More favourite memories including thoughts about my boats and bikes……
1964 – The year that Radio Caroline started broadcasting!
I was continuing to work in the Southampton shipping office of Thomas Meadows and Company (who were based in London).
I travelled to work from Chandler’s Ford by bus, walking to the ‘bottom end’ of Southampton from The Junction opposite the cenotaph.
During 1964 I started to cycle into work, to gain those extra miles and subsequent fitness. My cycling activities were firmly established now and I was ‘part’ of the club as a regular rider.
I had not been very good at sports at school, but regular cycling meant I was probably fitter than many of my erstwhile school mates now.
Cycling is a sport or pastime, where the more miles you ride, the fitter you get, generally.
I embarked on all the cycling clubs’ regular bank holiday weekend tours, where we usually stayed at Youth Hostels. These were cheap overnight accommodation, with an evening meal and breakfast provided, in exchange for a fee, and having to assist with a ‘duty’ before you left.
These ‘duties’ could amount to helping with the washing up (no machines then!), sweeping out the dormitory one slept in, or a similar task.
We carried our ‘sheet sleeping bags’ with us, which folded quite small to fit in a saddle bag with spare clothes etc. These sleeping-bags were just of sheet material and in the 1960s cost about £1. You either carried your own, or rented one at each hostel (a more expensive option), as only blankets, a pillow and a mattress were provided in youth hostels in those days.
My keen following of powerboat races continued and I planned to see the finish of the Cowes-Torquay Race, having seen the start in 1963. I wanted to go to Torquay, but my father would not hear of my going alone, so it was arranged that as my Mother was not interested, Dad and I would have a ‘boys holiday’ there to see the race finish. This we did and we witnessed a thrilling finish to the race!
There is a picture in my previous episode of the race boat SURFRIDER. This was the eventual winner, having been second behind an American Boat called Lucky Moppie for the rest of the race. However, approaching the finish, Lucky Moppie certainly did not live up to its name! The crew took it outside the finish marker boat. (The finish line is an invisible line drawn between a marker on the pier and the outline marker, a yacht.)
SURFRIDER took the correct course and crossed the line before Lucky Moppie could turn back and cross correctly. Another boat called Claudia was third and was also an American Entry, but the Brits won!
My Dad cheered as much as I did, at this win for “The Home Team”, and I remember staying on Haldon Pier watching into the evening as the tail end finishers arrived.
Not all boats racing were there to try and win. Others were slower but competing for prizes such as Concours d’Elegance, Best All Rounder, First Diesel, First All-British, etc.
SURFRIDER was British owned by brothers Charles and Richard Gardner of Sussex. They had been involved in broadcasting during World War 2 and were known personalities. The boat, however, was totally American – designed, built & powered. In those days “The Yanks” were the leaders in the sport, having their own races, mostly from Miami in Florida, and boats built there were keenly sought by those seeking to win! British built boats did compete, but were very much in ‘catch up’ mode, chasing American equipment, but that was to change soon!
I had of course, taken a weekend out, from my cycling activities to see the race as Dad and I travelled back home on the Sunday. Dad did not have a car so we travelled by scheduled motor-coach, probably The Royal Blue I expect.
Again, I eagerly awaited the magazine reports of the race and read & re-read them.
There were other offshore races, both before and after the Cowes-Torquay, but that was known as “The Big One”, and was the event all the racers were keen to finish in.
I was 17 by now and had discovered the other interests of boys of my age, like girls and drinking in pubs, despite being technically ‘under age’! However, my interest in bikes and boats did not wane. I remember how one of my early girl-friends objected to my ‘not being available’ on Sundays! Sundays were reserved for cycling and it was either put up with that, or leave! Possibly a strange choice to impose, but at that age, my semi-sporting activities were a priority to me, while girl friends inevitably came and went again!
I was not at that time tempted into competitive cycle races, although the touring club did hold its own competitions. These were reliability trials (50 miles in 4 hours, 100 miles in 8 hours), and Tourist Trials, where one rode alone, following clues and map references to ride a pre-measured route, answering questions about features seen en-route.
1965 and 1966
Time went by, 1965 and 1966 saw me return to Torquay to witness the finish of the powerboat race, but now Mum and Dad went too. I was allowed to go my own way, but stayed in the same accommodation as my parents, who went on day trips, one or two of which I accompanied them on. It was a sort of staging post between holidays with my parents and being totally independent. I took my bike down to Torquay by train one year at least and rode out on my own around the area.
I had bought a Lambretta motor scooter from someone at work in 1966 and some of the older members of the cycling club thought that that would be the end of me as a cyclist. I proved them wrong though, still riding out on Sundays club runs, although I rode the Lambretta to and from work most of the time.
This enabled my mates and I to pop up from the office during the lunch hour and have a quick game of 10 pin bowling and some chips at The Top Rank Bowl in Bannister Road. We were regulars there, as we frequented the Top Rank Suite disco too, where we met various girls of course.
I never did take my motor-cycle driving test for the Lambretta. In those days there was no time limit on holding a provisional licence, so I saved the money towards driving lessons for when I could afford, eventually, a car!
I continued cycling with the CTC most Sundays, and moved jobs in late 1966. Powerboats still engaged much of my interest, along with my bike, although the bike often suffered from lack of maintenance and cleaning, as I also had to maintain the Lambretta as well!
The Lambretta was sold eventually and I reverted to cycling to work, while I saved what money I could. The driving lessons were embarked upon in 1968 and I was lucky to pass my driving test first time! However, I did not get a car straight away. It was 1969 before I bought my first car, which was a Morris Minor saloon, 8 years old, for £160!
Even then I still retained my interest in cycling, although I remember I did attend some club-run teas by car, as much as anything, to be a bit of a show-off I guess! I did ride still most of the time though, but I was feeling I needed a new challenge to retain my interest in cycling.
A new challenge – Time Trialling
This ‘challenge’ came in 1970 when I was introduced to Time Trialling. This was cycle racing where one rode on a pre-measured course, over fixed distances of 10, 25, 50 or 100 miles. The winner of course being the rider who recorded the shortest (or quickest) time.
I quickly got another, stripped down, bike and took up this side of cycling with enthusiasm.
I met different cyclists and made friends away from the somewhat closed circle of the touring club. In a way, my continuing interest in powerboat races and this cycling sport tied in with each other. They both involved travel, by the different means, while attempting to “be the fastest”!
Anyway, more to come!
(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
- Part 13: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Passions for Power Boat, Bike, and Lambretta
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