The BAD BOYS of the Sport and their Boats

The BAD BOYS of the Sport and their Boats

Lord "Lucky" Lucan Top of the list in this section of British
Powerboat history must go to one Lord Lucan who took up powerboat racing after seeing his brother in law
Bill Shand Kydd the wallpaper heir, racing in Blue Moppie the ex Bertram/Griffiths boat of 1962. Lucky’s
first boat was a 25ft Bruce Campbell Christina powered by 2 Ford Dearborne Interceptors totalling 800hp,
quite a power ratio in those days.

The race in 1963 was run in flat calm for the first stages and Lucan was seen having a battle royal
with Tom Sopwith in Thunderstreak, Keith Schellenberg in Blue Moppie, Sonny Levi in A’Spereanziella and
Dennis Miller in Damian 3 all averaging 42 knots through the Solent, approaching the Needles White
Migrant (right) suddenly vanished from the timesheets when leading, it was never clarified what the
cause was but she sank off the Needles. Lucan and co driver Bruce Campbell were rescued unharmed.

Lord Lucan Migrant1

In 1964 Lucan was back with one of the new Don Aronow Formula 233’s powered by a single 388hp
Daytona called "MIGRANT". He returned again with the same boat the following year but never
raced again. Lucan of course hit the news in 1975 following the murder of his children’s nanny and his
subsequent "disappearance"…Dr Emil Savundra…Boss of the Fire and Marine insurance
company entered the Cowes Torquay in 1962 with Jackie S powered by three Chrysler inboards. This Cyril
Hughes design was unusual in that there was no superstructure, the following year though he returned
with a cabin and wheelhouse and the hull stuffed full with 4 Jaguar engines totalling 1000hp. Jackie
had stability problems and the good Doctor’s boat first climbed on to the deck of Don Shead’s TRIDENT,
then proceeded to hit a small converted ships lifeboat called the Skipjack amidships, Skipjack sank
under the weight and all aboard scrambled onto Jackie. Once safely transferred Jackie set off again but
luck was not on the Doctor’s side as this time the Needles lighthouse was the target of her amorous
advances, luckily hitting the base at a mere 10mph and causing little damage to either party and retired.

1964 saw the Doctor return with a new Fred Cross design built by R.W.CLARK at Cowes, also called Jackie S
she was designed with a hull based on Flying Boat pontoon designs, extremely innovative but suffered
engine problems. 1965 and he is back again with Westlake built engines which again were temperamental
and consumed spark plugs at an alarming rate!, the original Jackie was also entered although not so
powerful these days. Neither finished… Next up was another JACKIE, Flying Jackie was built by Watermota
powered by Sea unicorns as the Doctor called his engines and there was also a Vosper design powered by
2 Daytona’s later to be called Flying Fish, BUT the Doctors finances were extremely shakey his business
was subsidising the boats and the ends did not meet. The collapse of FIRE and MARINE was one of the
biggest failures of the day and it was jail for fraud that beckoned the Doctor next not the sea…

Jackie Emil Savundra

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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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