Ken Raybould…one of the unsung backroom boys
|Powerboat racing as with
any motor sport relies on the many people who work behind the scenes,
they are based in the boatyard, engine preparation bays and design
offices. Their names are rarely known to the general public and
sometimes not even to the competitors whose boats are prepared by them
and on whose meticulous preparation of the boat their lives could
depend.Powerboat racing as with any motor sport relies on the many people who work behind the scenes, they are based in the boatyard, engine preparation bays and design offices. Their names are rarely known to the general public and sometimes not even to the competitors whose boats are prepared by them and on whose meticulous preparation of the boat their lives could depend.
One such person is Ken Raybould who at the tender age of 22 started work with the Bruce Campbell on the Hamble in 1959 and worked for the yard until it shut in 1964.
During his years with Campbell, Ken’s job was extremely varied, it included delivering customers boats to the Mediterranean (by land and sea), conducting sea trials and overseeing the yard. In the years with the yard he would rub shoulders with a veritable who’s who of the burgeoning sport and celebrities including Sir Rocco Forte, Joan Littlewood who owned Christina’s, Gianni Agnelli the Fiat boss, racers Renato Levi, Tommy Sopwith and John Bingham soon to become Lord Lucan.
It was fortunate that Ken was working for the yard in 1961 as he would become involved in boat preparation for the initial Cowes-Torquay powerboat race, Campbell had a total of 5 of his boats entered, one of which was the first winner, Tommy Sopwith’s Thunderbolt and Coralie entered by Campbell’s business partner Derek Hawkins, for which Ken was the driver. Thunderbolt was fitted with 2 of the first Cadillac Crusader engines in Britain and suffered many teething problems during pre race preparation, fuel starvation being the main culprit, after several test sessions a frustrated Ken kicked her on the eve of the race.
He arrived at Torquay with Coralie in 11th place, although outside the time limit. When Ken bumped into Tommy Sopwith in the Imperial hotel Torquay after the race, he found that Tommy was dumbfounded by the fact that he had won!
Coralie was fitted with one Crusader and also suffered on the trip to Torquay with…. fuel problems!
In 1962 Thunderbolt was driven by Pamela Campbell, Bruce’s wife, in the Cowes-Torquay, unfortunately she retired after suffering “fuel feed problems” a few miles from the finish. Some of the rare film footage of Thunderbolt taken at the time shows Ken out testing with Pamela Campbell at the helm.
Working at Campbell’s meant Ken, as previously mentioned, came into contact with many in the new sport of Powerboat racing, two such persons were Albert Figgins and mechanic John Hodder, it was in 1964 racing Figgins’ Silver Spray, an open version of the 25ft Christina that Ken finished the CT in 10th place despite a disintegrated drive belt. One competitor who stopped to offer assistance when Silver Spray broke down was Max Aitken, apparently they could smell the burning from some way behind!
|When Albert Figgins ordered his new
Halmatic hulled racer Thunderfish in 1965 it was Ken and John he asked
to prepare and drive her, they finished 3rd in the Miami
Nassau, they won the Wills Trophy, led the Cowes Torquay before being
overtaken by Surfury and Brave Moppie and were holding 4th
until an engine mounting collapsed eventually finishing way down the
field on one engine. Thunderfish also ran second in the Senior Service
race until forced to retire, apparently the pounding gave Mr Figgins a
bad time!When Albert Figgins ordered his new Halmatic hulled racer Thunderfish in 1965 it was Ken and John he asked to prepare and drive her, they finished 3rd in the Miami Nassau, they won the Wills Trophy, led the Cowes Torquay before being overtaken by Surfury and Brave Moppie and were holding 4th until an engine mounting collapsed eventually finishing way down the field on one engine. Thunderfish also ran second in the Senior Service race until forced to retire, apparently the pounding gave Mr Figgins a bad time!
It was a measure of his experience that Dick Bertram offered Ken a job in America at his yard but he elected to stay with Halmatic, where he was now working since the demise of Bruce Campbell’s yard.
Halmatic was where Ken was to develop his knowledge of working with glassfibre and the newly developing field of composite structures.
In 1967 he worked on John Willment’s BIG MOOSE a 44ft Souter built Watson design powered by 2 x 500hp Holman Moody Fords, in the previous year this boat had been finished on the eve of the race and was driven by Bruce Campbell but failed to finish. In the hands of Ken she came home 15th in the CT, not bad for a big boat in calm conditions.
John Willment by the way had raced Blue Moppie in previous years and the hull sat in Willment’s Southampton yard deteriorating, Willment asked for Kens advice on rebuilding and strengthening the hull but it was never carried out.
In 1968 he was involved with Broad Jumper originally owned and raced by American Bill Wishnick (ex Claudia 3), then entered by the Morris brothers but now run by Phillip Goddard, in the Cowes race she finished 11th after suffering electrical problems and running on half power. As Claudia she finished 3rd in 1964 in the hands of Dennis Miller the famous Yachtsman then 9th in 1965 with Wishnick. This was a Formula hull, the company with which Ken was to become greatly involved.
1968 also saw Ken involved with another motor sport giant, one John Wyer, of GT40 fame whilst involved in setting up his Halmatic Ocean 25.
In 1970 he raced with Alan Burnard, Fairey’s designer in Sea Fox finishing 2nd behind Translucent, then raced Sea Fox in several other local races.
1971 saw the emergence of Ken Raybould the designer and builder of Miss Delson, designed as a rough weather racer and originally to be powered by 2 500 hp Mercruisers, she was purchased by Martin Harefield engined with diesels and scored many successful outings. The boat was built by Ken built at the Willment yard, the design attracting the attention of many potential customers including Lady Violet Aitken, Jack Renouf and Richard Griffiths but John Willment’s prices for the production units were off-putting!
|Now very much an expert in production methods and designing new lay up methods, Ken was in demand and was asked by Don Shead to advise Colin Chapman of Lotus, on a new design for his recently acquired yard building the Moonraker and Marauder series of cruisers. Chapman apparently did not follow Ken’s input and had trouble with construction problems and bits coming apart!
In 1973 Ken was asked by Don Shead and Douglas Garland to set up Planatec to build the Shead 40ft designs, ABO, Uno Embassy and Miss Embassy plus others, in doing so he was able to employ some of the original Campbell staff to assist in production. One of these boats, ABO, went on to become one of the most successful race boats of the time under various names, highlighting Kens unique talents with resins and composites. In fact her hull today 33 years later still shows little sign of stress such was the inbuilt strength, despite her racing years and it is rumoured she may start racing again.
|In 1976 Ken Raybould became Du Ponts worldwide composite design trouble-shooter, such recognition led again to him advising such personages as King Juan Carlos of Spain on the interior fitting of his new Shead designed Motor Yacht, plus some of the sports great names, Don Aronow, Reggie Fountain and the master of power boating Fabio Buzzi, although Messer’s Aronow, Fountain and Buzzi being very strong minded people probably did not take on this advice or maybe they did!?!
Ken’s own company Martech, has seen many of its composite design structures used worldwide in both the sailing and powerboat sectors including the winning three quarter ton and one ton class yachts and also by the mighty Formula/Thunderbird Company of America which have won various championships with their designs.
There are a multitude of stories and exploits that could be told, this is merely the gloss on a very varied career but one which affects many of the boats that cruise the waters of the world today, safely, thanks to one man’s understanding of how to use such methods of building, effectively!
I wonder how many of you remember or have heard of the quiet man responsible for so many of these craft and their victories, very few I suspect, I feel honoured to put history to rights.
Post Script When it became known I had acquired Thunderbolt, I received a fax offering any help needed, at the end of the simple message was the name Ken Raybould …history had come full circle.