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Michael’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 29 Aug 2007

Location: Southampton, England

MapWe’ve just finished August Bank Holiday Weekend, officially known as Summer Bank Holiday Weekend, but given the weather the last few months, I think the latter name has been revoked for the year. It started promisingly enough with the regular 1230pm knock-off on Friday and I was in Cowes by 1 pm and wandered around to have a look at the P1 Powerboats that were sitting in the wet pit (formerly knock as a dock). I was lucky enough to time my arrival perfectly to coincide with the departure of the boats – great, nothing but and empty dockyard to look at now. Of course, the boats were headed somewhere and I wandered along the shoreline past Cowes parade, grabbed a Heineken from the Heineken tent and proceeded to watch the race.

The start of the race is a bit of an unknown with boats seemingly just dropping the throttle and tearing off into the distance. Later I realised there is an officials boat that has a red and green flag. When the red flag drops the race is about to start, and the boats can power away upon raising of the green flag. There is no set starting grid, just a heap of powerboats creeping towards the start line. With the spray in the air at the start of the race, only the boat at the front could be seen from the shore, buggered if I can figure out how the boats at the back could see anything as the race started.

Anyway, there were two classes of boats in this race, and it was pretty clear from the start which boats were in which class. It didn’t take long for the pack to spread out, but little did I know at the time there were more tactics to this race than just putting the hammer down and going round in circles.

The race format was to do 7 laps along the shorefront (6 for the less powerful class) over a course that the radio said was 1.5 miles. The lap took about 3 minutes, and the leaders apparently averaged just over 90 miles for the circuit – as far as I can tell the commentators meant 4.5 mile course which would make the maths figure out. After the last lap along the shore line, the boats took off on a 50 odd nautical mile race around the island to finish back at the start line. On the last lap of the small circuits the boat in third clocked a lap at 97 miles per hour. I was curious as to why the commentators kept saying a ’92.5mph lap’ as opposed to a ‘2 minute 58 second lap’.

Eventually they explained, and my respect for the race dived immediately, though my morbid interest did actually start growing. Turns out there is a safety rule in place stating that the boats cannot average more than 87 mph for the entire race. So with the leader averaging 92 miles an hour through the seven laps of the tight circuit, surely it had speed in reserve for the much wider, open, dash around the island. Well, listening to the radio, one of the boats was clocked at doing over 115 mph coming around the south of the island, and within half an hour, the boats, or more their engine spray could be seen coming between Ryde and Portsmouth. And they were moving quickly, or so said the commentators perched at Ryde.

Now to me, this is simple arithmetic; Circuit is xxx miles long, maximum allowable speed is 87mph. Minimum time permitted = xxx/87. The answer is in hours; multiply it by 60 to get the answer in minutes. Simple enough. Well either no-one knew the exact distance of the course, or the radio station doing the broadcasting didn’t have a calculator, because as the boats started to finish the race, the commentators had no idea weather they were under the 87 mph average or not. It is safe to say however, that the boat drivers new, which resulted in the biggest farce of a sporting scene ever witnessed. Powerboats, load, fast and menacing, were putting up to the finish line at all of 5 mph, trying to wash away their average speed. By the time the boats felt it was okay to cross the line, there were five boats all inching closer, who suddenly dropped the hammer and lunged almost all at the same time for the line… after stalking it for the best part of 4 or 5 minutes. What a joke. Even funnier is that the first boat across the line must have lost their nerve and crossed the line all of about 3 seconds too early and posted an average speed of 87.stuff all mph and copped a 3 minute time penalty. What a joke. Of course, no-one new that for at least an hour after the race, and by that stage I was definitely fed up with it all and on my own boat (okay, Red Jet ferry) back home. Powerboat P1 races – maximum potential, minimum execution.

Saturday was a pretty quiet day, aside from getting my visa application handed in! With a whopping £400 cheque attached, which I don’t get back if the application gets declined, I was sweating all the way to the Post Office, just trying to convince myself I wasn’t wasting money. That and the weather was actually really nice for a change, and it didn’t take me long to realise that my body is that used to crap weather that I find 25 and sunny a ‘scorcher’! Hahaha. Headed next door from the Post Office to the Walkie for a ‘celebratory’ beer and Tommy & Morgwn were finishing so had a couple $1 Steinlarger’s out in the beer garden with them. Watched the start of the Scotland vs. South Africa rugby match, getting prepared for the World Cup in a couple weeks, then headed home.

Saturday evening I headed round to N&C’s for a braai. They now how to host a BBQ these too, with plenty of meat floating around. Figured I’d cater to their tastes for the night and bring a bottle of champagne… who’d have thought there would already be 4 bottles on ice? Anyway, good night, heaps of food and nice weather. Eventually the sheesha came out and was fired up, and the bubbly opened. Music was pumping till some time after 4am, with me getting through anything on my mp3 player that I thought would please the crowd. How the neighbours managed to sleep through the ruckus at 4 am I have no idea, but it think it is safe to say we all had a pretty good night. I cut loose around 430 am, trying to get some sleep as I had intended to head to London for SW4 on the Sunday.

When I woke up on Sunday around 10, I figured that without tickets to SW4, and realising that the line-up I wanted to see was on Saturday and not Sunday, I started having second thoughts. Then given I had no accommodation secured for Sunday night, and I had every intention of being in London Monday for Notting Hill Carnival, I decided to stay in Southampton on Sunday. Was a pretty quiet day, just stuffing round Southampton, but did head out and see Transformers that night – now I see what all the fuss is about… loved it. Had considered heading out Sunday night, but chose a quiet one to ensure I made it up and into London on Monday.

Monday - you'll have to wait till next entry.... but until then enjoy the photos of the festival!