Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Madmen across the Water – Part Three – Portugal 22

Poster for the F4 World Championship

Poster for the F4 World Championship

The day I became a Powerboat junkie….

In the final analysis, we decided we could get away with staying by the water up until Friday night, and did just that, relocating around 10pm Friday to the other side of the tunnel that ran beneath the roadway. We only went without mains for that night however, as one of the Powerboat teams lent us an extra long cable and we ran it through the tunnel.

Saturday morning we ventured out to a scene of pandemonium. Beer stalls, mobile shops, Marquees, and scores of boats in what seemd to be four different classes – The semi-inflatables, The T750 Monohulls, the T850 Monohulls and the Formula 4 Twin-hulled Powerboats.

Race weekend begins

Race weekend begins

I swiftly became the crew for Brian Block, one of the British Team. Over the next two days I was to be his right hand man, a part of the F4 Powerboat World Championship. Saturday was deemed practice day, and straight off things didn’t go well for the Brits. The marker buoys at the top end of the course had been positioned a little too near the shore, the tide was lower than expected and two of the drivers hit bottom on their practice laps, shearing off the bottom of their “skeg” – the fin beneath the engine prop.

Brian and I manhandle the boat

Brian and I manhandle the boat

Brian and I negotiated the nerve-wrecking 16% slope down to the quayside with his craft, with more hindrance than help from a kamikaze porky kid on a quad, who just didnt seem to realise that plywood hulls and brick walls don’t mix. Once we’d managed to stop him towing it into oblivion, we had to use a three-point harness to hoist it out over the water with a JCB. As it hung helplessly in the air, Brian and I jumped down onto the Pontoon, and grabbed the hull, pushing it clear of the deck as it was lowered, all the time watching that it didn’t foul on the metal corners of the decking. A curious looking tool then came into play – basically a boathook, a long pole with a lasso of sorts, made of rubber tubing, and a tennis ball wedged on the end.

At the mercy of the JCB

At the mercy of the JCB

This pole is the difference between triumph and disaster. Firstly, when you’ve got the craft safely in the water, you hook it into the top harness point on the boat to keep it from drifting out. While this is happening, Brian is astride the rear of the boat, almost upside down, unclipping the harness from either side. He hands it to me, and I throw it up onto the quay. Meanwhile the boat drifts near the metal edges. I have to swiftly take the hook out and use the tennis ball end against the body of the boat to push it clear, then whip the lasso over the pointed bow of the nearest hull and pull the boat back along the pontoon to a safer place.

Easy does it....

Easy does it....

While all this is going on, other boats are swinging out over the water above your head, and others are being lifted from the water in a similar manner. It is a number of interesting accidents waiting to happen. Other powerboats, chomping at the bit to get some laps in, power up and shoot past you, involuntarily throwing a wake at you which then has you working overtime with the hook, tennis ball and lasso routine just to keep your boat in place.

Everythings under control (probably)

Everythings under control (probably)

So there we were, all ready to go…Brian climbed into the tiny cockpit, donned helmet and gloves, grasped the tiny steering wheel and pressed the starter. Nothing. He signalled to the JCB Crane, and we had to repeat the whole procedure in reverse. His engine wasn’t responding…

Later, back at the tent/Motorhome that serves as his base of operations, we removed the engine cowling and discovered with the aid of a pressure tester that his engine had died. I feared the worst, but Brian, undeterred, disappeared inside his Motorhome (which he prefers to call a Support Vehicle) and emerged with a second engine, which I, to my amazement, helped him install. The day dragged on as problem after problem dogged our progress, and I feared he wouldnt get on the water at all. There was only one hour allocated to the Powerboats later that day, and if he missed the window he would be facing the Race day with no practice runs at all.

When he’d finally got the engine sorted, he found a problem with the switching solenoids that control the angle of the engine in the water, up, down, side to side etc. After swapping, replacing, and generally moving the solenoids around, he got it working.

Unbelieveably, later that afternoon, we went through the routine of getting it down to the quayside and in the water, and Brian finally got a few laps in as the seconds ticked down.

On the water at last!

On the water at last!

It was frustrating, daunting, demanding, and an education. I was totally hooked.

F4 World Champion Mark Williams tries not to look as his boat hangs precariously from a crane

F4 World Champion Mark Williams tries not to look as his boat hangs precariously from a crane

Brian very kindly invited Miki and I to join the whole team for a meal out of town with transport laid on by the town, but we graciously declined. I had to get up at 8.30am in readiness for the timed laps on race day. As a novice, I didn’t think a late night would be conducive to a good performance! I went to bed that night blissfully unaware of how crucial my role was going to be.

Brian had clearly saved the best for last.

Kev Moore

 
 

 

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July 20, 2008 - Posted by | Art, Festivals of the World, life, travel, writing | , , , , , ,

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