A`Speranziella, was a design from the board of one Renato Sonny Levi who was born in Karachi (then in India) and worked in his father’s boat building yard in Bombay designing and overseeing production. Now domiciled back in Italy and working for Cantieri Navaltecnica in Anzio the heart of Italy’s boating industry, the excitement of participating in the first modern day powerboat race in Europe had enticed the Italian over to Britain for the race. Levi’s mount A`Speranziella at 30ft was built to his design and as a prototype for a new range of cruisers to be produced by Navaltecnica.
Photo Yachts and Yachting
She was powered by a pair of American Cadillac Crusaders, totalling 600hp run on high octane aviation fuel. When Renato asked the race organisers if the fuel was available in the UK, he was told emphatically no! The engines were de-rated accordingly and he arrived at Cowes prior to the race to find it was available, it was maybe that this proved a costly mistake! They were also allocated race no 17 which is unlucky (as our no 13), in Italy, this was happily changed to 16 for the race, the number she carried all her racing life.
The race has been well documented with the biggest scrap being between A`Speranziella and Thunderbolt each taking the lead but it was in the rough waters off St Catherine’s that A`Speranziella took control as Sopwith throttled back to 10 knots in the torrid conditions. She held the lead through Bournemouth and on to Durleston where the first problems struck, maybe going that little faster in the extreme conditions was overzealous and Thunderbolt regained the lead never to relinquish it again. The bright red Italian pushed on with cracks in cabin structure, splits in the longitudal bearers, a smashed head, split tanks and the engines being temperamental, maybe they were showing a dislike for the lower octane fuel!
Levi brought her in to 6th place at Torquay and set him self on a trail to fame as one of the most outstanding designers of the second half of the century.
Now that bug had bitten, Sonny as he was known, was back in ’62 accompanied by a rebuilt and strengthened A`Speranziella.
Also at Cowes was another new formidable Levi boat, Ultima Dea ( the Last Goddess), powered by three Maserati engines and driven by Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli and a smaller Levi design, Settimo Velo.
The Italians had arrived with their own transport vessel, which doubled as workshop, home and support ship but it was to all be in vain.
The 1962 race was run in rough conditions that suited the big boys of the 41 starters and of course there was none bigger than Dick Wilkins Tramontana, the day did not start well for the Italians when the little Settimo Velo did not make the start.
A`Speranziella was co driven by Commander Attilo Petroni and she showed again as in the previous year that she was a good contender taking the rough seas in her stride, yet again she was battling with Thunderbolt now driven by Pamela Campbell and Lettis Curtis for 5th and 6th places, the crossing of Lyme Bay took its toll on both craft and A`Speranziella approached Torquay much the worse for wear with engine problems and heeling slightly to starboard, she made the trip up to Ore Stone and back to the finishing line crossing in 10th place but unfortunately was disqualified for missing a turning mark. Ultima Dea had finished in 3rd but at prize giving it was YO YO who took the spoils for Ultima had also missed a mark of Bournemouth and Agnelli refused to sign his declaration and was eliminated.
On the day of scrutineering for the 1963 race a familiar shape appeared in Cowes harbour after motoring over from Belgium, looking more purposeful than previous years with a redesigned cabin and powered by 2 new Ford Interceptor engines totalling 800hp, A`Speranziella was back. The whole boat had been rebuilt yet again from lessons learned in the 2 previous races, she was now stronger than ever with additional stringers and bearers including re-engineered spray rails, she was also faster and more reliable.
Such was the status now of the Cowes Torquay a total of 50 entries had been received so the competition was going to be fierce, included were no less than 9 Bertrams including Blue Moppie, Damian and Thunderstreak all rated at 800hp plus White Migrant a 25ft Christina with an engine room full of Ford Dearborn Interceptors giving her an unrivalled power to weight ratio.
The race was run in moderate conditions and the I.O.W. loop saw speeds of 43 knots attained by the leading bunch including all the named above with A`Speranziella in 5th place. Lead boat was Migrant driven by Lord Lucan and Bruce Campbell but at the Needles second time she had vanished, it transpires that the tanks had been overfilled and Lucan was slopping out petrol in the bilges when his cuff caught the propshaft, the material was dragged into the floating bearing which seized and water started pouring in, the bilge pump then packed up and she sank. Next to go was Thunderstreak in Lyme bay, it was here Blue Moppie had water pipes let go and she stopped for repairs. Tramontana 2 made up ground in the rough water but the leader after all this action was the Italian, a lead she held to the finish. So it was third time lucky for Sonny and there was never a more deserved victor, his success was even sweeter when in sixth place came the diminutive TRIDENT driven by Don Shead with a similar boat Jupiter in 16th, both designed by Levi and built by R.W.Clarke in Cowes. You knew who was going to be flavour of the month next year and his success as designer and driver set the seal on his future.
Photo from the Ford Brochure at the Boat Show in 1964
A`Speranziella never raced again in the CT but made an appearance in the hands of circuit racer Tom Percival in the first Round Britain Powerboat Race in 1969 with sponsorship from Robinsons Barley Water and painted with lurid diagonal stripes, she unfortunately broke down and retired at Milford Haven.
Like all old racers the boat vanished into private hands but was advertised in Motor Boat and Yachting in the 80’s though said to be in poor condition. Then surprise surprise she was purchased, restored by Nigel Bowdler and appeared at Cowes in 1987 only to vanish yet again, she was also the subject of an article in Sonny Levis’ book Milestones in my designs.
10 years ago she was purchased from Adam Younger by Sebastian Stapleton and was reportedly to undergo another restoration including the fitting of replacement Ford Interceptors but this stalled and she suddenly came up for sale again and as the new owner put it was a giant jigsaw puzzle having been totally dismantled. That new owner is a total Levi fan having already restored a Triana and now has the gargantuan task of restoring ‘A’…the new owner is COPC Member Barry Sales and he deserves all our support in this task..I also believe a special web site is due to go on line to record the progress
It is heart warming that another CT winner is at last being afforded the acknowledgement due and one of the most famous Levi racers will be back on the water one day.