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Robin Ward Joins Thunderstreak For The Cowes 75

Isle Of Wight owner/driver of Tommy Sopwith’s 1963 Bertram 31, Hugo Peel, has entered Thunderstreak #H400 into this year’s Cowes Offshore Powerboat race weekend.

He will now be joined by its former owner/driver, Robin Ward, for the recently introduced Cowes 75 race on Sunday 25th August, designed specifically for historic race-boats.

Robin successfully raced Thunderstreak during 2015-2017 after rescuing the vessel from an East London marina in very poor condition after it had disappeared off the radar in the 1970s.

The restored H400 will be the oldest boat in the fleet by a decade.

Hugo Peel said today:

To have Robin aboard is of significant importance.

For starters, he knows the boat well already and how she handled.

He also brings huge experience of the race itself and will no doubt enjoy the new Mercruiser stern-drive and engine package.

Robin Ward commented:

Hugo contacted me yesterday morning with the invitation – which I accepted immediately.

It will be glorious to get back on Thunderstreak again, and to witness the upgrades.

Robin and his crew became the stuff of legend when they managed to cover some 95% of the 208-mile course in the fateful 2016 Cowes-Torquay-Cowes race in weather conditions of unprecedented violence.

H400 was holed below the water-line after hitting an underwater object in the Solent within sight of the finishing line – and was beached on Yarmouth slipway.

Peel continued:

This race is all about history.

Among all the modern and historic entries, Thunderstreak’s provenance is probably without equal.

Some of the sport’s best known names have raced her since her first Cowes Torquay outing including Tommy Sopwith (four time Cowes race winner), Jeffrey Quill (WW2 Spitfire pilot and Vickers’ chief text pilot), Keith Schellenberg (eccentric Scottish landowner and British Winter Olympian) and Robin Doxford.

The Thunderstreak team were saddened to report that Peter Hewitt, gazetted to co-pilot H400, has not been able to race this year due to health issues.

Peel concluded:

Peter, my skipper and a former Cruiser Class racer in the 1980s, has been alongside me over the past two years of the substantial re-build and restoration of H400, we would not be where we are without his enduring spirit, encouragement and technical skills and we will miss his good humour and sound counsel greatly during the race.

Thunderstreak History

1963: Cowes-Torquay and the season.
Tommy Sopwith with 2x400hp Holman & Moodyprepared Ford Interceptors on shafts and V-drives for Cowes-Torquay race.
Tommy had originally ordered a 35ft racing hull, but it was “dropped” by the factory before shipping and, at short notice, was replaced by a stock factory Bertram 31.

1964: Cowes-Torquay: helmed by Jeffrey Quill.
Tommy had been invited to helm Tramontana 2, normally Quill’s ride.
Quill was a celebrated WW2 Spitfire and Hurricane pilot, and latterly Vickers Aviation’s chief test pilot.

1965: Cowes-Torquay and season.
Tommy Sopwith again (this time with de-tuned Fords in an attempt to reduce drive-train stress – but to little avail!).

1966: Cowes-Torquay.
Keith Schellenberg for the race and a few outings then ‘retired’ from racing.
This eccentric Scottish landowner was a British Olympian winter sportsman and attracted press attention for his tenure on the island of Eigg.

1967 & 1969: Cowes-Torquay.
Robin Doxford (re-numbered 955 and re-engined with lowpowered Perkins’ diesels for the Round Britain marathon 1969).

Years of obscurity followed when Thunderstreak disappeared from view. It was rediscovered, according to Mike James of the Classic Offshore Powerboat Club, in an East London marina.

It was for sale for a few thousand pounds and in a sorry condition, having been used as a houseboat for several decades and sported a B&Q shed affixed to her hull.

2014 – 2016: rescued, restored & raced by Robin Ward.

2017 – 2019: acquired by Hugo Peel.
Solent Marine Services of Clarence Yard on the River Medina, East Cowes, refitted H400 with a pair of new fuel-injected 8.2L V-8 Mercruiser Mag H/Os and Bravo X race legs; a completely rebuilt back end to accommodate the stern-drives (from original shafts and Velvet Drive gearboxes, Precision-Glide v-drives and a pair of tired, naturally-aspirated 7-litre Ford Dearborn 460s), re-floored, re-tanked, re-wired and up to date fire suppression and instruments.

2019: Hugo Peel & Robin Ward Cowes 75 race.

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