Local powerboat racers escape unscathed from 80mph crash off Littlehampton beach

Cliff Smith and Howard Standley had a lucky escape during an RYA Powerboat race off Littlehampton on Sunday when their 28ft catamaran ‘Tubhumping’ flew into the air at 80 mph and barrel rolled three times back into the sea in full view of holiday makers enjoying the sunshine on the crowded Sussex beach.

The local pair were trapped in the upturned boat for 3 minutes before emerging unscathed from the submerged cockpit. Rescue boats were on the scene almost immediately and quickly fished the lucky racers out of the sea. Their badly damaged boat was also salvaged but may well be beyond repair. ‘Does anyone know of a decent carpenter? Cliff Smith joked afterwards.

Smith, who owns the Littlehampton based haulage firm ‘Grab & Tip’, can thank the sport’s strong safety regulations for his and Standley’s survival. Before the race, safety stewards spotted that the emergency air cylinder fitted in the cockpit of their boat was empty and refused to allow them to race until is was re-charged. In the event of a capsize, the bottle activates automatically, giving the crew enough air to unbelt themselves and escape through their safety hatches. Had the scrutineers been less vigilant, then Smith and Standley may well have drowned.

This was one of a number of thrills and spills that kept holidaymakers enthralled during the hot regatta weekend. On Saturday, 31 crews racing Zap Cat inflatable boats whizzed round a tight course just yards from the beach, often bumping and bouncing off each other. The racing, which formed part of a national series televised on Sky Sport, had to be stopped several times when crewmembers were catapulted into the water, but again no one was injured.

This event was won by Steven Ward and Paul Northcott from Plymouth ahead of Mark Wootton and Jamie Stuart Campbell from Maidenhead.

The offshore powerboat race on Sunday was won by Max Walker and Mick Spong from Poole. Their 28ft bright yellow ‘Batboat.com’, which leads the current National Championship standings, led from start to finish at an average speed of 80.13 mph. Honours in the 2 Litre class fell to Brian & Pat Peedell from Burnham racing ‘Nippon Express’. Class 11 was won by Peter Barrow and Shelley Jory from Southampton who set an average speed of 57.05mph.

After the rescue of Smith and Standley, John Puddifoot, The RYA’s Powerboat Manager, was quick to praise the volunteer safety officers who supervised the Littlehampton event. “We can all thank Rod Jones, the chief scrutineer and all his volunteers for the highly professional way in which they carried out their work. Their diligence undoubtedly saved the lives of these two powerboat racers. We rely on the valuable input of volunteer teams such as this at all of the RYA’s race meetings, and without their untiring contribution to the sport, powerboat racing in the UK would just not happen.”

The Results

Zap Cats – Littlehampton

1 ‘X-Treme Marine’, Steven Ward & Paul Northcott, Plymouth

2 ‘Rocketship Racing’, Mark Wootton & Jamie Stuart Campbell, Maidenhead.

3 ‘Wilson James’, Brian Middleton & Alan Webster, Westcliff on Sea,

4 ‘Tohatsu’, Martyn Willcox & Peter Wilson, Lymington

5 ‘Navaho’, Paul Acketts & Tony Jones, Southampton.

4 Litre class

1 ‘Batboat.com’, Max Walker & Mick Spong, Poole (80.13mph)

Sports boat 1 class:

1 ‘Extremeboat.com’, Jackie Hunt & Mike Shelton, Hook, (74.26mph)

2Litre Class

1 ‘Nippon Express’ Brian & Pat Peedell, Burnham, (68.92mph)

2 ‘It Wasn’t Us’, Terry Mills & Andrea Hibbert (Littlehampton (67.64mph)

3 ‘Bar Centro’, Neil Jackson & Lorrenzo Castigliono, Waterlooville, (65.46mph)

Sports Boat 2 class

1 ‘Revenger Step Forward’, Peter Barrow & Shelley Jory, Southampton. (59.88mph)

2 ‘ Patriot’ , Colin & Stuart Gibson, Isle of Wight (57.05mph)

3 ‘Jupitor’, Michael Nicolson-Pike & Justin Ball, Lymington (57.85mph)