H400 Thunderstreak kicked off the UK offshore powerboat racing season taking first places in the Class 4 (Historic/Offshore) on both days at the UKOPRA-organised race weekend in Poole Bay over the May Bank Holiday.
But victory for this 58-year old racer came at a price –
Thunderstreak’s bulkheads collapsed, old GRP split and poor earlier re-pairs came away. Both engines had to be stripped and serviced – with new clutches and drive-plates fitted.
The teams at Solent Marine Services (SMS) and Clare Lallows Boatyard set out a full re-fit plan to beef her up.
- New triple thickness main bulkheads were cut and fitted.
- Hardwood deck cross-members were fashioned from marine-ply and hardwoods, installed and glassed in to additional strength.
- A new third racing bolster seat was built to fit between the two existing ones.
- All electronics re-routed for efficiency.
- Race propellers went to the legendary Steel Developments for re-tuning to lab-finish.
- In keeping with the yards’ instructions, a quality paint job finished off the re-fit.
Owner-driver Hugo Peel commented:
The Poole Bay 100 races showed Thunderstreak had speed and strength inherent in her original Ray Hunt design for Bertram.
Some of the subsequent refits found the relentless pounding too much.
However, we now have a hugely stronger and safer race-boat – plus re-built race-engines.
H400 will be launching in the next few weeks.
Thunderstreak was owned and raced by the sport’s biggest names, the first being Tommy Sopwith.
Since her first  Cowes-Torquay outing including Tommy Sopwith [four-times race winner] led in Thunderstreak until he blew a gearbox in Lyme Bay.
Then, WW2 Spitfire pilot and Vickers’ chief text pilot, Jeffrey Quill; Keith Schellenberg [eccentric Scottish landowner and British Winter Olympian]; and Robin Doxford all campaigned her with mixed results.
Thus, not only will the Isle of Wight restored and rigged H400, at 58 years, be the oldest boat in the forthcoming Cowes 60th Anniversary race-fleet by several decades and more, but the crew’s average age was ‘comfortably north of 72’.
Race-officials, competitors and enthusiasts have remarked how well H400 still competed among her peers – with an ability to produce velocities double her original 1950’s/1960’s designed-speed.
Now she has silverware to prove it.
Racing under the banner, ‘Team: Royal Yacht Squadron’, Thunderstreak is entered by owner-driver Hugo Peel joined by RYS Members – navigator Johnny Raymond and James Gaggero on throttles/trim.
H400’s extensive three-year restoration programme was the subject of an extensive article in Motor Boat & Yachting magazine in 2020, ‘From Wreck to Racer’.
This charted her history from 1960’s/1970’s contender to derelict 2013 houseboat – and back to racer again.
A further profile of her – “Love at first sound” is also due to appear in Powerboat & RIB magazine in the autumn.
Main photo: Mike Powell