Dorian Griffith, Shelley Jory-Leigh and Will Stevens entered the Cowes Classic 2016 with a dream, to finish the World’s Toughest Offshore Powerboat Race.
By the end of Sunday the 4th of September, their dream had been exceeded with a fairytale.
With a full and successful testing programme behind them, the team lined up against 13 other UIM Marathon boats ready to tackle 190 nm of racing.
The distance alone was a challenge and with force 7 winds stirring up 13-19 foot seas the task seemed almost impossible.
By Portland, Blastoff’s opponents were dropping like flies.
Italian entrant Tommy Racing (Maurizio Schepici and Gabriele Giambattista) and Hendricks 55 (Miles Jennings, Markus and Vincent Hendricks) were the first to retire.
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, their stricken boat was then swamped and sank. Thankfully, no one was injured. The crew was rescued and the boat was towed to safety.
SUNUS Ocean Racing, Blastoff’s Class C competitor succumbed to a steering malfunction, the crew Tom Montgomery-Swan and Michal Galczewski from Poland, were bitterly disappointed. They had a belief that their petrol Mercury 4-Stroke engines were superior to the twin diesel Yanmar units installed in the Fountain hull.
Incredibly, the team was now second overall heading to Torquay.
Only eight-time UIM Class 1 World Champion Steve Curtis, with team mates Richard Carr and Paul Sinclair were ahead of them in Cougar 46.
Blastoff raced into Torquay, completing the first half of the race at an average speed of 41.41 mph.
They were 47 minutes behind the Mercury Racing powered Cougar with Biretta Due, a Belgium Buzzi RIB piloted by Jean-Pierre Neels, Thomas Vandamme, Marijke D’Hondt and Dmitry Schiller finishing 33 minutes behind Blastoff for a third 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.
The depleted fleet meant just 4 boats would start the Torquay Cowes race and then almost immediately after the start Biretta Due experienced oil pressure loss which left just Cougar 46 and Blastoff Racing in with a shout of winning the Beaverbrook Trophy.
The longer and higher powered Cougar 46′ held the lead to Cowes to take the overall win.
32 minutes after, Blastoff Racing crossed the line in second place overall with an average speed of just 37.43 mph, showing just how bad the conditions were.
The team were ecstatic, they had finished on the podium after racing in one of the roughest Cowes Torquay Cowes races ever held.
Not only that, Shelley became the highest placed British lady competitor in the history of the race, only Betty Cook from America went one better in 1980.
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