Legendary offshore racing throttleman Steve Curtis teamed with boat owner Richard Carr and navigator Paul Sinclair in a 46-foot aluminum Cougar V-bottom powered by Mercury Racing 1350s to win the famed Cowes-Torquay-Cowes offshore endurance race on Sunday, September 4. Shockingly, it was the first time that eight-time UIM Class 1 World Champion Curtis, whose family owns Cougar Marine, won the classic endurance event. Carr had dreamed of winning the event since he was a child. The team averaged 58.42 mph to win the Cowes-Torquay leg of the event.
The 190-mile endurance race was created in 1961 by newspaper tycoon and World War II fighter pilot Sir Max Aitken after seeing the Miami-Nassau Powerboat Race that began in 1956. Aitken proposed a similar race be staged in England between Cowes and Torquay.
Competitors in this year’s race endured what will go down as the roughest conditions in the event’s 56-year history. Winds recorded at 32 to 38 mph stirred up 13- to 19-foot seas that challenged competitors and equipment.
The race started with 14 teams and calm waters on the Solent, a 20-mile-long strait that separates the Isle of Wright from mainland England. Conditions deteriorated quickly when the fleet left the protected waters and hit the open ocean. Gale-force winds kicked up the waves, and the teams and their equipment were 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 with Drew Langdon and Giancarlo Cangiano out of the running as well. To make matters worse, their boat was then swamped by a rogue wave and sank. No one was injured, and the boat was towed to safety. The Italian entry Tommy Racing with crew members Maurizio Schepici and Gabriele Giambattista, and Hendricks 55 with Miles Jennings and Markus and Vincent Hendricks were the next two boats forced to retire.
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, and 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-place-overall finish. 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 to three when an oil-pressure loss forced Biretta Due out of the competition.