Ethos behind ‘Fast On Water’
It was June 7th 1975. I had known about the powerboat racing in Bristol’s Floating harbour, but although I had been a long time fan of Formula One, I hadn’t really taken in just how exciting boat racing might be. My life would never be the same again.
That first experience of the sights and sounds of powerboat racing had me totally hooked. For me ‘as good as it gets’ was watching Billy Seebold and Renato Molinari fighting it out for the lead on a hot summer’s afternoon with the sun glinting off the rooster tails – sheer magic!
The highlight of my year was the weekend of the powerboat racing, from the first moment of Friday qualifying, through to the presentations on the Sunday afternoon. For that one weekend a year Bristol was transformed into something it never had been before and never has been since.
For that initial brave venture into the unknown we must thank the persistence and determination of Charlie Sheppard and the power of WD and HO Wills.
The red print inside race programmes, which read ‘powerboat racing is a dangerous sport…’ was never truer, than for those racing between the granite walls of Bristol’s Floating Harbour. In those days before safety cells and enclosed cockpits, Bristol was an incredibly challenging circuit that did not always allow driver error or boat failures to go unpunished. Even safety cells did not guarantee protection from the dreaded dock walls. Nonetheless, even those drivers that hated the circuit would return year after year because it was ‘the circuit’ to compete and win at.
Those 19 years of racing were some of the most outstandingly skilful and brave I, and many others, have had the pleasure to see.
What else makes circuit powerboat racing so special? What other motor sport allows spectators to get so close to the action? What other motor sport allows spectators to have such close access to those taking part?
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