Once again the peaceful waters of the Solent, better known for the calm vista of yachts sailing back and forth, was broken by the roar of big block engines. Every year some of the biggest, noisiest and most powerful Marathon Class powerboats assemble to race the famous Cowes – Torquay – Cowes and Cowes – Poole – Cowes powerboat races as part of the British Powerboat Festival. On an unexpectedly blue-sky day lines of powerboats rumbled side by side down to their muster area, obediently reining in the potential of their engines and maintaining the speed limit.

This orderly procession was however only a prelude to the eruption of noise and spray that would envelop the boats once the race was started.

The boats took off into the wind against a rolling swell that saw them leaping toward the first mark, five and a half miles out into Poole Bay. It didn't take long for the repeated bone jarring landings to have their affect on both boats and crew and while seventeen boats had motored out to the start, only fourteen made it as far as the first mark. 'Silverline' driven by Drew and Ali Langdon had engine problems before the start, 'OSG Magnum Marinewear' driven by Giancarlo Cangiano and James Sheppard lost a supercharger belt in the muster area and also did not start, and 'Grey Ghost' driven by Paul Glenister, Tim Coote, Neil Holmes and Mel Streek retired on their way to the first mark.

The start of the 2012 Cowes Classic - Photo : Chris Davies

'Blast Off' driven by Dorian Griffith, Rob Jenkins and Ashley Nihell lost a belt on their power steering pump approaching the first mark, and while quick work by the crew saw the boat continue on it's way, they were unable to complete the race, and retired near Portland Bill.

By the second mark the challenging course had further affected the fleet with 'Apache Warhorse' driven by Tony Toll, Trevor Pickard, Stuart Forsyth and James Sydenham retiring to their home port at Poole. 'Swipe Wipes' driven by Nick Gilley and Jon Fuller had problems getting across Lyme Bay and headed back to Cowes, and 'Pippa' retired near Anvil Point with gearbox issues.

At the halfway mark the battle for first place in the annual Cowes Classic powerboat race from Cowes to Torquay and back was well under way. 'Microlink PC Fury' had taken the lead, completing the first leg of the journey in one hour twenty one minutes and four seconds only fifty five seconds ahead of 'Cinzano', last years winner.

The race continued up to Exmouth where 'Going Lean' driven by Dean Gibbs and Dave Brown ironically found them selves running very lean and retired with fuel pump failure. The drama was still not yet over, with 'Team E-Lites' driven by John Cooke, Graham Lawton and Jeremy Gibson losing a blade off one of their props, which flew off and embedded itself into the boats hull. While they were able to complete the race they were forced to slow down.


Racing past Portland in the 2012 Cowes Classic - Photo : Graham Stevens

Back at the front of the fleet the battle continued between 'Microlink PC Fury' and 'Cinzano' who were intent on winning the race for the third time. This was not however to be their year and Vahid "Vee" Ganjavian and Gareth Williams in 'Fury', a 37 foot Phantom hull, running a pair of 700 horsepower Ilmor engines held on to their lead, winning in two hours and forty two seconds at an average speed of sixty eight miles an hour.

'Cinzano' driven by Markus Hendricks, Simon Wood-Power and Eric Smillie were not far behind finishing four minutes and five seconds later. The team were in fact lucky to cross the finish line with very little fuel left in the tanks. Third was 'Smokin' Aces' driven by Chris and Nick Dodge in three hours four minutes and twenty five seconds. Interestingly all three boats ran with Ilmor engines giving Ilmor Engines a hat trick on the podium.

Markus Hendricks, Throttle Man of Cinzano 558 celebrates a 2012 Cowes Classic 2nd place - Photo : Chris Davies

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