The Lost History

The Lost History

A catalogue of famous names destroyed never to be seen again.

Owned by Steve Macey, Spirit was a 40ft Dorset Lake designed by ARTHUR HAGG and was powered by 2 Rolls Royce Diesels totalling 900 hp. One of the most beautiful boats of the Cruiser class. She was always there at the finish and came 2nd to Ghost Rider in 1966. Cut up after being left in a Spanish compound for 10 years.

Spirit of Ecstacy
SPIRIT OF ECSTACY Photo courtesy Graham Stevens.
Owned by Sir Max Aitken. GG was one of the many boats Sir Max, the founder of the Cowes Torquay, campaigned in the 60’s. She was designed by Ray Hunt and built by Souters. Power was by 2 Cummins diesels. Destroyed by Gibraltar authorities after being used for smuggling.

Gypsy Girl

GYPSY GIRL Photo courtesy Graham Stevens.

Dick Bertram and Sam Griffiths entry in the 1962 Cowes Torquay, later raced by Keith Schellenberg and Bill Shand-Kydd. Another Ray Hunt design from the Bertram stable was powered by 2 Holman Moody Fords totalling 800hp ,finished 2nd to Tramontana in the 1962 race.
Currently the hull is at the Basildon Powerboat museum after spending countless years in the open. Supposedly being turned into a picnic shelter ! COME ON YOU GUYS THIS IS JUST NOT ON!!!!

Blue Moppie
BLUE MOPPIE Photo courtesy Graham Stevens.
Tommy Sopwiths experimental Gas Turbine powered Planatec 40ft Shead again another victim of smugglers, destroyed in Gibraltar.
Miss Embassy
MISS EMBASSY Photo courtesy Graham Stevens.

Built on the plug of Surfury for Max Aitken to Sonny Levi’s design she was originally built to break the diesel record with Cummins Diesels, which she did on Southampton water, was then shipped to Miami for the Miami Nassau race but was dropped on the docks. On her return to GB she was sold to Albert Figgins and Don Shead, re-engined with Turbo Charged Daytona’s rated at 500hp each ….She unfortunately caught fire after a prop shaft sheared and speared the hull off the Nab Tower setting the petrol tanks alight. She burnt to the waterline, all crew were safe and Mr Figgins had the nose cone turned into a cocktail cabinet after it was found later in the year.

THUNDERFISH Photo courtesy Graham Stevens.
The original Gee built for Edward Greenall of the Brewing family by Souters was designed by Jim Wynn based on Ghost Riders Hull shape and was last seen by the author this year (2007) in Cowes. The second Gee was an aluminium Shead design and was later owned by Henry Hector. The boat was confiscated by the Gibraltar’s Customs and Excise department after being used for drug running and subsequently destroyed.

Gee 2

GEE 2 Photo courtesy Graham Stevens.
During the 60’s a colourful character of Sri Lankan descent named Dr Savandra built several boats with the name JACKIE, after his daughter. Just before the crash of his Fire & Marine Insurance Company he had commissioned Vosper’s to build an aluminium racer powered by 2 Daytona Turbo’s with structural input from Mitsubishi no less. The boat took part in the 1966 Cowes Torquay and was leading when off Portland Bill they hit a large submerged object which ripped the seams apart…..Mike Trimming was driving on behalf of the new owner , his name ALBERT FIGGINS , it does seem that lightning does strike twice and Mr H was once again rescued from his sinking craft. Navy divers found the wreck some years later but she was never recovered.
Flying Fish
FLYING FISH Photo courtesy Graham Stevens.

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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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