September 8 2016
The 190-mile endurance race was created in 1961 by newspaper tycoon and WWII fighter pilot, Sir Max Aitken, after seeing the Miami-Nassau Powerboat Race, which was first run in 1956. Aitken proposed a similar race be staged in England, between Cowes and Torquay.
Competitors began their journey on calm waters along the Solent, a 20-mile-long strait that separates the Isle of Wright from mainland England. Conditions would deteriorate quickly for the 14-boat field as they left the protected waters for open ocean competition. Gale force winds - stirring up 13-19 foot seas - changed the game. Endurance of crafts and crews would be tested to their limits.
Reigning Cowes-Torquay-Cowes Champion Vector Martini Rosso, a Vector hull piloted by Peter Dredge, Simon Powell, Malcolm Crease and Jason McVicar, succumbed to technical issues after enjoying an early lead. Technical issues forced Silverline, (Drew Langdon and Giancarlo Cangiano) out of the running as well. To make matters worse, the stricken Silverline was then swamped by a rogue wave and sank. Thankfully, no one was injured. The crew was rescued, and the boat was towed to safety.
Conditions continued to take its toll on the field. Italian entrant Tommy Racing (Maurizio Schepici and Gabriele Giambattista) and Hendricks 55 (Miles Jennings, Markus and Vincent Hendricks) were the next two competitors forced to retire. This cleared the way for eight-time UIM Class 1 World Champion Steve Curtis, with teammates Richard Carr and Paul Sinclair, to power through the rough in their classic Mercury Racing 1,350 hp Cougar aluminum vee-bottom hull. The team averaged 58.42 mph to win the Cowes-Torque leg of the event.
Dorian Griffith, Shelley Jory-Leigh and Will Stevens piloted Blastoff Racing, a Fountain hull powered by twin Yanmar diesels, to finish 47 minutes behind the Mercury Racing powered Cougar. Biretta Due, a Belgium Buzzi RIB piloted by Jean-Pierre Neels, Thomas Vandamme, Marijke D’Hondt and Dmitry Schiller, finished 33 minutes behind Blastoff for a third overall placement. Thunderstreak, a 53-year-old hull piloted by Robin Ward and Jeff Hall finished fourth, but failed to complete the course within the stated 3-hour, 51-minute time limit.
Attrition brought the starting field for the trip back from Torquay to Cowes down to four. The field would swiftly be reduced further to three when an oil pressure loss forced Biretta Due out of the competition.
Steve Curtis carefully throttled the Mercury Racing 1,350-powered Cougar through the huge seas to cross the finish line in what was an emotional victory. The British racer, who has won nearly everything in the sport of offshore powerboat racing, had never won this classic endurance event. Teammate Richard Carr has followed the race since a child. Carr had always dreamed of winning the coveted Cowes event. Blastoff pilot Dorian Griffith, who had been striving to finish Cowes-Torquay-Cowes since 2008, realized his dream - with a second place finish.
To endure such rough conditions is a testament to the competitors and the propulsion that carried them through. This Cowes-Torquay-Cowes victory proves the performance, reliability and dependability built into all Mercury Racing products.