Project “Miss Speedbird” aka “Tolstar”

Project “Miss Speedbird” aka “Tolstar”

Good news is that another 60’s Cowes Torquay entrant is making a comeback!


Currently under restoration in Guernsey and owned by Gerry Pols is TOLSTAR now known as MISS SPEEDBIRD, this one off UIM Class 2 boat was built to a Colin Mudie design by Tolcraft in Poole in 1967 and was entered by Ian Toll in the 67 race…in those days she had a 310 hp Mercruiser in her 21′ hull and it was hoped to attain 50knots. She was later raced with her cabin (as Tolstar was a flat deck) under the name MISS SPEEDBIRD by a BOAC pilot Bob Attwood.

Miss Speedbird – 22/04/2010 Cabin door and electrical cupboard
Miss Speedbird – 10/05/2010 First coat of paint
Miss Speedbird – 10/05/2010 Glad when all the sanding’s done
Miss Speedbird – 21/08/2010 Now beautifully painted
Miss Speedbird – 21/08/2010 Proudly sporting her name

Gerry Pols "Miss Speedbird" looking superb on her birth…
Gerry was gutted when he was unable to bring her over in August but has promised that the 2012 Rally will see her back in the Solent after many years to join in the fun…

Miss Speedbird - 28/05/2011
Miss Speedbird – 28/05/2011
Miss Speedbird - 02/07/2011
Miss Speedbird – 02/07/2011

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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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