Ray Bulman, MBY’s longest serving contributor and legendary power boat racing reporter, has died at the age of 89.
Having spent much of his youth messing around in canoes on the Thames before graduating to sailing boats in his twenties, his life took an unexpected turn when he accepted an opportunity to be the co-driver for his old friend Geoff Tobert in a long distance powerboat race.
He loved every minute of it and his account of their endeavours was so well received by the magazine he sent it to that he was immediately offered a job as their power boat racing correspondent. Despite already having a full time role at the Post Office, he accepted with glee and never looked back, going on to become the power boat world’s longest-serving and best loved reporter.
He became a full time writer for Motor Boat & Yachting in 1968 when the then editor John Liley tempted him to switch magazines with the offer of an expense account and the freedom to write features on all aspects of motor boating as well as racing.
Famously, this included MBY’s first ever test of a 17ft runabout built by a fledgling company known as Poole Powerboats. When its founder Robert Braithwaite mentioned that he was thinking of changing the company name to Sunseeker, Ray took one look around at the cold, dank surroundings and replied with the unforgettable line: “Sunseeker? You’ve got to be kidding. That’ll never catch on”. Thankfully, Robert ignored his advice and the two remained firm friends until Robert’s death last year.
It was a mark of Ray’s brilliance as a writer and raconteur that he was just as happy making fun of himself as he was recounting tales of the many colourful characters and celebrities he rubbed shoulders during power boat racing’s heydays in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
His original MBY column ran for 21 years until 1990 and just five years later he was invited back again to write a retrospective column about the joys of traditional motor boats which ran until 2010.
He carried on writing occasional news stories and features for the magazine for some years after that. In 2004 at the age of 80 he and his old friend Geoff Tobert recreated one of their original adventures by driving a restored 17ft Sunseeker Sovereign from London to Calais and back in 16 hours.
His last big feature for MBY documenting the many highs (and a few lows) of his remarkable 50-year career with the magazine was published in May 2017. RIP Ray, we’ll miss your wisdom, wit and wealth of unforgettable anecdotes.