The countdown has started
Traka Sport are participating in the 2012 Round Britain Powerboat Race. 1702 nautical miles of offshore racing around Britain.
The Traka RB12 Challenge
an introduction by Robert Smith, MD of Traka
My first recollection of a powered circumnavigation of the UK was in mid 70's when I recalled as teenager watching a TV news item featuring a team of fire fighters from the midlands powering around the UK in a Rib raising money for charity. For someone has lived in the centre of the country all their life with a passion for boating it's an appealing memory that has stuck with me for the past thirty years or so leaving an indelible mark. I never imagined that someday I might have the opportunity to complete a similar circumnavigation of my own.
How did our entry into RB12 come about?
Having changed jobs at the start of 2009 to become MD of Traka plc my primary focus was to accelerate the growth of the company and improve our branding and business presence throughout Europe. Whilst travelling with my new boss (and owner of the company) I was reading an article on RB12. I explained the concept to John who made a passing comment about getting an entry! "That'll be good publicity"
Everything was forgotten until Nov 2009 when a subsequent advert caught my eye -entries were now being accepted for event. For the initial outlay of a £500 deposit we decided to secure an entry. We hesitantly followed the links on the web site and put in our details. With no real idea of what we were going to use for the event I declared a 7m Rib with twin 70HP outboards (based on my original concept of buying a second hand Atlantic 21 Ex RNLI boat!). All the correct buttons were clicked and the credit card details entered - We were in!
The following day I duly received a call from Stuart McKean congratulating us on our entry and offering any form assistance that we might require along with copious amounts of enthusiasm. I mentioned the dilemma concerning our choice of boat and with thirty minutes he had relayed our initial garbled conversation to Neil McGrigor who was now on the phone offering expert advice whilst also enthusing about the prospect of the race. Having established Neil credentials I again explained my concept for the race. After a short pause, Neil suggested that it would of course be possible to enter the race in such a boat, as a friend of his had previously gone round Britain in the family 7m Rib having simply removed the seating cushions, but in his opinion our choice of boat simply wasn't long enough and would go fast enough! "The basic principle for marathon racing is that you want the longest and most powerful boat you can afford" he said. With a limited budget this was probably going to prove to be something of challenge, but undaunted we were confident in the knowledge that we had our all important entry and that time was on our side, with two and a half years to go!
Limited information was available on the internet about RB2008 so I invested in a couple of copies of Derek Wynans book "Chasing the Horizon" as Christmas presents for those who were showing an interest in the project. This not only proved to be an interesting read but was also a source of condensed information about the runners and riders from 2008.
Having now spec'd the basic concept of our entry, a quick search of the internet proved that it was possible to buy a second hand 9m Rib with twin outboards within budget - so at least we had a fall back if all else failed.
Our objective for RB12 was to ensure we had a "sensible" entry that would allow us to be competitive but without any miss giving's that we were going to be contending for any of the silver ware. A mid fleet position or above would be considered a success. My role models for this aspiration were a three man team in the 2008 event affectionately known as the trawler men. They basically had a dream, bought a boat, thrashed it around the UK and ended up fourth overall in RB2008! Not bad for racing novices.
So anything is possible if you put your mind to it!
January 2010 saw John and I visit the London Boat Show to see exactly what our money would buy, and indeed to see if we would be taken seriously by any of the Rib manufacturers or laughed off their stands.
Our spec was very simple. The boat had to satisfy three criteria:-
- Corporate publicity / customer hospitality prior to the race
- Race boat for RB12
- Re sale potential after 2012 as a leisure / family boat
Nominal spec was:-
- 10m cabin rib (or cuddy console) with twin 300HP outboards
- Sea toilet / storage area beneath console
- Boat had to be capable of being towed on UK roads
- Cockpit layout for three crew
- Suspension seating
- Build spec to comply with RYA endurance racing rules
A shortlist of prospective partners was drawn up and the above spec was duly circulated to a number of manufacturers. We avoided the well known racing stables (Scorpion, Revenger, Hunton etc) as they already had in house "jockeys" and were unlikely to give us house room. Although budget was a prime consideration our most important selection criteria was the rapport and interest shown by the prospective manufacturer. We didn't want someone to sell us a boat and walk away. We wanted a partner who would support the overall project (including race support / technical and practical help along the way). In fairness the majority of people who made it to the short list were genuinely interested in the project.
At some point however you have to make a decision as to who you are going to run with. We whittled the short list down to two possibilities, one of which was a prominent leisure boat manufacturer and the other a well known commercial builder.
Like many things in life sometimes the answer just feels right, and that's what I felt about the relationship with John Price at Quinquari, from the initial telephone discussion right through the project so far. He instantly came across as someone who had an extensive knowledge about building boats in addition to running four of his own RIBs between March and October each year giving tourist trips into the Irish Sea out his base in St David's.
Two outstanding questions which still had to be confirmed were:-
- Do you spec outboard or inboard engines, and
- Do you incorporate shock mitigation seating or stand in padded bolsters?
There probably isn't a correct answer to either question, but no matter who you ask they will have an opinion; and both questions required a decision before progress could be made with boat.
The main argument for the choice of engine type appeared to be initial expense v's ongoing running costs. Outboards are considerably cheaper up front, but petrol costs v's more efficient diesel inboards will have a breakeven point if your decision is financially biased. The decision for us was far simpler.
Outboards are generally designed to take the shocks and loading generated from a race boat more in their stride, where as inboards require a fair degree of engineering / finessing to ensure the engine mounts are stiff enough, engine straps are applied and piping / wiring is all retained effectively. In general we thought there were more opportunities for failure with an inboard. The pivotal decision for us however, was that; as this is an endurance event, should you damage an engine for any reason the bolt on bolt off principle is by far the easiest way or remaining in the event. In addition should you lose the use of an engine for any reason during a leg of the race, there is a better chance of maintaining a respectable speed to complete the leg with twin outboards as the boat will still be able plane on one engine with outboards due to the reduced weight. So decision made.
The second decision was about choice of seating. All initial instincts said the obvious thing to do would be to utilise shock mitigation seating of one form or another. We had decided that this should be one area that we would not look to skimp on in terms of funding as this is critical to the health and comfort of the crew. Again if you do enough research then the correct answer pops out at the appropriate time.
Having now tested several high speed ribs (albeit without too many waves to put them through their paces) my instant surprise was the amount of lateral movement experienced as opposed to the fore and aft motion you would expect. This is particularly noticeable on landing hard in a cross sea, and as the boat is likely to spend 50% of its time airborne it seems like that that the lateral forces are going to be considerable.
We discussed our thoughts with numerous people at the Rib Ex show in May 2010 and 2 specific points hit home:-
- Human legs are the best set of shock absorbers you will ever find
- To gain best visibility you need to stand (and hence be braced into a supporting structure of some kind)
Extensive internet research eventually led us to McLeod Seating in the USA who appeared to produce a very well engineered bolster seat with an electric base that raises and lowers to offer varying degrees of support depending on the prevailing conditions. So having kindly been given a tour of Hot Lemon by Mike Deakin, these seats seemed to be the commercial equivalent of the bespoke version used by Mike on his boat. So decision made - 3 off McLeod bolster seats ordered from the USA!
During 2010 several things changed with the specification of the boat and all niceties for the project were scrapped. Out went the cabin rib idea. The sea toilet concept has been replaced with a bucket and the final boat spec has been stripped down to the bare minimum. If it's not essential it's only likely to fall off during the race, so save the initial investment and don't fit it!
Final boat spec:-
- Hull Humber Quinquari RHIB - Based on the commercial Offshore Platform
- Length 10m
- Beam 2.8m
- Weight 2500 kgs
- Power Twin 300HP Evinrude ETEC Outboards
- Propellers Standard and counter rotation stainless steel
- Speed 60 knots (70mph)
- Fuel 700 litres
- Endurance 400 miles