The national champ puts her foot down and Rob Peake tries to hang on...

Current British Honda Formula 4-Stroke champions Shelley Jory (pictured left) and navigator Libby Keir (right) are gunning for glory at the Cowes Powerboat Festival this weekend.
MBY news editor Rob Peake joined Shelley for a gentle potter round Southampton Water, or so he thought…

I have gained an interesting insight into the mind of powerboat racer Libby Keir – she’s an utter lunatic.

This I can confirm after spending a terrifying hour on Tuesday thundering around Southampton Water beside her merciless driver Shelley Jory.

As the manically grinning Shelley flung her boat Team Raymarine round a practice course off Hythe, and as I shot sideways, upways and downways in my seat, gripped for all my life was worth on the handles and braced my legs against the cockpit floor so my knees felt like they’d burst, I had to salute the bottle it must take to volunteer for such a battering week in, week out.

Having said that, the buzz of screaming along in one of these stripped down race machines at speed is quite something (especially, I would attest, when one Shelley Jory is at the wheel).

From a standing start we hit 45mph in about five seconds, and from there it just kept going up – 55, 60, 65mph. The water’s rushing past so near you could reach out and trail your hand in the chop, the wind feels like it’s about to cave in your eyeballs and the 225hp Honda outboard is growling like an angry editor. It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement.

Add to the mix a fleet of other identical boats, all screaming for the first mark at 60mph within touching distance of each other, and you can see why the Honda Formula 4-Stroke Series has grown as rapidly as it has.

So while I marvel at the punishment the competitors take, I definitely see why they do it.

My respect only grows when I hear of Libby’s habit of hectoring Shelley mid-race.
“As we’re coming into a turn, we may have six boats around us and she’ll be shouting over the intercom: ‘Don’t back off, don’t give him any room!'” Shelley explains with delight.

Me? I sat there meekly, just trying to hang on. And that was quite enough for a morning’s entertainment.

I can assure you I will be on the shoreline at Cowes this weekend shouting myself hoarse as Team Raymarine powers past.
Shelley and Libby are hoping to defend their 2005 national title, but with two rounds left to go are 14 points behind the two leading teams. They can still do it, but they need some top quality results.

Having said that, I’ve no doubt in Shelley’s ability to drive her boat as quick as is humanly possible.
As we’re heading back she slows to allow an accompanying craft to catch up, but the accompanying craft won’t play ball, and dawdles along at?..I glance at the speedometer?..a mere 45mph.
“Well, there’s no point in going slowly, is there?” yells Shelley.

As she slams down her foot on the throttle, the boat surges forward and my head is thrust back on the seat, I realise that in the high-paced world of Shelley Jory, 45mph just won’t do.

See www.cowespowerboatfestival.com for details of the weekend’s racing.

See www.teamraymarine.com for more on Shelley and Libby.

Pictured: Shelley (left) and Libby (right).