The 2017 OCRDA championships kicked off in Torquay during May and visited Newhaven, Sussex and West Bay, Dorset before venturing overseas to Howth, Ireland. The series then finished where it started, Torquay, Devon in early October when the first breakaway OCRDA champions were decided.
Photo: 2017 Class 1 champions Brian Peddell and Andy Yeo in ‘DB Express’ – photo by Tim Tapping – report David Sewell
When OCRDA parted company with the RYA, they set a trend with BPRC, IPRC, Guernsey and P1 Superstock following their lead and leaving the RYA with just the Thundercats series. We will have to wait until 2018 to see how the calender looks, particularly as there is talk of Class 4 joining the OCRDA series, however, any more than thirty boats will cause its own problems, the obvious being space.
The meeting at Torquay had everything a ‘Finale’ should have – large crowds, light breeze, glorious sunshine, and for the first time in my memory, a calm Torbay. To top it all a fleet of OCRDA teams exceeding thirty turned up, and as an added attraction for the crowds, a small field of Ski Racers and a spectacular flyboarder (a guy is attached to a Jet Ski by a tube pumping air that propels the guy skywards).
However, the weekend didn’t start off so well as far as the racing went and the Saturday two race programme culminated in the two races being voided after a series of accidents caused disruption and delays. After each incident crews were recalled to the muster area and by the fourth accident, time was running out and so was the time-keepers’ patience who were expected to keep a record of where teams were prior to the stoppage. It was an almost impossible task and in the end officials decided that both races should be void and no-one was awarded points – not a very popular decision in the eyes of several crews.
The first crash occurred before a lap had been completed. One of OCR’s most popular and experienced drivers Phil ‘The Doc’ Hancock in his Evinrude powered Phantom ‘The Rock’ stuffed his outfit and it came to an abrupt standstill. Phil and his chart man James Goldsmith, shot forward and both crew received minor injuries as they hit the wheel and dashboard at speed.
Start two lasted a little longer, but Jeremy Gibson and navigator Ross McGregor in their Phantom ‘Fair Play’ both took an early bath after they were dicing neck and neck with arch rival Graham Norton in ‘Who Dares Swim’s’. It transpired Gibson took the swim as his Phantom barrel-rolled, but remarkably Jeremy climbed back into his boat that had landed the right way up and drove it back to the pits.
Fair Play – photo Tim Tapping – report David Sewell
Again the fleet set off for start number three, and in spite of all the interruptions, Brian Peddell was cruising along at the front in his Class 1 Batboat ‘DB Express’, Graham Lawton was leading Class 2 in ‘Who Dares Swims’, and Kevin Edmonson and Annika Hawthorn were leading Class 3 in Jeremy Gibson’s older Phantom ‘Y Knot’. The team that caused the third stoppage was Jamie Stickler and his oriental navigator Edward Lau in ‘Team Rooster’. Neither were hurt, but the delay in recovering ‘Rooster’ made Saturday’s race two distinctly unlikely to be completed. When Neal Ives and Kelly Waller barrel-rolled their Class 2 ‘Londoner’, the OOD decided enough was enough and called an end to Saturday’s proceedings despite ‘Londoner’ landing the right way up. After much debate in the briefing office it was decided to declare the race void as timekeepers and observers had lost track of positions of many teams at the end of the multi-stop race. A decision like this is never very popular, and very rare particularly when there were crews fighting for the championship.
Team Rooster on it way to a spectacular flip captured by ace photographer Tim Tapping
Few of us can recall a meeting where two races in a four race programme were scrapped because of accidents. Hopefully next season, a safety boat will be employed to lead the fleet around the course in the event of an accident whilst the stricken boat is removed from the circuit as adopted by F1 cars and boats.
Sunday dawned bright, sunny with little wind and a relatively calm Torbay. There were one or two absentees – Hancock’s ‘The Rock’ was missing together with ‘Londoner’ and ‘Team Rooster’. Gibson’s ‘Fair Play’ had been whisked away to nearby Kingsbridge for repairs as the seats had been torn out during the flip-over, but Jeremy Gibson was confident of making amends following his Saturday error.
To allow for further incidents in Sunday’s races officials decided to bring the start time forward an hour, and the fleet made their way to the muster area for a one o’clock start for race 2. When the green flag was raised the Newsam Brothers, Nick and Jeremy, in their Frode ‘Drapers Tool’ swept into an early lead chased by Brian Peddell in his Batboat and within a lap Peddell and Yeo were heading the pack. Class 2 Was led by Messrs Gibson and McGregor in ‘Fair Play’, followed by Tim Spink and Nathan Spark in ‘Multispark Products’ and Graham Lawton’s ‘Who Dares Swims’. Bob McCarthy’s Bernico ‘If Only’ was up with the leading Class 2 pack but did not appear to have the speed of the Phantoms. Kevin Edmundson and Annika Hawthorn was leading the Class 3 fleet and also had several Class 2 rigs behind them. Positions remained much the same throughout and when the chequered flag was raised Peddell had secured another Class 1 win, while Gibson (Class 2) and Edmundson (Class 3) claimed maximum points in their respective classes.
‘Who Dares Swims’ Graham Lawton & Mark Johnson broke down in final race – Tim Tapping
After an exciting ski race the OCRDA fleet made their way to the muster area off Paignton for the final race of the 2017 season. It was no surprise to see ‘DB Express’ of Brian Peddell and Andrew Yeo leading the way to a final victory and the 2017 Class 1 Championship, but it was disappointment for Graham Lawton and Mark Johnson in ‘Who Dares Swims’. They have enjoyed almost a trouble free season and won Saturday’s aborted races which would almost certainly have clinched them the 2017 Class 2 title bearing in mind their arch rival Jeremy Gibson retired. It was not to be as ‘Who Dares Swims’ retired in the final race with a technical issue and giving the title to Gibson in ‘Fair Play’ who was runner-up in the final race behind Multispark Race Products. Third place in the final race went to Foam Fury’s Mark Sampson who finished fourth in the championship behind Phil Hancock’ s The Rock
Kevin Edmundson and Annika Hawthorn were crowned 2017 Class 3 champions in ‘Y Knot’ ahead of Craig Temple-Murray and Paul Scott in ‘Eat, Sleep and Race’, and third place was filled by Ireland’s Alan Power in Power Marine although Alan missed the final meeting of the season.
Y Knot crewed by horse breeder Kevin Edmundson and Annika Hawthorn – 2017 Class 2 champions – Tim Tapping
The OCRDA National Championship will be remembered for all the right reasons the most obvious was that it was run independently from the RYA and attracted the largest fleet of raceboats in the UK for over a decade. Although there might have been a few teething problems no-one noticed and virtually all teams declared that they had enjoyed their best season’s racing for many years.
Rumour has it, Class 4 might be introduced in 2018 together with Zapcats. It all sounds exciting for those involved but organisers will have the novel problem of where to park all these extra boats and the launch team will be faced with getting 40 plus boats in the water.