The Earl of Normanton of Somerley, Hampshire, announced today that he will cross the start line in the infamous Cowes-Torquay-Cowes offshore powerboat race on 1 September, an event in the Honda Cowes Classic Festival, after a 24 year retirement.

Lord Normanton, 55, who began powerboat racing in 1968, will race with World Class 2 and National Class 1 Champion, David Allenby from Ower in Hampshire. Their racing boat began its journey from the United Arab Emirates yesterday and will be rigged at the team’s Hampshire headquarters in time for this year’s classic event. The 38ft British Cougar designed monohull will be powered by triple Yamaha outboard motors totalling 750hp.

David Allenby, 46, Chairman of Test Valley Group in Romsey and President of Teleflorist worldwide is relishing the prospect of taking on the world-famous marathon course. “I have been passionate about boats all my life and as kids in the mid-60s, my cousin Chris and I used to take a ten footer with an 18hp engine out to watch the big boats as they made their way past Bournemouth to Torquay. This year heralds the first time in a decade that the marathon boats are back and the race will run its full distance.

“When I first started racing catamarans in 1986, I swore I would never race another monohull but the prospect of being able to take on the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes course and racing to its original ethos was a challenge I just could not resist. To compete in this event you need an ocean-going vessel; a boat which will keep running in all weather conditions and this is our chance of being able to relive the event as it used to be.”

Lord Normanton is Chairman of the newly formed British Powerboat Racing Club, which took ownership of the race during the winter months. Following a 40th anniversary dinner where competitors from the past four decades of racing came together at the Royal Yacht Squadron last year, there was a groundswell of feeling to return the event to its traditional values.

“I remember when I started racing in a Fairey Huntsman in 1968, we were allowed to take off our helmets once we left the Solent!” said Lord Normanton. “We also took a suitcase with us to Torquay and enjoyed a black tie dinner at the Imperial Hotel. The following morning, hangovers permitting, we raced back to Cowes.

“In my capacity as one of the event organisers I have watched the innovative design and technology of marine hulls and engines evolve over many years. This race is the longest running of its kind in the world and competitors used to say that unless you won the Cowes-Torquay, you were not a true World Champion. Drivers have travelled from around the world in search of the exclusive winner’s berth at the end of this race and it is this spirit that we want to recapture.”

During Lord Normanton’s racing career, he was often at the wheel of the revolutionary-designed Cougar catamarans, designed by the late James Beard and built at the Hamble in Hampshire. In 1970, he suffered an accident in a circuit boat during the Paris Six-hour race and his resulting injuries left him paralysed for two months. Despite this horrendous experience, he returned to racing in Alto Volante, a 40ft Levi, and raced the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes event during the early 70s, completing a total of seven C-T-C races.

Honda Cowes Classic 2001
Schedule of events

Friday 31 Aug0800-1800: Scrutineering all classes – Cowes Yacht Haven1400-1700: Honda Helen House Celebrity Challenge – Cowes & SolentSaturday 1 Sep1015: Start of Cowes-Torquay-Cowes Race (Endurance Class/RHIBs)1100: Start of RYA National Championship Race (Class III/RHIBS/Touring & Grand Touring/V-24)1130-1430: C-T-C competitors re-fuelling Torquay (Approx)1300-1400: Honda Formula 4-Stroke Race1230-1530: C-T-C Race competitors re-start from Torquay (Approx)1400-1630: C-T-C Race finish (Approx. Winners greeted with champagne & laurels on Cowes Parade)