Libster gulps it down to claim podium

The powerboater explains her somewhat green appearance at Plymouth recently

Powerboater Libby Keir reports from the Plymouth Grand Prix, where she and driver Shelley Jory were defending their 2005 title in their boat Team Raymarine, in the Honda Formula Four-Stroke 225hp series…

There is only one word which adequately sums up our weekend in Plymouth. And that word is?vomit. So – what can I tell you about such a moving two days? Here goes?

Plymouth was to be one of our highlights. I was so sure that we could snatch a victory from Stopbox’s clutches, and was confident that the water and conditions would suit us well. Shelley and I travelled down on the Friday morning. We had decided not to go out testing as the practise course was on the other side of the breakwater and absolutely nothing like the racecourse. As a result, we spent a leisurely day checking over the boat and relaxing on the Hoe.

Briefing in Plymouth is always a nerve-wracking affair. As we are briefed with all the Class 1 teams, it feels a bit like when younger kids get to sit in a Sixth Form assembly. Light relief was provided by the Italian ‘Sixth Formers’ who successfully tied Steve Curtis to his chair during the meeting. Our venerable MBE recipient didn’t look quite as cool as normal when he tried to stand up at the end!

Saturday dawned bright and calm but things were not quite as they should be in the Team Raymarine camp. I was already starting to feel quite queasy, and I hadn’t been anywhere near a boat yet. The build-up to a race is nerve-wracking but I am normally fairly calm in the face of it. However, on Saturday morning I felt evil. Was I nervous and didn’t realise it?

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Matters only got worse and I was extremely sick before getting into the boat. Shell was also professing a slightly anxious feeling, so I convinced myself it was mid-season nerves. Luckily, a spot of fighting on the start line quickly took our mind of any nausea. With important points to play for, no front-running boat was going to give anyone else an easy ride. Despite scrapping on the line, Shell and I went into the first mark in a reasonably pleasing third place. Jack and Simon in Stopbox were in front, and Nathan and Gavin in Negotiator in second.

Following an exciting start, the rest of Saturday’s race was a disappointing parade. Round and round we went for another ten laps. There was very little space to make a break and so we even went into our pit lap in the same order. Not a crowd pleaser! Although incredibly boring, the thinking behind this was that – with the boats in front fighting hard with one another – there was a chance that they would make a mistake and we would be there to whiz past! This was almost the case within sight of the finishing line. Jack and Simon appeared to be slowing through the last few laps of the race and, in the final straight, they stopped altogether for a moment. Negotiator took this opportunity to scoop up first place but we were just too close to the chequered flag to get ahead. A photo finish put Negotiator in first, Stopbox in second and us girls in third.

Shell and I had had much higher hopes for the outcome of this race, but were philosophical about the result – a podium finish is always good news. It was strange, then, to continue to feel so nervous once that the race was over. While the others partied in the hospitality units on the Hoe, I took myself off to bed for an early night.

On Sunday morning things had got a lot worse. I had clearly picked up a stomach bug, and was struggling to keep water down. The thought of getting in a boat was by no means a tummy-settler. Shelley was amazing: prepping the boat, organising a back-up navigator (Paul Trow-Smith from Claygate bravely offered to pick up the gauntlet), and generally doing all my work. Meanwhile, I lay in the English Heritage trailer with both my head and stomach churning over the decision of whether to race.

Although an hour of racing was going to be a struggle, the thought of not being the one sitting next to Shelley was even worse. It really highlighted how strong our team spirit is – neither one of us was at all happy at the thought of not racing together. And I was also fairly sure that the disappointment of missing a race would only make me feel more ill – I would feel better for getting on with it.

With minutes to go before heading out to muster, I managed to get in the boat and we were pushed out to sea in a manner not unlike a Viking burial (minus being set alight of course!). Shell and I have a tradition of singing ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’ at muster, but Sunday’s rendition was slightly on the wobbly, weak side. Meanwhile, the boys circled round us pretending to throw up over the side. Comedy genius.

And then the race began. Again the start was a fight with (as you can see in the photo) some unbelievably close racing. Shell and I were boxed out of the line, and so were languishing far down the pack by the first turn mark. However, in comparison to Saturday’s Daytona racetrack, the racing on Sunday was exciting and tactical. Shelley’s right-hand turns became tighter and tighter, and this helped to move up the fleet within three laps. Negotiator were again in first place with Cider Daze in second. In the last two laps, we managed to take second place from the Cockman brothers and flung ourselves around the last corner towards the chequered flag. Within seconds of turning in from the racecourse, my helmet was off and I was engaged in a spot of hull re-spraying! But it was all worth it – it had been fantastic fun and we had clinched another place on the podium!

My ordeal was not quite over, as I had visions of putting on a fairly accurate re-enactment of the Exorcist whilst standing on the podium, but managed to avoid this ignominy in front of 15,000 people. As it was, our concentration was focused on the Class 1 King of Shaves team (Chris Parsonage and James Sheppard), who managed to achieve the fastest ever crash on water at a terrifying 130mph. Thankfully, both emerged unscathed and were out and partying hard that evening. Put my bug into perspective!

For more on Team Raymarine click here click here 


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