Don Shead Planatec

Don Shead Planatec

Once upon a time… there was a Class 1 powerboat owned by a gentleman by the name
of Bobby Buchanan-Michelson, the craft was called HOT OMELETTE A 34FT Avenger with 1100hp Mercruisers.
Its season got off to a reasonably good start with Mr B-M making quite an impression, But there was
trouble in store for Hot Omelette in its bright yellow and red racing livery, one of the stern drives
ripped out during a race and she sank! When recovered her condition was very poor and the resilient
Mr B-M returned with a new Shead Designed Planatec hull, called ABO (Another Bloody Omelette). ABO
was entered in the ’74 Cowes Torquay powered by 2 Mercruisers rated at 1300hp and the same Red and
Yellow livery , she unfortunately retired after 10 miles with engine problems. In ‘75 ABO returned as
RADIO RENTALS with Tim Powell driving and Mr B-M as crew, she finished the race in 5th
position.


"ABO" 1974 Photo courtesy Graham Stevens.

In 1976 there was no sign of Mr B-M or ABO/Radio Rentals but she reappeared again in 1977 with
John Cunningham and was now called MACHO unfortunately she retired at Torquay with a blown head
gasket.


"Macho" 1977 Photo courtesy Graham Stevens.

In 1978 ABO / RADIO / MACHO reappeared as BALLERINA again with Mr CUNNINGHAM this time retiring
at Anvil Point. 1979 A/R/M/B FAILED TO APPEAR! but was back again in 1980 with a new owner a MR
WALKER but did not compete in the Cowes Race nor again in ’81, ’82 or ’83.


"Ballerina" 1980 Photo courtesy Graham Stevens.

In 1984 she was back again as DOUBLE TWO SHIRTS with new owner Tim hill and powered now by 2 Sabre
Diesels at 1000hp, Old ABO now took on a different view on racing, in that years Cowes Classic she
finished 4th overall , it seems she liked her new Sabres!


"Double 2 Shirts" 1984 Photo courtesy Graham Stevens.

1985 and the Cowes Torquay included a 1 hr stop for refuelling at Torquay, Double Two was up the
front again battling for honours with Ray McEnhill’s OUTSIDER and it was all worth she finished second
in the race and first in OP2. In 1986 ABO still with Tim Hill returns with a new sponsor FOLLETT CARS
and becomes a popular entry with the spectators and yet again after years in the doldrums she beats
some big names to come home 5th and again win OP2! Maybe it was all getting too much for
the old girl for 1987 was another retirement, still she showed her metal and was she was good she was
very good! Which is why with yet another change of ownership to Roger Fletcher and a new name REJUGA,
she competed in the 88 CTC against some of the big names in the sport and still made it home
11th overall and 5 OP2. Not bad for a 13 year old boat!


"Follett Cars" 1986 Photo courtesy Graham Stevens.

She was up to her old tricks again in 1989 repeating a previous years placing 5th
overall and 1st OP2 and beating in the process a very nice CUV called FOLLETT CARS !

Recent Posts

Renato (Sonny) Levi.

Renato Levi, known to all as Sonny, was born in Karachi, India in 1926.
His father ran a shipyard in Bombay(now Mumbai), so Sonny naturally took an
early interest in boats & ships.

Sonny became an apprentice in his fathers shipyard in Bombay, but with the coming of World War 2, he joined the RAF, becoming a Pilot Officer. No doubt his interest not only in boats but also aircraft was heightened by this part of his life.

Sonny became primarily interested in marine design, especially in relation to smaller, fast craft, and the ability of such craft to withstand the varieties of sea conditions often encountered. He designed craft for his fathers yard during the 1950’s, but moved to Italy in 1960. In Italy, Sonny managed Cantiere Navaltecnica (Canav), in Anzio.

No one of a certain age can forget “A’Speranziella”, built by Canav to Sonny’s design for the 1961 Cowes-Torquay Race. She finished sixth, after experiencing mechanical problems, but had led the race for a considerable distance, dueling with the eventual winner “Thunderbolt”.

After partially re-building the boat in light of the experiences of 1961, success dawned with a win in the 1962 Viareggio-Bastia Race. Further developments resulted in great success with “A’Speranziella” winning the 1963 Cowes-Torquay Race.

Sonny became a world renowned designer of fast craft largely as a result of these successes, and the many fast craft he designed culminated in the 1965 launch of
“Surfury”, often thought of as one of Sonny’s most memorable designs. This boat
made a name for herself, winning Cowes-Torquay in 1967. “Surfury” was the first of Sonny’s much lauded Delta designs.

This success brought more commissions, and Levi designs were sought world wide,
where fast sea-going boats were needed.

In the 1980’s, Richard Branson commissioned Sonny to design “Virgin Atlantic
Challenger II”, which was successful in recording the then fastest trans-Atlantic crossing, despite contaminated fuel issues en route. This famous boat was certainly a fabulous marker in Sonny’s career. “VAC II” not only had its design by Sonny, but also the Levi Drive system too.

Developments in high speed propeller and drive systems have been part of Sonny’s
great contribution to fast boat development over the last forty or more years.

Martin Napier

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