Thunderbolt 25′ Christina

Thunderbolt 25′ Christina

In 1961, the August Bank Holiday weekend in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, was typical, the weather was
overcast with a threatening dark sky, but history was about to be made as twenty seven boats were ready to
do battle in the first modern day powerboat race in Europe, The Cowes Torquay Offshore Powerboat Race!
In 1961, the August Bank Holiday weekend in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, was typical, the weather was overcast with a threatening dark sky, but history was about to be made as twenty seven boats were ready to do battle in the first modern day powerboat race in Europe, The Cowes Torquay Offshore Powerboat Race!

The fleet was a mixture of craft including a Shakespeare cabin cruiser with twin outboards and cupboards full of china, a beautiful Dorset Lake built cruiser, 40′ in length, driven by Steve Macey and called Gay Gazelle. A Prout catamaran (There is nothing new in this sport!) powered by twin Evinrude outboards, American Bertram’s driven by Dick Bertram and Jim Wynn. Several Fairey Huntsman 27 footers, one owned by Billy Butlin (of Butlin’s holiday camp fame) and five Bruce Campbell built Christina hulls, one of which was called Thunderbolt, driven by a sports car racer Tommy Sopwith, son of aviation pioneer Sir Thomas Sopwith.

At the drop of the flag, signalling the start to the very first Cowes Torquay race, the fleet shot of towards Southsea with Billy Butlin’s Huntsman in the lead hotly pursued by Dick Bertram in Glass Moppie with two Christina hulls in third and fourth place, Bruce Campbell’s own boat named appropriately enough – “Christina” with Tommy Sopwith just behind in Thunderbolt. The soon to famous Italian designer Sonny Levi was running in fifth position in A’Speranziella.

By the time the fleet had circumvented the Isle of Wight and headed past the Needles onto Bournemouth the weather had turned, with force five winds creating an extremely lumpy sea, speeds fell to ten knots, Sonny Levi swept into the lead as they rounded Poole bay, this was to be her undoing, behind her the stragglers fought their way into the winds and many fell by the wayside including the Shakespeare with cupboards full of now broken china and her domestic glass windows threatening to shatter with every wave they hit! The Prout cat beached at St Catherine’s, holed, and Billy Butlin threw a prop. 

7 hours and 25 minutes later Thunderbolt swept into Torquay to average 25mph for the 159 mile course followed by Yo Yo and Huntsman 27 to win what was to become the holy grail of powerboat racers world wide, the Beaverbrook Trophy and the Cowes-Torquay.

Cowes, Isle of Wight, August Bank Holiday Weekend 1961, Cowes Torquay Powerboat Race

Thunderbolt 1961 Tommy Sopwith on Thunderbolt
Thunderbolt 1961 Tommy Sopwith on Thunderbolt

Designed by Ray Hunt and built at Hamble by Bruce Campbell

25′ LOA

9′ 8″ BEAM

Hull by Walter Lawrence three layers of quarter inch ply cold moulded stiffened and strengthened with internal plates under both engines, externally, unlike most Christina’s she also has a final diagonal laminate keel to waterline plus another length of veneer from the bow to stern between the 2nd and 3rd spray rails.

Power 2x 325hp Cadillac Crusaders

Steering; mechanical on right angle gearing box’s and solid shafts with universal couplings to 2 spade rudders

Controls; Bloctube aircraft type using hollow bronze tube and ball joint couplers.

Fuel Tanks; 5 aluminium welded aircraft grade total capacity 175 gallons

Instrumentation; 2 oil pressure 2 oil temp 2 water temp 2 amp meters 5 fuel 2 electric repeater compasses and 2 rev counters.

Drive; 2 x1 and a quarter inch stainless steel shafts close coupled with 1 driven thro V drive.

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Press Release 14th April 2019

Press Release – 14th April 2019

Embargoed until authorised by UKOPRA / COPC

Following the Classic Offshore Powerboat Club AGM at RAF Yacht Club today a presentation was held at their invite from UKOPRA to publish their new classes for historic racing which take immediate effect.

COPC as an existing avid supporter of the regenerated offshore racing scene in the UK had prior to that presentation formalised their affiliation with UKOPRA by unanimous decision in order to allow event organisation under their sanction.

Much work has gone on in the past months and UKOPRA are extremely grateful to the committee of COPC for their input and assistance in creating the new (old?).

Class 4 Historic

Sub Classes for Class 4 are as follows with offshore general rules to apply.

  • Runabout – Pre 1990 design to a maximum of 115 HP and 21 ft boat length.
  • Cruiser – Pre 1990 design with a maximum speed of 50 knots to be upheld.
  • Purpose designed – Pre 1990 design with a maximum speed of 60 knots to be upheld.

The aim is for historic boats to compete on the same courses as existing UKOPRA Offshore class boats with a reduced distance covered to reflect the need to preserve the historic equipment.

The points system to be allocated to this class of racing will take a form of only 25% coming from final race position with the remainder awarded to criteria relating to Presentation, Age, Spirit, Quality of restoration, Provenance etc.

In addition to the above the publication of new UIM rules relating to Pleasure Navigation now allows the following UIM Group B compliant boats to enter our offshore classes as follows.

  • UIM Promotion Class can enter UKOPRA 3A/B
  • UIM Production Class can enter UKOPRA 3X
  • UIM Super boat Sport S1 and S2 can enter UKOPRA 3N

Minimum levels of equipment carried will be as referred to in the UKOPRA general rules.

Records Weekend

With COPC now formally affiliated they are keen to run an additional event this year and have agreed to host

Performance Records

Event Organiser – Classic Offshore Powerboat Club.

Sanctioning body – UKOPRA

Date – To be advised but provisionally a weekend in late September / early October.

Location – To be advised although the Freshwater area of the Solent is favoured subject to permissions.

Eligibility – All UKOPRA classes with a minimum of two fully licenced offshore licence holders in control.

Course Measurement – Will be over 1 statute mile to be run in both directions and an average speed taken for the two runs.

There will be the opportunity for marine manufacturers to be measured subject to a suitable application and with a minimum of two UKOPRA licence holders in control of the vessel.

Whilst there is no requirement to be a member of any of our affiliated race organisers to take part in activities we do recommend you support them and any potential event sponsors would be gratefully welcomed.

2019 Poole Bay 100




Registration of vessels for any of the above classes will be opened on Monday 15th April 2019 which will add the owner to our databases for email contact.

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  1. Renato (Sonny) Levi. Leave a reply
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