Day Two of the 2008 Round Britain Powerboat Race was an surreal experience for most of the 400 people directly involved, writes John Walker. As one observer noted, Parry Thomas used to create world land speed records on the Pendine Sands, just east of Milford Haven but for today’s powerboat racers, there would be no record set, on the race day that never was.
It was scheduled to be the day that the 45 boats still in contention raced 180 nautical miles from Plymouth in Devon to Pembroke Dock in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, passing the big milestone of Lands End and crossing the Bristol Channel but it didn’t happen.
Waking up to a meteorological prediction of south westerly winds of Force 5-7 with occasional touches of 8, all delivered by TV forecasters jolly as ravens, Safety Officer, Richard Salaman, was pondering the nonsense of launching his fleet into the western approaches but it was a no-brainer and after considering a delay to take advantage of any reduction in wind speed as the day progressed, the Race Committee accepted the inevitable and cancelled the day’s racing.
The alternatives were then twofold. One, to slip the schedule by one day, with all the administrative logistical horrors to organisers and teams or two, lose the second leg and re-start on the scheduled day from Milford Haven, leaving the competitors to make their own way to South Wales on land or sea.
After the battering of the first day, most teams happily opted for the second alternative but those who lacked road trailers looked glum; after all, cruising 180 miles in a Force 7 would be little different to racing those same miles so the prospect was not entrancing.
As those teams without trailers began to pull in favours, upsetting the Sunday morning lie-in of more than a few hauliers and chums with their plaintive requests, the wise virgins of the fleet and their support crews began to load up, shape up and ship out for the run up the M5 and M4, beginning to arrive in the Pembroke Docks in mid-afternoon. Sitting on that dockside, listening to the French F1 Grand Prix in a vehicle buffeted by what was still a substantial wind, the unreality of the situation was underlined by history.
There may have been none of today’s race boats in the Haven but just after lunch, a boat appeared over the horizon with race numbers and on closer inspection, it turned out to be one of the two Miss Bovril Triana 25s that competed in the 1969 race, one of which was owned by South Wales businessman, David Bassett. Could it have been him at the wheel, looking to re-live the glory of days gone by? We shall never know, as having seen 100% of nothing going on, it sped away west, into the teeth of the gale.
Perversely, the met forecast for Day Three suggests no wind at all over the Irish Sea, a circumstance that will appeal greatly to the crews as they make their way to Bangor, on arguably the toughest leg of this race.
The Fiat Powertrain Technologies, senior business partner of the Round Britain 2008, will award with a special Trophy and prize the crew that will be able to increase his performance more than the other competitors during the race.
The spirit is to award not only the overall winner, but the boat that will have the most relevant improvement day by day, miles after miles.
The prize is a Fiat 500 Round Britain 2008 Special Edition.
To be eligible for the trophy and the prize the boat must be classified as a finisher for every leg of the race. The winner will be chosen between the seven winners of the seven classes of the Round Britain Race.
The race will be divided in two legs: the first from Portsmouth to Oban and the second from Inverness to Portsmouth. The average speed in the first part of the race will be compared to the average speed in the second half.
The boat with the largest percentage improvement will be the winner of the Fiat Powertrain Technologies Trophy and prize.
With this rule, every boat of each Class has the same chance to win the Trophy and the prize, out of the category, the dimensions and the speed of the boat.