The 1991 Allied Leisure Cowes Torquay Cowes race is remembered as the year in which disaster was courted by high technology.
The story of the 1991 race is very simple. Twenty-three boats started, twelve retired, two were disqualified for missing marks, nine finished and the cause of offshore sport was set back by about a century.
Richard Carr finished a highly disputable fifth and following disqualifications and a successful appeal, he was promoted to second.
Commenting on the race, Richard said:
“There are two offshore powerboat races in the world that every power boat throttle man or driver wants to win, one is Key West and one is Cowes Torquay Cowes.
“The Cowes Torquay Cowes in my mind and memory is the equivalent to the Ryder Cup in Golf and Wimbledon in Tennis.
“Sadly, a lot of younger enthusiast’s haven’t seen the spectacles that I saw before I raced and of course experienced in the race of 1991.
“This was the first time I had raced the Cowes Torquay Cowes in my new Cougar Lamborghini and to be frank, going down the Solent with the red jet as the start boat is the most exhilarating experience that any racer will ever have.
“Thousands of pleasure boots lined the course with probably 15-18 Class 1 boats heading for the Needles at speeds of up to 125mph.
“Of course there were many racers that didn’t know the waters well and the first obstacle is to run down a fairly smooth Solent before coming out around the Needles to be confronted with a ten foot swell.
“This first part of the race always brought a smile to my face with plenty of the foreign competitors losing control, most of whom were wishing they had worn more than one pair of underpants!
“Then of course is the part of the race which sets the pace with 250 miles in front of you; the wise racers set the pace to preserve the equipment because we were all aware of what you can meet in Lyme Bay on this occasion it was not what we were expecting!
“There is nothing more exciting than after the Needles, going past the Bournemouth Pier and Old Harry Rocks, past your local crowd who are all rooting for you. But then the loneliness sets in ahead of the long run down to Weymouth and beyond.
“The next super hurdle that confronts the pack of boats is the tide race of St Albans Head and the tide race off Portland Bill, the latter is not to be underestimated. It makes the Needles’ swell look like a children’s tea party.
“Then of course you enter Lyme Bay, which is long and lonely. This year was the race when sea mist was rolling in from the west. A sea mist that was so thick that you could not see more than two boat lengths in front of you; you then had to make a decision on what to do, normally it would be rough sea’s.
“Your mind is racing at a thousand miles an hour because if you stop, which maybe you should do, you face the consequence of another boat crashing into the back of you. If you keep going forward you risk hitting the oil tankers that are moored along the bay as you don’t have radar.
“Also, in 1991 we didn’t have GPS so we didn’t actually know where we were going!
“I was one of the lucky ones who took the decision to carry on at a sensible speed. Being a helicopter pilot I consistently kept the sun where it was when we first entered the fog so that I broadly knew that I was travelling in the right direction.
“However, all of sudden, just as we had entered the mist, we exited and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest as we were only 300m from the shoreline of Torquay beach! Thankfully we had throttled back, had we not had, we would have ended up on the beach and could have caused some serious damage.
“Once realigned, I knew that this was my chance to take the title, I was sure others would now be at Lands End or Plymoyth. I took the charge around the bay passing all the marks and took the decision to hug the shoreline all the way back where I could hoping that the sea mist hadn’t engulfed the coast.
“We charged back at such a pace that it almost seemed like warp speed had been engaged; I don’t remember passing certain parts of the shoreline. I knew that we had every chance of winning the coveted award.
“When we came up the Solent and went through the chequered flag I knew that we had come at least second and I was dubious whether Ferretti, who had come in slightly in front, had even bothered to go to Torbay.
“I have never protested in power boat racing, however our Italian friends could not stomach the thought, and the infinite wisdom of RYA (The Royal Yachting Association) we were awarded third position.
“However, I did make legal representations to the RYA who later reinstated our second place.
“In my heart of hearts I still believe that I won that day and hopefully one day in the future we can do it all again.”
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