Cowes to Monte Carlo: Ray’s view

Our veteran racing columnist shares his view on the Cowes to Monte Carlo postponement

Now the dust has settled on the cancellation of the Venture Cup offshore powerboat race between Cowes and Monte Carlo I thought it was about time I had my fourpennyworth.

I cannot but feel sorry for Mike Lloyd. He spent almost two years working on the event which involved travelling many hundreds of miles in Europe visiting stopover venues, seeking viable moorings, arranging refuelling and accommodation for race officials while negotiating with port authorities, some not always that co-operative.

However, there are one or two aspects of its cancellation that don’t make sense to me.

It seems only 13 of the original 40-odd entries who all originally paid a non-refundable deposit came up with the final balance at the due date. With such a small number and no high level of sponsorship Mike had no alternative but to pull the plug. This didn’t go down well not only with those who had already paid but strangely enough with the majority of those who hadn’t. Hence this led to an extraordinary meeting taking place on the first day of the Tullett Prebon London Boat Show.

What I find hard to understand is that almost all who should have paid but didn’t turned up to the meeting while the rest heard what was discussed over a mobile phone link-up. Therefore, if they weren’t keen to pay up on the November date why did they bother to attend?

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Mike Lloyd has now resigned as a director of MPA Powerboat Events (the holding company), completely washing his hands of powerboat racing. A shame, as without Mike there would never have been a Round Britain in 2008 nor would a Cowes to Monte Carlo race have been mooted in the first place.
There was no doubt the cancellation wasn’t going to be taken lightly but the general consensus of the meeting rightly felt it was now far too late to stage such a huge race on its original June date in 2013. Instead, the main event was postponed until 2014 with a shorter three to five day race held in its place. This appeared to be accepted with great gusto.

Meanwhile permission has been given by the Port of London Authority (PLA) for both this year’s shorter race and the main Monte Carlo event in 2014 to have a symbolic start through Tower Bridge before being led at cruising speeds to a point below Tilbury where a flare from the PLA escort would signal the start proper.

The course from here will take the main fleet direct to Guernsey (some 235 miles) for a welcome lay-day before setting off for a French port, probably St Malo. The plan then is to race back to a UK port somewhere on the south or south-west coast.

If it does indeed go ahead, and my personal feeling is that an enormous amount of organisation needs to be done in very little time, there is a possibility that a shorter race for what is left of Class III and perhaps P1, could start on the Thames at the same time finishing in Brighton. A successful Class III race between London and Brighton did indeed take place in 1987 which would give the declining smaller offshore classes a much needed boost.

The one problem which seems to have been overlooked is that fewer than a dozen of the proposed Guernsey starters have any experience of racing long distances in deep offshore waters.

Britain’s premier offshore powerboat race, the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes (now the Needles-Torquay-Gurnard race due to ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ regulations in the Solent!), is called a Marathon which it is not. A Round Britain and London to Monte Carlo yes, so recent Cowes-Torquay competitors considering these forthcoming events would do well to tone up their bodies and make a few genuine offshore passages ahead what could be a very punishing experience.

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