It is as though the 1961 Boat Show and the first staging of the Cowes Torquay was instrumental in triggering a semi dormant, traditional boating industry into life. After the war years and the shortages of the 50’s, builders were still bringing to the market place products that were not just old fashioned but very dated in their build and design.
In the USA and Italy in particular a new breed of designers was emerging plus new technology/ building methods resulting from wartime experiments and needs. The result of these progressions were seen at Cowes that August 1961. The GRP Glass Moppie with her big V8 engines, the Fairey Huntsman with their Hunt designed, laminated, hot moulded hulls and Campbell’s Christina’s utilising both these innovations….but the one craft that caught most attention when it arrived in Cowes was that of the young dapper Italian Renato Levi, all eyes were on his mount “A’Speranziella” the blood red craft oozed purpose but with large doses of Italian style.
For those who were fortunate to see the races of the first years of this now historic race there were craft which registered an immediate bond with the spectators….THUNDERBOLT , TRAMONTANA, SURFRIDER all winners but then there was “A’SPERANZIELLA”, she failed in 61 to beat Thunderbolt and limped into Torquay in a poor state after the heavy pounding she endured…..
Returning in 62 with new engines and modifications she still failed to show her promised performance although ’63 was a different matter with a total redesign and rebuild from lessons learnt in the previous years, a new superstructure and Ford engines she looked every bit the winner and was definitely the spectators choice.
The rest is history but after that win what happened?..We next saw her race in the first Round Britain Race in the hands of the Percival’s with a rather lurid paint job and sponsored by Robinsons Barley Water only to disappear again…..
I remember her being advertised for sale in Lymington and was tempted but had no resources to purchase her, then a few years later she appeared at Cowes after undergoing a “restoration” which proved to be a little unsympathetic.
She was then discovered again in Lymington by Sebastian Stapleton who was looking to purchase a Fairey Huntsman but was immediately drawn to her unusual lines. Having been poly wrapped with no airflow to stop the timbers sweating a rather sad A’Speranziella then travelled to Oxfordshire to await a second restoration and was reduced to a jigsaw puzzle of timbers with just the hull intact…..but Sebastian had secured 2 Ford Interceptors from America, the same type that she had won the 63 race with. Seb was eventually defeated by the time required to put her right and A’Speranziella was again “up for sale”.
She was advertised for sale and was literally rescued at the 9th hour by Barry Sales from Yarmouth I.O.W
Barry takes up the story from here……
After moving to the Isle of Wight and starting to build the Crusader range of powerboats at Yarmouth, my involvement with the River Yar Boatyard cemented my passion for powerboats and after a life long involvement with sail switched my passion to power.
I had always wanted to restore a classic powerboat but funds would not allow a genuine example to be purchased.. After deciding to buy a Dell Quay Ranger in the Channel Islands and the sale falling through at the last minute I eventually settled on a Levi Triana, White Egret, this is a work in progress and she will be a superb boat when relaunched for the 2015 season.
The purchase of the Triana led me to research Levi history and thanks to the COPC website I was able to track down an old advert for ‘A’ in early 2012. After speaking to the owner Sebastian in 2012 I quickly realised that she was the boat for me and a suitable premises would be needed to store and restore her. This proved to be a monumental battle that took ages to sort but sorted it was and she now resides in the dry on the Island ready for her rebirth……
At this point I need to back track a little and explain the purchase process which is very important to me as it has cemented a friendship and made me appreciate the importance of this restoration. At this point I will apologise if this sounds like a novel, it is just how it was.I have to admit that without Sebastian’s patience I would not have been able to secure the purchase of ‘A’. If I could label it I would have said that it was ‘meant to be’ and can only thank Sebastian for trusting my intentions whilst premises were found.
My initial trip to see her in Oxford was on Saturday the 1st June 2013, although I was looking on this in my head as a formality I decided to take up an offer from a work colleague to accompany me on the trip. Simon is one of those guys that is a true professional who does not attract the attention he deserves. He is a time served yacht builder who is honest, reliable and always gets the job done.
It is for this reason that I needed his honest opinion on my heart ruling my head decision and from the very moment that the barn doors opened and I saw A’speranziella in the flesh for the first time I had doubts as to my sanity.
I remember the minutes or was it hours of Si’s silence, and my just waiting for his approval as to me purchasing her.
I will make no excuses for the abbreviation of the language used but it is like it was.His initial comment will stay with me until she is relaunched, “You must be f….ing mad” We chewed over the rights and wrongs for ages. My final answer was NO.
Sebastian had another purchaser lined up at this point who had forced my hand to view her at this time as I still had first refusal.
I had said no to the purchase and as I understand it, a call had been made to the
other interested party, Sebastian had arranged to sell her on the following Tuesday.
The return journey from Oxford to the Isle of Wight consisted of a whole list of pro’s and con’s being chewed over. In the main pro’s from Si and regrets from me at saying no.
Sunday came and a telephone conversation with Sebastian confirmed he had sold her to the other interested purchaser who intended to effectively take A’speranziella’s identity and build a replica alongside the original.
I do not profess to know if these facts are absolutely true but the thought that Sonny Levi’s first true race winner and the start of a remarkable blood line could be lost forever was something I did not want to risk.
Sunday night was very long and by Monday morning I had decided that I had to buy ‘A’.
An early and awkward phone call to Sebastian proved fruitful. She was now mine and I thank Simon for his support and honesty.