made it a punishing race, some unable to take stand the strain.
The Fairey cruiser 747 crewed by three British Airways captains was forced to enter Weymouth to put Mark Jealous ashore with a broken rib.
Garmin, the boat carry TV presenter Nick Knowles, retired early with mechanical problems but this was insignificant compared to the luck experienced by the German entered Swordfish cruiser, Blue Marlin.
Round Britain first start photo Chris Davies - 2008 Portsmouth -
It was while crossing the rough and tumble Lyme Bay that she suddenly sprung a leak. Pumps could not combat the inrush of water and she began to sink forcing the crew to take to their life raft. Markus Hendricts and his three-man crew were later picked up unharmed, by a fellow competitor. Blue Marlin is now considered a total loss.
A poor weather forecast for Sunday’s leg from Plymouth to Milford Haven could cause a delay or a modification to the course to enable the event to maintain its timetable.