Although there have been attempts to go faster ever since engines were fitted to boats, offshore powerboat racing as we now know it began with the first Miami-Nassau race in April 1956. This race arose from a simple wager between Miami boaters Red Crise and Sam Griffith, which some other friends joined in with enthusiasm. By 1960, the Miami-Nassau race was firmly established, and thirteen boats finished the 185 mile race which was won by Sam Griffith and Dick Bertram aboard Bertram’s 30 foot Moppie, which had a Ray Hunt deep-V hull.
In England, Max Aitken had been supporting the London Boat Shows since the first in 1954, and was not impressed by the general quality of many of the boats, and sought ways “to improve the breed”. He set up a race along the English south coast from Cowes to Torquay. The race was announced in January 1961 at the London Boat Show. “This race is intended for high-performance powerboats suitable for extended cruising, including open sea passages”.
On the morning of 19th August 1961, 27 motor boats headed east from Cowes to race round the Isle of Wight and then west to Torquay. In the rough, windy and wet conditions, only nine of these boats finished the race, and although another five did reach Torquay, they were too late to qualify. This first Cowes-Torquay race with its varied sea conditions is generally accepted as further proof that Ray Hunt’s deep-V concept had arrived, as of the nine finishers, the first four boats, Thunderbolt,Yo-Yo, Diesel Huntsman and Christina had Hunt deep-V hulls.
Driven to third place by Charles Currey in 1961, Diesel Huntsman was the first Huntsman 28 built and was used as Fairey’s demonstrator. Another Huntsman, Billy Butlin’s Huntsman No8, was driven by Peter Twiss but was holed by some wreckage and retired.
Numerous Fairey’s raced in the ensuing Cowes-Torquay races and also the marathon Round Britain Races of 1969, 1984 and 2008, the Round Scotland in 1972.
Between 1961 and 1973 Fairey Marine production cruisers won a total of 202 awards in powerboat races, many of them with Currey or Twiss at the helm. This climaxed with an impressive 54 awards in 1969, when Fairey won the team prize in the Round Britain Race. However, international sporting regulation increasingly changed the rules, and offshore powerboat racing became the province of purpose built raceboats, not family cruisers with comfortable living accommodation for everyday use.
Another race ran in 1972 was the 2540 nautical mile London-Monte-Carlo race, the longest powerboat race in history. Notably Fairey Huntsman 31 Double Century finished sixth and a Huntsman 28 Fordspeed, seventh of the ten finishers from 27 entries.