Cowes-Torquay-Cowes survives – just

This year's race has been rescued, but where are all the Venture Cup boats?

Thankfully this year’s Cowes-Torquay-Cowes offshore powerboat race on Sunday August 26 is going ahead as planned but until John Moore, its organiser in 2010 and 11, picked up the pieces it was very much touch and go.

The Cowes-Torquay-Cowes (CTC) is the event that launched modern offshore racing outside the United States in 1961 so it defies belief a world-leading powerboat race of this calibre could have come so close to disappearing forever.

The Bristol Grand Prix, probably the world’s greatest circuit race from 1972 until 1990, is a fine example of what could happen. It collapsed though lack of financial backing and some say its demise can be blamed for the later decline of British circuit racing.

The CTC is equally vulnerable. It’s now the only major offshore race left in Europe, although I do hear Italy is beginning to follow its recent format – monohulls only, no catamarans.

At the time of writing, the two-race Cowes event had attracted 19 entries from what is now known as the Marathon Class. Slightly fewer had entered the smaller class P1 race from Cowes to Poole and back.

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But I see no sign of the big fleet that intends to take part in next year’s Cowes to Monte Carlo race.

I’ve been closely following the Venture Cup (the new name for the Cowes to Monte Carlo) race entries as they arrive and I am reasonably certain many crews have little experience of genuine offshore racing and the punishment they are likely to face.

Hulls, engines and navigational equipment have all improved immensely since I joined the first London to Monte Carlo Race in 1972. Boats today are well capable of maintaining high speeds over rough seas well after their crews begin shouting “Enough is enough!”.

So why are the newcomers not getting their first taste of open sea racing at Cowes?

The first leg of the Venture Cup is a 230-mile open sea crossing to Brest with not a glimpse of land. Sure, the finishing number in the 2008 Round Britain Race was impressive but apart from the leg between Fishguard and Bangor, crews always had land over their right shoulder where everyone spoke English.

That first crossing of the Venture Cup is therefore certain to sort the men from the boys and my guess is a large proportion of the novice contenders could easily find themselves back in Yarmouth or Cowes.

What they should be doing is getting plenty of practice in events such as this year’s CTC. There’s unlikely to be few other opportunities.

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