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My ‘Not a Race Report’

I don’t think I could write a race report. Not in my current role anyway. In my understanding, writing a race report requires you to focus your attention on as many aspects of the race as it develops as possible. Sure, in some cases it might be possible to look back over lap charts from race control to ensure accuracy of reporting, but you also need to watch the race as a whole. What I see during a race is almost completely through my viewfinder. Framed, almost like watching it on TV. That said, I’ve just spent two days watching for things that might be about to develop.

The Lowestoft Grand Prix provided entertainment across all the classes. One of the first things that struck me was how quick Scott Curtis looked in qualifying. Considering how recently he had got his hands on the boat he was showing blistering pace. Watching the attitude of the boat on the water you could see that he was on it. I watched him round the top turn and head towards the club house, then the gasp from the crowd caught my attention. It happened so quickly. In a fraction of a second, Steve Hoult was going skyward. Looking up I saw his boat, pointing very much in the wrong direction. I pointed my camera and caught from the moment his Molgaard touched down and barrel rolled to a rest. I then did what I always do when I catch an accident – I watched to see that the driver was safely out of the boat. Seeing him standing on the Osprey Rescue boat, I let out a sigh of relief. The boat had suffered extensive damage. The right sponson had been completely removed, the deck split, screen and other body panels cracked, and of course the engine had been submerged. All fixable, but not in time to race.

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With what turned out to be the only major incident of the weekend behind us, my focus returned to the racing; and what a display of racing it was. The level of maturity and standard of racecraft demonstrated by the young GT15 drivers was outstanding. F1 Atlantic GB’s Harvey Smith, putting his new Povvat hull through it’s paces, pulled out a great lap in qualifying to take pole for Race 1, but Thomas Mantripp’s race start was enough to see him lead as they passed the crowd on the bank for the first time. The grit and determination shone through though, as each and every driver did what they could to maintain their position or make their way through the pack.

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The GT30 class was equally entertaining over the weekend. In qualifying, Ben Jelf picked up where he left off last year, at the front, and Thomas Mantripp showed promising form in his first National outing in the class by taking second. Tiegen Goodfellow impressed with a great drive to third on the grid, but it was with her starts that Tiegen really made her presence felt. Rocketing away from the start pontoon, Tiegen established herself firmly in second place after the first turn; a position she would claim as her own in all the races of the event. With Thomas Mantripp now down in third, he found himself beginning a weekend long battle with Jack Pickles. Race 1 had to be restarted after Jack hooked in front of Thomas in the Wherry Turn and the two boats collided, becoming locked together in a slow spin. Neither driver were injured in the incident, but their emotions were clear out on the water. I saw the two drivers after their first race, shaking hands and checking each were ok. It was great to see. From here on in, the rest of their weekend seemed to be spent chasing each other round the course, both displaying great driving skill and putting on a really good show.

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The OSY400 class, made up of three regular drivers and two who switched from Hydro’s, was a display of spectacular driving. Luke Hugman and his new boat set the pace from the off, and it was great to see Jason Mantripp settling into his new boat so well. For anyone who isn’t familiar with OSY’s, the driver lies on their front in these boats, controlling the throttle with their left hand and steering with their right, and they are stunning to watch.

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The F4 class saw three newcomers, Leon King, Matt Wood (switching from T850’s) and Ben Jelf, taking on established racers Rob Veares and Sam Whittle. Again it was reigning champion Sam who dominated the weekend, but from my viewpoint the closest racing was that between Ben and Leon. The determination of these two drivers was clear for all to see.

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Returning to the F2’s, Scott Curtis continued his qualifying form, driving a blinding Race 1 to finish second. Colin Jelf dominated the weekend, with Paul Balfour following a close second. From my point of view, these boats photograph best when right on the edge. Don’t get me wrong, in the flesh they’re impressive no matter how high out of the water they are, but a photograph needs to make a statement. Matt Palfreyman’s Moore boat is yet to have it’s livery applied for this year. Apart from one small sticker it’s plain white. It’s a beautiful boat, but not that exciting to look at. Until Matt gets it going. Lap after lap, Matt would exit the turns and stand the boat up, accelerating hard down the straights, crossing the prop wash of boats in front trying to give himself the best line, at times literally flying the boat.

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All in all, the Lowestoft Grand Prix was a great weekend. On display was great racing, great sportsmanship and great entertainment, and in a little over three weeks Powerboat GP heads north to Carr Mill to do it again. I for one can’t wait.

Bryan
Powerboat GP Photographer

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The Curtain Raiser…

Camera bag packed. Car ready. Tomorrow I leave for Lowestoft. This will be my third visit to Nicholas Everitt Park with Powerboat GP and I am still learning how best to use the venue to my advantage. I have already established from previous years that following the boats up to the top buoy means you are shooting into the light and as with every race I go to this will play a part in shaping my itinerary for the weekend.

When I arrive the dry pits will already be set up, and most, if not all competitors will be in situ, preparing their boats for Sunday’s first timed session. I always enjoy the first walk around the pits, especially at the first race of the year. The teams are a close-knit bunch, but with their bases spread far and wide around the UK it is possible that some people in the pits haven’t seen each other since last year’s finale at Stewartby. This time gives me a great opportunity to get some candid portrait shots. For me, posed photo’s are great when they are shot for a purpose, but raw emotion or concentration are difficult to force.

Next on my agenda is a scout of the area. Quite often, not a lot changes from one year to the next, but sometimes something does and I always like to familiarise myself with the site before any boats take to the water. It is also possible that having only been twice before, there may be something that I have missed in the past that I could use to my advantage. I always try to give my shots something that makes them stand out from the rest. This could be making use of something in the background or foreground, using elevation to get a different angle on the boats, or simply finding places where there are no other photographers.

This of course isn’t always possible, and sometimes you will find me standing not too far away from other snappers at the water’s edge. But never for long. I get what I can and move on, find somewhere else. As much as anything else it makes the processing job at the end of the day a lot less dull. I can take upwards of 1200 shots in a day. Even if I shoot from 3 locations this gives me three lots of 400 photo’s with near-identical backgrounds to sift through. That can get tedious.

I always try to make a point of introducing myself to other photographers at a race. No-one knows an area like a local, and of course I am more than happily return the favour at my local venue, Carr Mill, where Round 2 will be played out at the end of May.

I am looking forward to this weekend. I know that the drivers, teams and officials are looking forward to it too. 7 months is a long time with no racing. 12pm Sunday can’t come soon enough.

Bryan
Powerboat GP Photographer

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