Defending world champions, Bjorn Gjelsten of Norway and Britain's Steve Curtis, set course for yet another title when they won the opening round of the Class I (16-litre) world offshore series, the Lisbon Grand Prix, on 23 May.

Defending world champions, Bjorn Gjelsten of Norway and Britain’s Steve Curtis, set course for yet another title when they won the opening round of the Class I (16-litre) world offshore series, the Lisbon Grand Prix, on 23 May. Driving Spirit of Norway they displayed their true championship skills after leading the race from start to finish but the event was not without its share of drama.

Hassan Al Thani from Dubai and Italian Matteo Nicolini emerged unscathed from a high-speed crash that completely destroyed their outfit, Qatar 96.

Second slot was filled by the new partnership of Mohammed Al Marri and Jean Marc Sanchez driving Victory 77 with English rookie Chris Parsonage making his Class 1 debut aboard Negotiator aided by veteran Peter McGrath on the throttles. Despite a comfortable margin, Gjelsten and Curtis had to fight off a tough challenge for 12 laps from the ill fated Qatar 96 before going on to win the 20 lap, 103nm race in 57min 20.61sec to return an average speed of 122.23mph/196.97kmh. “It was important to get to the first corner at the head of the fleet but we knew we had a fight on our hands,”said Gjelsten. “We could see Hassan and Matteo but couldn’t shake them off. I think we were a little short on top speed because every time we gained the advantage on the corners they came back at us on the straights.” Hassan and Nicolini’s attack ended on the 12th lap and in sight of the race leaders when they caught a gust of wind and flipped.

“I am not really sure what happened,” said Hassan Al Thani. “We were close to Spirit and were running superbly after setting the fastest lap when the boat launched itself into the air and completed a 360 flip before barrel rolling.”

Second place went to Mohammed Al Marri and Jean Marc Sanchez in their first outing together with Sanchez taking over the throttles from Saeed Al Tayer. “I think I am very lucky with second place,” said a delighted Sanchez. “We took advantage of the long lap and managed to catch and overhaul our team mates who seemed to be having problems. I learned a lot about the boat today and hope we can close the gap on Spirit in Spain.”

Taking third place on his Class 1 debut was Chris Parsonage in Negotiator who praised his throttleman Peter McGrath. “Peter did a fantastic job, not just in getting me through my first race but in setting up the boat in such a short time,” he said. “After passing Highlander we began to push a little harder. We then narrowed the lead of Victory 7 by taking our long lap when we did but to finish on the podium is just great.”

Ali Nasser’s return to Class 1 alongside Ali Al Qama in Victory 7 was spoilt by a recurring engine problem when running second, eventually dropping them to fourth. Fifth place for Bard Eker and Bjorge Jacobsen in Hydrolift was an excellent effort by the all-Norwegian entry also making its Class 1 debut, finishing ahead of Italians Giampaolo Montavoci and Giampiero in GFN Gibellato.