Powerboat racing is coming to Falmouth
When we think of a powerboat racing against another you could be forgiven for fostering the image of a James Bond chase scene. Powerful engines, tight corners, rooster-tails and fast boats skipping over the water have always been an integral part of action and adventure stories. For most of us, this is but the stuff of fantasy. Next June, though, Cornwall will be hosting an event so spectacular and so thrilling that it may just blow the piston of any motorsport and boating fan, and it happens on the water. We were lucky enough to spend some time with Paul Mitchell, Team Principal of Mitchell Racing and co-chairman of The International Powerboat Race Club who are bringing a new, high octane racing event due to hit Falmouth and Cornwall in June 2017.
Powerboat racing is a physical, physiological and mental challenge
Powerboat racing, at its heart, is about pushing to the absolute maximum what engineering, physics, and the human body can handle. It’s a team effort, pure and simple, with engineers, support teams and racing crews pitching the best of themselves against their waterborne rivals for the prestige and glory of race wins and championship points. For the fans, the powerboat racing combines passions for motorsport, the thrill of watersports and the excitement of tough competition into a visually exhilarating spectacle that’s hard to surpass.
Racing car drivers have the luxury of learning the track prior to the race and gaining new insight with each lap, enhancing their performance as the race finish draws near. The tarmac doesn’t change and the optimum racing line remains the same. It’s not quite so straight forward for a powerboat driver and his crew. The track is ever changing with unpredictable water conditions and the need to plan the path the boat takes to find the best water, even on the straights. The corners are brutal. Turns are hard and fast. The driver must cut into the water just enough to make the turn, but without adding additional drag.
In the most real sense, the crews have to think in 3 dimensions, working out the quickest, smoothest and safest route through waves, wakes, and corners. All this whilst keeping the boat and engine trim finely balanced to produce the fastest, most efficient ride and a race win. With ever changing conditions, high-speed runs and higher G-forces than experienced by Formula 1 drivers, the teams have to be at the peak of physical and mental fitness. As Paul put’s it “it’s like running an endurance race and playing in a world class chess tournament all at the same time”.
Why bring powerboat racing to Cornwall?
The unique location of Falmouth and Carrick Roads in relation to the Lizard gives a normally sheltered expanse of water, protected from the prevailing westerlies and providing ideal conditions for marine racing. The shape of Falmouth Bay itself, in particular from Swanpool round to Pendennis Point provides a natural amphitheater that gives unrivaled viewing of racing and of the supporting events and entertainment. The courses have been designed carefully to get the fans as close to the action as possible and provide a real challenge to the teams participating in the races.
It doesn’t stop at the racing. Falmouth town and harbour will play host to the event providing unique access for fans to the teams and the remarkable powerboats that will be competing during the many events. The town and harbour are just a short walk away. The wide and cosmopolitan range of beach cafe’s, restaurants, bars ,and entertainment make Falmouth the perfect location to support the thrill and spectacle of this exhilarating sport. With the stamp of approval from Falmouth Council and Falmouth Harbour Commission already given, this event promises to be a highlight in the already busy and action packed Falmouth Summer calendar.
Given Cornwall and Falmouth’s maritime heritage and reputation for adventure and adrenaline, it seems a natural pairing to bring powerboat racing to the people of Cornwall.
The bigger picture
Aside from the thrill of the hull to hull action, the event is also designed to showcase the extraordinary growth of hi-tech and engineering in Cornwall, as well as pave the way for the return of boat-building to Falmouth. Longer term opportunities for employment and education in marine engineering, powerboat racing, and team management also come wrapped up in the benefits of hosting powerboat racing in Cornwall. This will genuinely be an event that showcases the great opportunities and skills available in Cornwall.
Paul is also keen to use the event to raise awareness for stillbirth and to raise money for national charities dealing with this traumatic experience. Paul has personal experience in dealing with the devastation of stillbirth, and the huge impact on all concerned putting the charitable aspect of this event close to his heart.
Powerboat racing and the environment
Ironically the nature of the racing actually requires a high level of environmental awareness. The speeds involved, and the susceptibility of the craft to impact requires the attendance of safety craft and even helicopters to spot marine animals and debris that may put the racers at risk. The care taken to avoid collisions simultaneously ensures the safety of the racers and of the marine life that calls Falmouth Bay home. Paul’s respect for the seas is paramount. He is adamant that racers are watermen who value the delicate balance in our oceans and respecting the gift of the playground that they provide. Other environmental impacts are surprisingly minimal with tight regulations imposed on refueling and keeping the water clear of pollution.
Bringing the event to life
Paul, as the race director has been working hard with the IPRC on this project for 18 months now. His history and experience with boats and racing have put him in the position to turn the dream of powerboat racing in Cornwall into a reality. With the go-ahead from Falmouth Town Council and the Falmouth Harbour Commission already granted, along with numerous sponsors, this event is on the cards for 2017, and it’s looking to be a big one too. Sponsorship is a key element of any sporting event and has been a notable feature of motorsports for many years, bringing eye-catching liveries, colourful logos and brand visibility to the spectacle. With powerboating events being broadcast of 400 million homes in 165 countries there is a great opportunity for local, national and international brands to increase their public profile. There are still a number of sponsor opportunities for businesses who are keen to be associated with the thrill and excitement of this unique sporting experience. Prospective sponsors and advertisers can contact Paul directly through the IPRC or Mitchell Racing websites, or via Facebook and on Twitter.
Our thanks go to Paul Mitchell of Mitchell Racing and co-chairman of The International Powerboat Race Club for sharing his time and passion for the Cornwall Powerboating Festival. We can’t wait to see the bay filled with rooster-tails and the roar of Evinrude engines.