It is worth saying how different commentating on powerboat racing was then to how it is nowadays.
As the boat [competitor] of a personality raced past, the commentator would show a degree of deference.
For instance: “There goes Sir Max Aitken (the race’s originator and the owner of The Daily Express), in his boat “Black Maria”, he has so-and-so and so-and-so on board as crew, how wonderful to see…..”
Or “There is Lord such-and-such , he is racing with…”.
It was then, a sport that really could only be afforded at its higher level, by rich people. In the early 1960s that meant mostly rich industrialists and the more aristocratic land-owning members of society.
Powerboat Racing – The Privilege of the Rich?
This did not stop more “ordinary” people taking part. Some regular competitors built their own boats even, at home, but to be successful, one certainly needed more money than the average person.
Maybe that was what attracted the public so much, to see the racing. To see the rich at play, so to speak!
Society was very different then. The effect of changes in society, in part brought in by we younger people as we grew up through the 1960s, and challenged the ways of our elders, with pop culture and other changes, had not yet taken effect, although they were starting.
Reporting the Races
I eagerly awaited press and magazine reports of the races I had seen. I pored over these, actually writing my own version, using a typewriter at work, to learn to type, in doing so.
There was very lavish reporting of the race in the various magazines. Of course I spent many hours reading and re-reading these, probably to the exclusion of other, more relevant matters in life!
I continued my club cycling too, of course.
While at school I had two or three friends who had also joined the cycling club. We youngsters often played up the older cycling club members!
More than once I think some of the older chaps got fed up with one of us, probably me at times (!) and said so in no uncertain terms! However, we wanted to be part of the club so never pushed things too far, for if there was a puncture or mechanical breakdown, then we would need their help!
Bikes were less reliable then on course. Tyres were far less puncture resistant and it was rare during an all day ride for there not to be at least one puncture to someone’s bike. At such incidents we all stopped and one or two would help the ‘victim’ remove the wheel and change the inner tube.
To this day, cycling club riders rarely repair a punctured inner-tube. That is best done at home in the dry. Just replace the punctured tube with another, taking care (as we learnt), to check around the inside of the tyre for the thorn, piece of grit, or other item that caused the puncture. It is no good just putting in a new tube for it too to be punctured by the same thing that caused the initial puncture!
We learnt a lot from watching these operations. Sometimes there were mechanical breakdowns, but most were repairable at the roadside, using the tools and spares that most experienced riders carried in their saddle bags.
Disaster on the Road
One occasion I remember a problem was not easily repairable. We were at Tollard Royal, between Shaftesbury and the quaintly named Sixpenny Handley, in the Cranbourne Chase area of north-east Dorset.
I had stopped as my rear wheel had pulled over and was rubbing the chain-stay, which was an easy re-adjustment. The problem here was caused by the wheel not being tightly held in the bike frame.
Everyone was waiting for me, when one rider said to the club secretary, “Standing Start sprint for the Road sign there”. And the two of them started to sprint start for the sign, just up the road. (You must remember that in those days, especially on a Sunday, country roads were very quiet with little or no traffic). Anyway, there was a loud ‘crack’ and the secretary’s crank snapped in two!
We were miles from any help and were heading for tea at, I think, Ringwood, many miles away still. We all helped push the secretary, who could only pedal with one crank, and who had to keep his other leg free of the broken crank. First we had to help push the secretary to our tea venue and then home to Southampton. Of course it was fine down hill, but hard work up hill, for those helping push him!
Mileages on our rides often topped 70 for the day, and frequently 80 or 90 miles were covered.
More to follow next week.
(editors: Allison Symes, Janet Williams)
- Hazel Bateman: An Interactive Local History Talk by Martin Napier
Article Series by Martin Napier
- Part 1: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s-Ford: 1950s – 1960s
- Part 2: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Paper Boy; North End School
- Part 3: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s Bonfire Night
- Part 4: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: North End School
- Part 5: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Bicycle, Bicycle!
- Part 6: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: A Summer of Hope and Sorrow
- Part 7: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: The Big Freeze in 1963
- Part 8: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Breaking Free from North End School
- Part 9: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: My Passions with Bikes and Boats
- Part 10: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Bikes, Boats, and Adventures
- Part 11: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Witnessing My First Powerboat Race
- Part 12: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: the Joy of Powerboat Race and Cycling
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