Inside The Cowes Classic, Offshore Powerboating’s Toughest Endurance Race

The last weekend in August was a great one for veteran offshore powerboat racer Miles Jennings, who is currently competing in the Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 World Championship Series in the United States with American Alex Pratt in XINSURANCE/Good Boy Vodka, a 52-foot MTI catamaran powered by Mercury Racing 1100 Comp engines. Running Silverline, a canopied 43-foot Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats V-bottom with twin 900-hp engines, Jennings and fellow Brit Drew Langdon averaged 67.72 mph over 211 miles of rough ocean water to claim victory in the 2022 Cowes-Torquay-Cowes endurance race off the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom. They completed the run in 3 hours and 7 minutes.

Running a canopied Outerlimits SV 43 V-bottom, the United Kingdom’s Miles Jennings and Drew Langdon claimed victory in the 2022 Cowes-Torquay-Cowes endurance race. Photos courtesy/copyright Chris Davies, Tim Tapping, Andy Blondell, Graham Stevens, Stuart MacTaggart, William Evans and the British Powerboat Racing Club.

Though their average speed was significantly lower than the 94-mph average they were able to maintain in the 2021 event, it was still enough for the win—No. 6 in Cowes-Torquay-Cowes for Jennings, which ties him with the late Fabio Buzzi for the most wins in the historic event.

The cockpit duo described the race as tricky and tactical thanks to wind-against tide conditions.

“We needed this win to secure the overall British championship, but we had our eye on a fourth consecutive win as a team to take the Beaverbrook Trophy,” Jennings said. “And we knew we had a tough fleet of teams that also wanted to win at Cowes.”

Added Langdon, “This race was far more complex, swapping fuel usage between front and back tanks to keep the boat level allowing a good average speed. Usually the front tank would be used first for increased bow lift but this wasn’t an option in such confused seas.”

Shortly after stepping off the podium, Jennings caught a flight to the United States. The following weekend, he and Pratt competed in the P1 Offshore-produced St. Petersburg Grand Prix, the fifth of eight races in the Class 1 World Championship Series, where they finished fourth in the six-boat field.

After celebrating his fourth consecutive Cowes victory, Miles Jennings (second from the left) was off to the United States for the fifth race of the 2022 Class 1 World Championship Series.

The Powerful Attraction Of The Cowes Classic
Situated on the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England, Cowes is still renowned for hosting one of the most famous offshore powerboat races in history spanning back 61 years. The Cowes-Torquay endurance race was born in 1961 when Canada-born Sir Max Aitken competed in the Miami Nassau in 1960 and decided to replicate such a great endurance event on British shores. In 1961, the Cowes-Torquay race was born and became Cowes-Torquay-Cowes event seven years later.

Born in 1910, Sir Max Aitken was the eldest son of Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the Daily Express newspaper group, and after his education joined the Auxiliary Air Force and in 1939. Sir Max flew with the famous 601 Country of London Squadron fighting in the Battle of Britain in World War II and was one of the few lucky pilots who survived the war.

After his flying career, he was credited with having 16 victories, nine “probables” and damaging 15 enemy aircraft. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Distinguished Flying Cross and was knighted in the 1940s. After the war, he joined his father’s newspaper business and became chairman of Beaverbrook Newspaper Ltd., following his father’s death in 1964.

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Including her Cowes-Torquay-Cowes victory in 1978, the offshore racing career of Betty Cook was enough to land her in the Motorsports Hall of Fame.

American offshore racing pioneer Betty Cook competed in the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes event in 1978 and claimed victory in KAAMA, a 38-foot Scarab V-bottom powered by two MerCruiser engines alongside, John Connor and British racer Mike Mantle. In 1996, she was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America incorporated in Novi, Mich.

Other American powerboat-racing greats who have competed in the Cowes Classic include Dick Bertram, who claimed victory in 1965 in Moppie, and marine industry propulsion engineering legend Jim Wynne, who won the event in 1966. In 1972 and 1974, Richie Powers and Italian Carlo Bonomi teamed up to take wins. Carl Kiekhaefer, the founder of Kiekhaefer Aeromarine—the forerunner of what is now Mercury Racing in Fond du Lac, Wis.—also raced in Cowes, as did the late Tom Gentry.

Rough water is par for the 211-mile course in the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes event.

Organizers of historic event, which is one of the world’s last truly epic offshore powerboat endurance races, are hoping for an infusion of American teams in the near future. Martin Levi, the son of famed powerboat designer Sonny Levi and the director of the British Powerboat Racing Club, is spearheading a move to attract teams from across the Atlantic.

Though the event will retain its traditional last-weekend of August dates, plans include expanding Cowes-Torquay-Cowes into a five-day “festival of speed” with the “Round The Island” contest on Saturday and the 211-mile endurance battle on Sunday.

“The island has always attracted a colorful tapestry of offshore racers,” Levi said. “We think that making the current weekend of racing into a five-day ‘festival of speed’ is the way forward.”

No ongoing offshore powerboat endurance race has a richer history than the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes.

Editor’s note: Sarah Donohue is the United Kingdom-based reporter/commentator for the Sky Sports Network. This is her first article for speedonthewater.com.

For more information on the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes endurance race, visit the British Powerboat Racing Club website.

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