Champion powerboater Libby Keir writes exclusively for MBY

Champion powerboaterLibby Keirwill be writing an exclusive diary for MBY online over the coming season.
Navigator Libby (pictured right), 24, from London, and driverShelley Jory(left) won the 225hp class in the competitiveHonda Formula 4-Strokeseries last year, in their boatTeam Raymarine. It was Libby’s first year in powerboating.

“Hi all! I wanted to get a diary entry online before the season kicked off as there is so much to tell you about what we have been up to over the past few months. With only three weeks to go – the first race is in the Isle of Man on 24-25 June – Shelley and I are putting in the hours so that we are prepped and perfect for that start line!

The winter disappeared fast. It was fun to enjoy my ‘other life’ in London – seeing my friends and behaving like a normal 24 year old – but by the end of January I was champing at the bit to get back to the boats. I really missed being out on the water and wanted to get down to the coast to see the powerboat fraternity. After all the glamorous awards dinners and parties we enjoyed over Christmas and the New Year, I was in need of a reality check involving Teletubby-style overalls, cold water and engine oil!

Of course, Shelley and I have been in regular contact, and Team Raymarine has been kept very busy. We spent a couple of days at the London Boat Show back in January. It was great fun to work on the Formula Four Stroke stand, and we were delighted to help launch the RYA’s latest Offshore Handbook. The two of us were also honoured to be nominated for the shortlist of the Yachtsman of the Year Award. Shell and I couldn’t quite believe that we were in the running with Dame Ellen Macarthur (the eventual winner) and Ben Ainslie OBE – it was a privilege to stand next to two such accomplished sportsmen.

More recently, Shelley and I were on hand to open the Sportsboat and RIB Show – a great weekend in Southampton’s Ocean Village. Highlights of the show included our first taste of Thundercat racing (Shelley has gone on to compete in Malta last month – adrenaline junkie!) and a demonstration with the RNLI. The sun shone and the weekend was a great success!

But these have been the fun bits. As with all sports teams, we have also spent a large amount of time off season sorting out our housekeeping. The team has been fortunate enough to sign Raymarine as our principal sponsor for another year, which we are thrilled about. Additionally, Crew Clothing is our Official Clothing Sponsor this year – Shelley and I have spent many a happy hour poring over their gorgeous catalogue and have decided on a team kit which is unsurprisingly?pink! Fab! Furthermore, there are countless people who help us with services, many of whom you will meet through the course of my diary entries during the season. It takes a huge amount of time and effort to run a race team (and admin is definitely my least favourite part of the job) but it’s worthwhile when you see the boat all beautifully prepped and ready to go. We are incredibly fortunate to have such amazing sponsors and support.

So how do we go about preparing for the first race of the season? Our boat is the first thing to get sorted. She endures a fair few knocks and bangs during racing, and most teams will give their boat a bit of an MOT out of season to check that nothing awful has gone unnoticed. The hull, engines and electrics all get checked over, as there would be nothing more annoying than discovering a fixable problem on the start line of your first race! Obviously, as Honda F4SS is a one-design series, you can’t make any adjustments to the design or components of the boat. However, a lot of the boys swear by polishing their bottoms (!?!) for a bit of extra speed. And work such as this is perfectly legal, so a certain amount of cosmetic improvement goes on which helps us all feel that we are doing something useful?

Once the boat is fine, the main focus of our energy is, unsurprisingly, practise. Shelley and I spend every Sunday out on Southampton Water practising straight lines and corners. This has fairly obvious benefits for the driver, but the advantage this gives the navigator is slightly more subtle. Every team has a different way of working, but Shell isn’t keen on me chatting away nineteen to the dozen – she wants clear, easily computable instructions during the race. It is, however, very hard not to gabble when you are travelling at speed with 13 other boats bearing down on you. Therefore, time in the boat increases my confidence and crystallises my ability to give instruction. We also practise tactics with our coach, Neil Holmes, and he chases us around a short course in his RIB – it’s all good fun!

In addition to practise in the boat, Shelley and I are attempting some fitness training. It is crucial that Shelley works on her upper body strength as the boat is exhausting to control over an hour of racing. For me, my legs take more of a pounding as I rely on strong thigh muscles to brace against the boat and keep myself in my seat. Neither of us would claim to be especially athletic, but the fitter we are, the better we will cope with race conditions.

So here we are, just a couple of weeks away from the off, and we hope to be confident and prepared for the 24th. Expectations are high after our success last year, and I am sure that there are other teams who are as determined as we are to claim the 2007 championship title. It’s going to be a hard-fought battle this year – I will keep you posted?”

Visit www.teamraymarine.com to find out more about Team Raymarine!