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Denis and Grahame Burton

The following piece was written by Grahame Burton (21.02.10).

My father, Denis Burton, and I were involved in racing from 1960 through to 1969. My dad started with a Yarecraft 14 ft round bilge, with a 500 Merc on it with a crew. Then he bought an old Bluefin from Jackie Wilson, called "oo the L is e".  This was repainted and renamed as "Uncle Den". My dad and others from down on the south coast, Colin Coulson, Mike Bellamy Tony Butler, Johnny Walker and some more I can’t remember, formed the Shoreham Beach Motorboat Club. We used to race on the River Adur at Shoreham, mud and all. 
Denis (right) with Tony Butler. Shoreham 1963
In 1962 dad joined the L.M.B.R.C. and we started racing at Iver; brilliant no mud heaven. As I was now 13 I could crew for dad, and spent all my time working on the boat and getting ready for meetings. Once we started at Iver we heard about all the other clubs so we raced most weekends in the summer.
In 1963 dad had a new Bluefin built by sail boat builder, Ron Churcher in Worthing. It was light and very fast;  we won quite a few trophies that year. 1964 was the same boat, with a new engine. All our boats were called "Uncle Den", the reason being  everyone knew dad as Uncle Den. In this year Jackie Wilson asked me to crew a very special boat with him for one race. The boat was built by John Merryfield, and was a stretched version of the 14 ft Bluefin up to 16ft with a 100 Merc on it. It was called  "Mr Keikaeffer" It was a real lairy outfit. John reckoned only himself at 15 stone and his brother at 16 stone could race it. Well Jackie being Jackie, and 9 stone wet thru decided me and him could race it. I was only 9 1/2 stone. So with trepidation I agreed,  then Jack said oh yes the race is the Regent Grand Prix 3 hour race at Chasewater. Was that the longest 3 hours of my life? - YES it really was but I did enjoy it so much. I think we won our class, and the organisers presented me with a special crew award for that day.
In 1965 dad bought a 16 ft Levi monohull from John Merryfield with a 100Merc on it, we raced it with a crew for a while but as the others were solo I had to come out of the back, and let dad race solo, and start winning again. We raced this for the next 2 years, winning the NU championship against people like Charlie Sheppard, Andy Sheppard, Bill Shakespeare, Don Ross, Jackie Wilson, Colin Coulson, Bob May, Brian Hunt and of course the many more I can’t remember.
In 1967 Mum and Dad set off from home for Austria, and a little barn on a farm, used for boat building. From there he brought back to England the first dedicated racing catamaran in to England; the 17ft Schulze cat. On this we mounted a 1100Merc and bronze 24" prop, and boy was it fast. Dad raced it on the continent; Berlin, Rabodanges and Amsterdam, and we brought trophies home from all of them except Geneva where a broken prop shaft caused our best prop to go to the bottom of the lake.
In 1968 we raced all over the UK and Europe, and did very well. But at the Regent 3 hour dad was about to lap third place man when on the buoy by the bank another boat cut out of the corner and managed to cut the whole port side right out of the Uncle Den. Dad unhurt, boat a write off??? Dad took the bits to Ron Churcher and two weeks later you couldn’t see the join, perfect.
In 1969 I was allowed to race the Uncle Den, the best race ever was at Fairford, The Players No. 6 Easter meeting. It was the first time we had come up against Bob Spalding in his 15ft Schulze cat. Bob and I had a truly brilliant days racing. To be fair I think it was a tie in the end but what close racing up the back straight with Bob trying to get by me on the outside and not quite making it before the shallow bank bends out a little, and I wouldn’t give an inch; we both enjoyed it so much.  Dad stopped racing in 1969 and the boat was sold to a guy in Ireland, wonder if it is still about? Would love to know.
Fancy Pants, 1961
Uncle Den at Ropetackle, Shoreham SBMBC 1963
Denis with other son, Neil
The Bluefin, 1967
Getting ready to go to Iver with the bluefin dad bought from Jack Wilson. Our first out and out race boat
Denis on the River Adur, 1963
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