"Rumours of our demise have been greatly exaggerated!"

The owner of Ocean Pirate says rumours of his boat’s demise have been greatly exaggerated!

Mike Barlow, who has restored the 1968 craft over the past two years to compete in the Round Britain Powerboat Race, spoke to MBY from Brixham, Devon, where he and his crew are stormbound after a nightmare start to the race.

They hit the underwater submarine barrage off Portsmouth moments before the start of the race, yesterday, and were the first to retire, less than a mile down the course.

Port Solent Marina were able to haul the boat out immediately and within 15 minutes, as the rest of the fleet stormed eastwards on the first leg, Mike was driving the damaged propeller from Portsmouth to St Neots near Cambridge.

There, Paul Williams from Clements Engineering came back into work at short notice to bash the prop back into shape. Paul had repitched Ocean Pirate’s props just three weeks ago and still had the necessary data at his fingertips.

By 9pm, Mike was back in Portsmouth and the boat back in the water, with MBY’s Derek Wynans on board.

Mike looks back on the rollercoaster few hours: “It was our fault that we went over the submarine barrage.

“It was on the chart in front of the helmsman and the navigator. We should have seen it.

“I would say the race organisation at the start left a lot to be desired. The marshals should have been on the castle side [land side] of the barrage keeping us away from it.

“After the start we got up to about 1700rpm and she was rattling like a stone in a bucket. It was clear we couldn’t do anything.

“We were well served by Port Solent. The assistant manager there was extremely kind.”

On getting the boat back in the water yesterday evening, they were running towards Plymouth with the engines at 3000rpm with no problem, until the weather set in.

Mike continues: “The problems started when we got into Lyme Bay. It went downhill from there.

“We were taking green water over the top. Water coming over you at that rate is going to find its way in somewhere and I’ve got new hatches in the roof to put the engine in. It turned out they leaked.

“But it’s a very good sea boat. People tell you that but you don’t know it until you’re out in it.

“We had it on the nose most of the way but to go round Start Point would have been foolish because we’d have it on the beam.

“It was an eventful night.”

He made the decision to enter Brixham at around 3am.

On Saturday afternoon, as the fleet makes its way overland to Milford Haven, Mike says: “We’re going nowhere today. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

“They are forecasting five to seven tomorrow and even it drops the residual swell will be considerable.

“One option I am considering is to go straight to Oban and rejoin there.

“I was never in this as a race. I was here for the event, for the experience; it would prove to me what the boat is like and what I’m like. This is an entirely new experience for me.

“What I can tell you is Ocean Pirate is not out of the race! We are here, we will be back in, we may not win anything but we will go round.”

www.oceanpirate.co.uk