Two pensioners set to make history
Initially it was going to be a quiet affair – two friends celebrating a lifetime of boating together with a trip they’ve done scores of times in their younger days.
But MBY writer Ray Bulman and marine industry stalwart Geoff Tobert are finding that at the respective ages of 79 and 80, a cross-Channel blast attracts a bit more attention than they expected.
Ray and Geoff are doing what they say is “one last epic voyage” in the verysame 1968 hull that Sunseeker MD Robert Braithwaite turned into one of the biggest marine companies in the world.
The mould of the 17ft (5.1m) Sunseeker Sovereign (pictured) was bought by Braithwaite from Geoff in the late 1960s before the name Sunseeker had even been conjured up.
However that same hull later became the first Sunseeker – and the rest is history.
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The boat was recently brought back to life and appeared in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace, with Robert Braithwaite making a cameo as chauffeur to actor Daniel Craig.
The historic craft will be in good hands – Geoff and Ray have competed in powerboat races together since the late 1950s, amassing a long list of honours.
And they did a few trips for pleasure too.
In the very early days of leisure motorboating in 1959, they were proud to have visited four Channel countries in four days, using a 12ft (3.6m) outboard-powered hull.
In 1965 they drove 1,000 miles to Sweden in an 18ft (5.4m) open runabout.
The adventures have continued as they’ve grown older. Ten years ago they recreated the classic Putney-Calais crossing, enjoying a chance to test the mettle of modern Honda-powered race boats.
Ray has been writing for MBY for more than 40 years and has been powerboating correspondent for The Daily Telegraph since 1970. His reputation as a powerboating journalist stretches around the world.
Geoff represented several outboard engine manufacturers in the UK marine industry, before working for Brunswick as European sales distributor.
Their ‘final’ voyage together was meant to be a low key affair, but as rumour spread across the marine industry of the trip, they found themselves at the centre of something a little bigger.
As they leave Ramsgate, Sunseeker’s 37M superyacht will be there to see them off.
They will be filmed every step of the way by a TV crew.
A top clothing company is stepping in to ensure they’re properly kitted out and logo’d up for the voyage.
Various mainstream media have joined the boating press in lining up to give the duo prime coverage.
And now the trip now has its own dedicated website, with a name conjuring up Sunseeker’s extraordinary 30-year rise from sportsboat builder to producer of world class superyachts. www.runabout2superyacht.co.uk. Follow the link below to see the site.
Looking forward to the trip, Ray says: “It’s got to be a very calm day that’s for sure. I just hope we survive it!
“Fifty-seven years ago Geoff and I did our first trip together. We borrowed a 12ft clinker built motor dinghy powered by 1.5hp Stuart Turner engine and spent a week’s holiday running down the Thames from Richmond to Southend (sleeping under the pier!) and back again.”
In those days the river was fully commercial with huge ships and tugs passing close by, creating enormous washes.
“We must have needed our bumps felt,” laughs Ray, “but this was the first of many long distance trips Geoff and I have done together over the years.
“We even used a runabout of that size to smuggle the odd bottle of Scotch between Dunkirk and Whitstable at night in the early 1960s!”
It seems old powerboating habits die hard and the two are trying to get the speed limit on the upper reaches of the tidal River Thames lifted so they don’t have to come off the plane for the initial and final stages of the two-way, 10-hour trip.
Geoff says: “I want to show that given good health, adventure is still out there for us oldies. It’s certainly better than sitting back watching the box!”
They will attempt the trip in the week starting June 15. www.runabout2superyacht.co.uk