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.
Forgive me for not writing more often, but life in the fast line has been very fast recently!
My Powerboat P1 career started brilliantly as Nigel Hook my team owner and throttleman and I took 1st place in the Italian Grand Prix. It was truly amazing as 1 hour before the start of the race I was having a few nervous tears and was not sure I could cope with the big leap I had taken into the Evolution class of the World Championships. The season has been tough racing in extreme conditions all over the world, and a lot of the boats and teams are suffering with mechanical problems and breakages and I am afraid we are one of them. But team Lucas Oil have proved we are contenders for the title and we are always in the top 3 when the boat is running. We are half way through the season and all is to play for!
I am loving it - the big jump into the Evolution class was the best move I made. Nigel and I make an excellent team and I have proved I can drive at 110mph with the best of them. The rest of my all male competitors have accepted me with open arms and often congratulated me - which is something I am not use to.
Apart from racing I have been up to all sorts of things. I have a new updated web site, many thanks to Wight 365 who sponsor me for that. The web site is updated very quickly after each event with all the thrills and spills, great photographs, and excellent film footage from the races thanks to my team manager Janet. Take a look when you have a moment in videos.
One of my latest challenges has been co-presenting the new H2O Radio Show on BBC Radio Solent with Sir Robin Knox Johnston. A weekly show on a Friday evening and what a laugh that has been and we have actually gone to the top of the class for having the 2nd most listened to podcast in the country - not bad for 2 novice presenters. We have met some amazing people and I recently I got to drive the Red Funnel - Eagle and the Red Jet 4. For those who are not local to Southampton one is the very big car ferry and the other is the high speed passenger ferry that goes from Southampton to Cowes. Brilliant and really made me quite nervous, I needed a sit down afterwards. Check the gallery for photo evidence. I have also had my first experience of Sailing racing at Skandia Cowes week on board nothing less than a Clipper 68 - Liverpool which has just completed the Clipper 07-08 Round the World Yacht Race. Not sure I am converted though!
I am still enjoying lots of charity work too, I get asked to do so many things, I try to do as much as I can but I need a 9 day week. A new venture is with Sainsburys Hedge End in the Community. - Active Kids, I am going to be there new sports personality - so keep a watch on the web site to see what I get up to there!
Back to powerboat racing at the end of August for the Classic -Cowes Torquay Cowes Race where I will be driving an a very famous classic powerboat called GEE - built in 1967 land ovingly restored by her owner Chris Clayton who then completed in the Round Britain Race in June with her. September 12th Vigo, Spain for the next round in the P1 World Championships. Apart from all the above I will attempt to go to work as well and do my day job of selling wedding dresses.
As always - thank-you so much everyone for your support, without you I would not be leading this crazy but wonderful life!
Speak soon and Jon and I will keep the web site updated with all the news and photographs.
Wait to you hear what I have been up to lately. I have been filming and having 1000s of photographs taken for the new National Honda advertising campaign - Hondamentalism!! - which has been absolutley amazing!
There is only one word which adequately sums up our weekend in Plymouth. And that word is…vomit. So – what can I tell you about such a moving two days? Here goes…
So. Following on from a tricky start in the Isle of Man, Shell and I travelled to Tyneside last week with a certain amount of trepidation. Everyone had been keen to point out how rough the North Sea can be, and we were expecting the worst as we drove up the long road to South Shields...
Our first race of the season was very eventful with thrills, spills, sunshine and gale force 6 winds in the beautiful Isle of Man. Take a look in images for some great pictures of the week-end.
The winter seemed very short to me! I cannot believe that this time next week Team Raymarine will be back on the road, driving to the Isle of Man for the first race of the season!
When many people slow down after the Christmas and New Year, Team Raymarine have been partying hard throughout January! Shelley and I have been thoroughly enjoying celebrating last season’s successes at a series of parties and events, culminating in the glittering Honda Formula 4-Stroke Awards Dinner at the Savoy on January 13th, and we thought we would share some of the excitement with you…
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year to you all from Team Raymarine!
Another recent adventure of mine was a trip to Milton Cross School.
Just thought I would let you all know - un-beknown to me I was nominated for BBC South Sportswomen of the Year.
Thank-you for all your support and messages of congratulations for our BBC TV debut on Children In Need last Sunday.
Just to let you know Libby and I have not got off the rollercoaster yet!!
In case you have not already heard - WE WON!!!!
Britiish Honda Championships - Liverpool Grand Prix - a very eventful week-end!
Well, the fourth round in Plymouth of the Honda Formula Four Stroke series proved to be an eventful one for Team Raymarine.
Team Raymarine has just had another successful race week-end in the Isle of Man!!
Sorry for the delay in writing, Libby and I have only just come down off our winning podium place and back to the real world!