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Historic racing and The Olympic Flag

24 Aug 2008

Historic racing and The Olympic Flag

At the end of August I enjoyed a unique sporting weekend.  I took part in my home city of Southampton’s Olympic Flag handover celebrations and competed in the classic power boat race  in an amazing historic powerboat – GEE.
The Cowes Torquay Cowes (CTC) powerboat race was assort of will it won’t it affair for a good few weeks prior to it actually happening. In the end  the Round Britain organisers and the British Powerboat Racing Club ran it and  a great time was had by all. I think everyone will agree we have revitalised this infamous classic race.  I had a ball at the CTC, ditching my current, modern, 120mph P1 boat and taking the helm of a classic power boat, GEE to compete in the historic class.  I had 6 crew members on board  - the owner of GEE Chris Clayton and his 2 brothers Mark and Paul.  John Guille was my faithful co-driver.  Simon Everett was the media guest and my VIP guest, was my long term sponsor - Fiona Pankhurst from Raymarine. 
As you can imagine this was so totally different for me, 6 people all talking at the same time in the cockpit, me putting the throttles flat down to maximum speed of 37 knots and then not touching them again. I even put the auto pilot on at one point during the 186 nm trip and enjoyed a glass of cranberry juice!   Although we were the slowest boat in the 24 boat fleet that left Cowes, we certainly had the boat with the most history and the happiest crew.  A 3rd place in Historic class was all we could muster as we sprinted to the finish line with our main competitor 747,  but I did pick up the first Lady Drivers trophy which I have waited for 12 years to win!
If that wasn’t enough excitement for one week-end the next day we crossed the Solent and I started Southampton’s Olympic flag relay on the water,  celebrating the handover from Bejing to London. Why?  I hear you ask was a powerboat racer asked to be part of the Olympic handover when the sport is clearly not an Olympic sport.  Well 100 years ago it was, and there was a powerboat race on the River Itchen in 1908.  So I proudly stood waving a giant “2012” flag from the bow of GEE and then handed it over to four teams of rowers from Coalporters Rowing Club and Southampton Rowing Club. I then raced to the Civic Centre to join the Mayor of Southampton as he raised the flag, complete with a traditional Chinese Lion and Dragon dances. 
It was one of the most hectic week-ends in my racing career to date but one I will certainly not forget.  I felt quite emotional carrying the Olympic flag, powerboat racing is not an Olympic sport (yet) so it felt particularly special that I was asked to be part of the build up to London 2012.
 
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