As 1963 started, I found myself more embroiled in preparations for the crucial exams in the spring.
My real energies were directed towards bikes and boats though!
I was never a very keen scholar, and spent far more time studying boats in magazines, than I did revising!
I knew I was poor at maths and physics, so effectively gave up on those subjects, and concentrated on English, History and Geography, where I knew I had hopes of positive results.
I continued riding weekly to the CTC Clubroom at Redbridge, in the Ship Inn, and out all day on Sunday club-runs (Rides), quickly dispensing with my father’s desire for me to alternate one week on the bike and one to church on Sundays!
The Motor Boat and Yachting Magazine was published fortnightly then, and every other Friday I collected my copy, pre-ordered from MacMahons newsagents, and spent as much time reading it, as I did on school work, at North End!
Come June, the exams were over, and I just wanted to leave school.
I duly obtained employment, and found that I could obtain my copy of MB&Y a day earlier from the newsagents near to our office and to Southampton (Old) Docks.
I also found other yachting and boating magazines that also reported on powerboats and races.
Now having a little money, but not much, in my pockets, I duly bought copies of these too, where they contained more on “my beloved powerboats”!
Such magazines as “Yachts and Yachting”, “Powerboat and Watersport”, “The Yachtsman” and others found their way into a growing collection in my bedroom.
The 1963 Cowes-Torquay race was now looming, and I eagerly counted down the weeks until it was due to be held.
It was a Saturday in August, 1963, and I caught the bus to Southampton fairly early in the morning, and caught the Red Funnel Ferry (No fast Red Jet in those days – it took an hour to cross to Cowes) to Cowes.
The race was well publicised – I had bought my copy of THE DAILY EXPRESS [the sponsoring newspaper] on the news stand in Southampton, and had read it on the crossing.
I dived into the first newsagents I found, and bought the RACE PROGRAMME, for, I think One Shilling (5p).
Making my way up to The Parade at Cowes, crowds were already gathering for the 10am start. Newspaper sellers were selling ‘Expresses, and programmes, and an excitement was in the air!
I managed to get myself a spot in front of the Royal Yacht Squadron,(RYS), and right behind the cannons, where I had read that the start line was to be, and the race boats followed each other out of the River Medina and made their way to the start area.
It was a rolling start, controlled by a Royal Naval Patrol Boat, and competitors had to assemble to the east of the start line, off the Royal Yacht Squadron Flag Mast. They would be headed by the patrol boat, at a controlled speed of about 30mph, and released as they crossed the start line. At this point a cannon would be fired!
I was really hyped up with excitement I expect, and guns fired 10 minutes, and then five minutes to go!
The boats were on the move towards the start-line, jostling for position, with the faster ones obviously near the front, and slower heavier boats further back.
The boats approached, gathering speed, the cannon fired, and all hell let loose!
Boats accelerated away, while right in front of me, it seemed, smaller racers cut in on the inside, trying to maintain a good position! Oh Heaven – this was wonderful to me!
The boats were to circumnavigate the IoW, and then pass us again, heading west, for Bournemouth, Portland and ultimately, Torquay. A commentary over loud speakers kept all of us in the crowd updated on who was leading, what was happening, etc. There were also boards in many places, upon which race leaders positions were marked, as they passed each point, like Yarmouth, Ventnor, Sandown, Southsea, etc.
The boats were given a course that took them as close as possible to as many view points as possible, where of course THE DAILY EXPRESS sold programmes etc, I learnt many years later how very expensive the commentary over Post Office telephone lines was for the organisers!
In due course, the leaders were re-passing Cowes again, spaced apart more of course, but giving me and others a better chance to view each boat as it roared past. In those days, 40 mph on water was a considerable speed, and it was all very impressive, to me at least!
I stayed near The RYS for most of the day, listening to the commentary, when most others had long since gone.
Eventually, the race was won by the sole Italian entry, which was called “A’Speranziella”, powered by two American Ford petrol engines of about 400 hp each.
How that name rolled off the tounge “A-speranZiella” – the accents created such a continental and exciting prospect.
Anyway – I had at last witnessed my first powerboat race, amd was in seventh heaven as I reluctantly headed home during the late afternoon.
More to follow soon.
- 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
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