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Lowestoft GP – The Sea Mist Cometh

For me it was a late start by the water on Monday. Software issues on Sunday night meant that I was delayed looking at the days photographs, so after breakfast it was back to my room so I could at least get qualifying processed before heading back to the water.
When I arrived I arranged this time to be dropped off on a jetty on the far side so I could get a slightly different view of the boats exiting the Wherry Turn. Following a brief free practice session for each class, and the realignment of the start jetty after the increasing winds had blown it out of position, the F4 drivers lined their boats up ready to get the second round of heats underway. Around this time, the weather was beginning to turn as the fresher winds blew the clouds overhead. It was considerably cooler than Sunday, and I was starting to regret paying the forecast so little attention.

The F4 race went off without serious incident with all seven starters finishing in an almost exact copy of Heat 1’s result. Ben Jelf showed just how hard he was pushing to close the gap to Rob Veares when he spun coming out of the Wherry Turn, but it was another dominant performance by Ben Morse that saw him take maximum points so far.

The drivers in the next class, GT15, never cease to amaze me. Talking to them in the pits, they all show such levels of maturity and a love of what they’re doing. The form set on Sunday continued into Monday, with George Elmore taking Heat 2 ahead of Harvey Smith and Aiden Fleet. I also can’t take anything away from Ethan Goodfellow or Joseph and Jessica Haylock. All these young drivers drove brilliantly all weekend, but it was what happened after the chequered flag dropped that really made an impression. At some point George had spotted me on the far bank. There was no reason for him to be looking to where I was but he did, and following his win he looked straight down my lens and gave me a celebratory wave. A classy touch from such a young man.

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The GT30’s went on to provide some of the hardest-fought racing of the weekend as Thomas Mantripp and Jonathan (Jono) Brewer battled it out for the top spot and Tiegen Goodfellow and Jack Pickles fought over third and fourth. Ultimately, Monday’s races went one a piece to Thomas and Jono while the battle between Tiegen and Jack went Jack’s way both times despite Tiegen’s best efforts.

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Bill Owen continued his winning form in the T850 class, but it was Nigel Edwards who took the second spot on the second day of racing with Steve Cash third in Heat 2 and unfortunately failing to finish Heat 3.

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The OSY class, with seven entires, also provided some great racing over the weekend. Brian Shulver, having switched to the class this year, was clearly loving every minute of racing this new class, and the last time I saw Bexley Nunn racing he was in a GT30. He too seemed very comfortable racing in this very different category. The weekend belonged to James Marr though, who continued his streak of lights to flag victories.

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The final second heat, for the F2’s, went off without incident but then throughout the afternoon, a patchy sea mist rolled in from the coast and there were a number of occassions where Heat 3 starts had to be delayed because visibility was deemed to be too poor. I even heard locals saying they had never seen it roll in and sit over the broads they way it was doing. Prior to their lining up, there was talk of sending one of the F2 drivers out on a sighting lap to establish how suitable the conditions were. It was decided though that this would not be neccessary and when the Officer of the Day spotted a gap in the mist he gave the intruction for the boats to line up on the pontoon. In a repeat of the weekend’s previous results, Colin Jelf converted his pole position into another win, albeit over a shortened race distance as the combination of mist and lingering boat exhausts caused the race to be cut short on safety grounds. An impressive drive from Mark Williams saw him hold off Paul Balfour and take second in both Heats 2 and 3, with local driver Ray Birnie coming home fourth. Unfortunatly Steve Hoult suffered a mechanical issue with his new Molgaard and was unable to compete in the day’s heats.

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From here, we now look forward to heading Stewartby in a little over a month. On the weekend of the 1st and 2nd of July we will be hosting a round of the F4 World Championships and the GT30, F125 and F250 European Champonships. This promises to be yet another weekend of action, with competitors from around the world descending on Bedfordshire, and a host of British drivers joining the fray too.

We hope to see you there, and in the meantime, keep up to date on our Facebook page and by continuing to read (and like) our blog.

Bryan – Powerboat GP Photographer

Lowestoft GP – The story so far…

I don’t think there’s any way to start this other than by echoing what I heard from so many people in the pits after the day’s racing was finished. What a day! The weather couldn’t have been better for day 1 of the Lowestoft GP, and for the first couple of hours after I arrived in the pits I did as I always do and made a point of saying hi to anyone I had not yet seen. I love this time in the pits. People are busy, but normally not too busy to talk, and also they are generally quite relaxed. It gives some great opportunities for photographs that show a side to racing that a lot of people don’t often see: the sometimes qute delicate work that goes into preparing the boats, the bustling within the garages when the scrutineers turn up, and the routines that different people have and go through when preparing to race.DSC_8678

When the boats then hit the water for their qualifying session I had joined them on one of the safety boats stationed out around the course.  The course here is brilliant for photographers in a lot of ways, allowing plenty of access very close to the water.  The probelm is, from a photographers point of view, I always want to get the shot that no-one else got, and that means getting where no-one else is. Having gained permission from the Officer of the Day, Rescue Officer and Jetty Marshall, I donned my life jacket and we headed out to sit off the exit of the Wherry Turn.

Qualifying was great to watch, with drivers in all the classes giving it their all to try to claim pole position. Then when race time came around everybody was well and truly ready, and the calibre of racing was very high. The F4’s were the first class out and Ben Morse dominated the day, claiming pole by over a second from Rob Veares in qualifying and leading the race from lights to flag. George Elmore was equally dominant in the GT15 sessions, again taking both pole position and the win. GT30 qualifying was the most disrupted session of the day with two stappages, but at the end of it Tiegen Goodfellow came out on top with a cracking lap that put her first by 0.11s. Unfortunately for Tiegen she wasn’t able to maintain her position and she finished third behind Thomas Mantripp and Jonny Brewer.

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The T850 class were the next on the water, and in qualifying it soon became clear that Jason Brewer’s boat was not the happiest it has ever been. The remaining three drivers fought hard amongst themselves for pole but it was Nigel Edwards who ultimately came out on top. Sadly when their race came, Nigel was unable to get away from the start pontoon and it was Bill Owen who crossed the line first, leading Steve Cash and Nigel. Nationally, LOBMBC is the home of the OSY class and it was great to see seven on these fantastic little boats on the water. Returning to the form set by the first two classes, the pole-sitter went on to take the victory, with a lead of over half a second in qualifying and a convincing win. The final boats in each session were the F2’s. Due to international commitments for some drivers the field was slightly depleted today, but the five drivers who were here put on a brilliant display of driving and in qualifying the boats in second to fourth were covered by a little over a third of a second. But it was Colin Jelf who claimed the top spot and later went on to convert this to a heat 1 win, I believe setting a lap record in the process.

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So now we look to today, which for me will consist of pretty much the same again, only with possibly more frequent applications of sun cream. For the drivers, some are aiming to go out there and do it all again, repeating today’s performances. Others will have taken the evening to gather their thoughts, regroup, and will be going out there tomorrow to aim to improve on their points haul today.

The action on the water starts with free practice at 12pm at Nicholas Everitt Park, with Heats 2 and 3 following throughout the afternoon.

Newcomers Join The Party

For me, the Lancashire GP was a brilliant way to kick off the season. The racing was great, it was fantastic to see OSY’s racing round Carr Mill again, and the overall atmosphere of the event was exactly what you want for the first race of the year. The biggest and nicest surprise for me though, came in the form of the number of new or returning drivers that were taking part.

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The GT15 fleet was boosted by the arrival of Jessica Haylock and Caleb Jelf, both of whom certainly proved their worth over the course of the weekend, and the GT30 field was increased even more as Ralph White, Jayme Speller and Andy Cousins entered the mix. Newcomer to the series, Brad Holman complimented the OSY field, and the F4 field was the largest we’ve seen in recent years thanks to the arrivals of Martin Wood, John Donnelly, Ray Read, and the return of Mike Pillow.

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One thing that was obvious during the races was that everyone, regardless of their experience competing at national level, gave their all out on the water. The action was fast, sometimes frantic and occasionally frenzied, and the spectators on the banks and up at the clubhouse were treated to a brilliant display by all six classes.

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From a personal perspective, I took the opportunity to try out some new equipment, with varying results, but sometimes you have no alternative but to try things out “in the field” as it were. As I’m sure all the drivers will agree, you can test all you like but there’s no real substitute for getting out there in the thick of it to put your equipment through it’s paces.

So our attention turns now to the Lowestoft GP which will be wrapping up a week from now. Lowestoft & Oulton Broad Motor Boat Club (or LOBMBC, the world’s oldest motorboat racing venue) has seen bumper fields this season for their regular Thursday night race meetings, and with their large spectator area and great location this coming weekend has everything set to provide two great days of racing and family entertainment.

The action takes place on Sunday and Monday at LOBMBC, Nicholas Everitt Park in Lowestoft. If you haven’t done so before, come down and see what we’re all about – and feel free to say hello if you see me about!

Bryan

Powerboat GP Photographer

Focus On… RYA Powerboat GP Sprint Championship

Every race weekend, before anyone can go on the water, the drivers attend a briefing meeting on both race days. 

In this meeting roll calls are taken for each class, the drivers are talked through the course for the event, and any other business is addressed to ensure that everyone understands the rules under which they are racing. Officials are named so that all participants understand who they need to see under certain eventualities. Drivers are also randomly chosen to be breath-tested to ensure that nobody is driving under the influence of alcohol.

The timetable for the event is also covered, which this weekend has had to be adapted because of the forecast of strong winds for tomorrow. This means that all being well, each class will run 2 heats today, leaving the risk of disruption for tomorrow to a minimum. 

We’re minutes away from starting qualifying now, and with a new course to learn and busy schedule for the day it promises to be an exciting day.

Bryan

A Change In Focus…

One event. Two days. Three heats. The outcome? The crowning of the 2016 Powerboat GP Sprint Champions. On Saturday morning, the boats from as many as five classes will take to the water to determine their grid positions for Heat 1.

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The Sprint Championship weekend is always a great one. This will be my sixth one, and every year it is one of my highlights. There is something different about the atmosphere at the Sprints. It is an event with a long history that commemorates drivers we have lost over the years, and that fact sticks with everyone throughout the weekend, but in a positive way. The good times are remembered and more are had, and there is often very much a party feel, with the social aspect of racing being high on the agenda.

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That said, the Sprints are also an opportunity for those who’s National Championship hopes may be dwindling to make their mark. At Sunday afternoon’s prize giving, the Sprint Champions will be crowned for each of the competing classes. This event stands completely separate from the National Championship, meaning that right from Saturday morning, each and every driver will be setting out with one target in sight, and with all eyes on the prize, the racing promises to be close and hard, as we have already seen this year.

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This weekend, there won’t be a “Focus On” following particular teams or drivers. In stead, the focus will be on the event itself. There are so many drivers showing potential this year, and as we have already seen, in powerboat racing anything can happen. So watch this space this weekend, because when people start making waves at the Sprint Championship, the Powerboat GP blog will be all over it.

Bryan

My “Not A Race Report” – Cannock GP

For the third year running, Powerboat GP returned last weekend to Chasewater Watersports Centre for this year’s Cannock GP. Steeped in history, this venue saw three more heats of GT15, GT30, F4 and F2 racing (no T850’s as it was one of the two weekends racing is permitted on Windermere) take place over the two days.

Cannock_20160716_51765Chasewater is one of those places where a long lens is really useful. On Saturday, I headed down on to the dam. The sky was dark and the air was damp, not the most conducive to good photo’s, but I wanted to see what the head on view was like as the boats passed the pits approached the first turn. Later in the day I headed back to the pits and focused my attention on using what little light there was to best effect, getting some fast panning shots as the boats passed at pretty much the closest part of the lap to the shore.

Cannock_20160716_51883Sunday was a different ball game. The sky was blue and it was all together a much better day for photo’s. In fact, it was hard to believe that these were two consecutive days. What was consistent over the two days was the quality of the racing. Right across the range of classes the racing was close, hard and fair. Some of the locations I have shot from in previous years were inaccessible due to the high water level, but I managed to find some equally good (or in one case I think better) alternatives to see Thomas (GT15), Ben (GT30), Sam (F4) and Paul (F2) take their overall weekend victories, and also I feel Jack Pickles deserves a mention for his first ever National round podium finish.

Cannock_20160717_55255Powerboat GP head to Stewartby Lake near Bedford next – the final venue of the season but there are still three events to run. The first of these is the Sprint Championship on the 6th & 7th August. It’s all to play for at this stand alone championship event. Why not come along to see who will be crowned 2016 Powerboat GP Sprint Champion?

The ‘Chase’ is On…

Anyone who knows me will know how I got involved with powerboat racing and photography. To cut a long story short, it has a lot, if not everything to do with my Dad, Simon. He has always taken pictures, and mostly of some form of motor racing. In my younger days the focus was cars, but the powerboats were always there in the background. When I would asked my dad about his pictures (some of which I have included in this post) I would hear stories about places I now consider myself to know quite well; Nottingham (Holme Pierrepont), Oulton Broad and my local venue, Carr Mill. I would also hear stories of events at classic venues such as Bristol, Fairford, and Chasewater, which returned to the National calendar in 2014 and plays host to the next of this years rounds this coming weekend.

Chasewater Then and NowChasewater has created itself a place in powerboat racing history. The venue for the UK’s first ever 24 hour circuit marathon race, Chasewater club has gone on to host many high profile races over the years. Club Secretary for many of these events was Bob Goodfellow, grandfather of Tiegen who won her first National event at Kingsbury, and a man who I had the pleasure of wishing a happy birthday to on that same day.

DSC01563This brings me to my point. Powerboat racing is a family thing, both literally and figuratively. There are a number of second or third generation competitors taking part at the moment, and the wealth of knowledge and experience to hand at any given event is incredible. Beyond actual families though, this knowledge and experience is often extended out to anyone who can benefit from it.

When Matt Wood crashed at Kingsbury, he could have been left high and dry (well, perhaps not dry…) but no. Immediately on hand to help dry out his engine and get his boat ready for the final heat were a multitude of people from all over the pits, offering their services. And this was by no means a one-off. This is the norm. This is the powerboat racing family pulling together and showing what makes this sport great.

Chasewater GridsIt isn’t just the established drivers and crews who form this one, big family either. New teams, officials, everybody comes together and pulls whatever they need to out of the bag to make each weekend the best it can be, and being there to see it happen is a privilege.

As you’ve probably gathered by now, I love this sport. I also love the idea that I am in some ways following in my dad’s footsteps. I love the sense of history I get when I arrive at Chasewater, having seen my dad’s pictures from the late 70’s and 80’s. The Championships are all still there for the taking, and I can’t wait until we’re back out on the water at Chasewater Watersports Centre (WS8 7NL).

Bryan

My “Not A Race Report” – Kingsbury GP

I love photographing at Kingsbury. In terms of vantage points there are few places I’ve been with as many options as Kingsbury. Where else can you, within a 3 metre radius, go from being sitting down almost at water-level to standing up roughly 3 metres above the water level, and in either position be less than 10 metres from the passing boats? The other selling point it has is that it isn’t actually that big to walk around, although next year I think I’ll take a bike (purely to get around faster).

DSC_7977On Saturday, the weather was, let’s say “changeable”, but this never deters anyone involved. Qualifying got underway and I soon began to feel like this could be a pivotal weekend in the season. In the GT15 boats, Thomas, Jonny and Harvey all looked quick and I felt it could have gone the way of any one of them. In the GT30’s it was also close at the front, with Jack Pickles making a welcome appearance in the top 3. The T850 pack showed just how much they enjoy racing around Kingsbury, putting in some very enthusiastic performances and showing plenty of boat bottoms, and the bolstered F4 pack were equally enthusiastic.

Being able to get so close to the water enables spectators to see the variety of lines the drivers use first hand. Sitting on the bank before the islands as the boats round the top turn, you can see really clearly the difference between the drivers who keep their line tight out of the turn and those who let their boat run out wide. Heading for the gap between the bank and the islands, the boats come close. Really close.

Kingsbury_20160703_51334For photographers I guess there are two main choices: set the shutter speed high and shoot the boats coming towards you, or set it low and pan with the boats as they pass. There are of course opportunities to experiment within these bounds, but at Kingsbury, either of these approaches should produce results to be pleased with.

The other thing that I noticed more at Kingsbury than I have anywhere before was the efforts the drivers take to stick as close as possible to their prefered line but at the same time avoid the prop-wash of the boat ahead. Watching the T850 boats in particular, the drivers were making constant adjustments to stay exactly where they wanted to be on the ever-changing surface of the water.

Kingsbury_20160703_50913The Kingsbury GP weekend was a good one, with strong performances in all classes. Thomas Mantripp won in the GT15’s, Bill Owen in the T850’s, Sam Whittle in the F4’s, and there was a hugely popular first National win for Tiegen Goodfellow in the GT30’s (who went on to receive the customary dunking…twice).

Kingsbury_20160703_51724.jpgNext we move on the Chasewater for the Cannock GP on the 16th/17th July. This piece of water has a long history of powerboat racing, and presents its own challenges for a photographer. The F2’s will be back, the drivers are hungry for more, and I can’t wait to get there.

Focus On… Matt Wood – Chequered Flag Racing (F4)

I caught up with Matt this morning to get his feelings on yesterday and ahead of today’s racing.

Matt didn’t feel he got the best out of his qualifying session, leaving his lower down the grid than he had hoped. Returning to the pits he made some changes to the boat which seemed to work and he managed to make up a place in the first heat. 

“Hopefully today we can do the same,”  he told me. “Yesterday I was keeping up with Been who was keeping up with Sam. If I can get ahead of Ben early on, I’m confident we can keep up with Sam.” 

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