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Agfa Bluebird Back on Track

Chris Davies on 30th March 2022

Back in 1984 Gina Campbell QSO, daughter of the legendary speed icon Donald Campbell CBE, who tragically died in 1967 on Coniston Water attempting to break his own 276mph water speed record, became fascinated with power boat racing.

In her first year of competing, she won the UK Offshore Boating Association Class 3D Championship with Mike Standring sat alongside her in their Steve Baker designed Phantom 25 monohull Agfa Bluebird. They also collected the Royal Yachting Association Class 3 National Championship title.

Later, that year they both competed in the Everest Double Glazing sponsored Round Britain Powerboat Race. Weather conditions for the first leg were poor and of the twenty-eight starters at Portsmouth, only eighteen boats reached Falmouth. Agfa Bluebird stuffed off Anvil Point and was towed back into Poole Harbour. That wasn’t the end though because after drying out the boat they re-joined the race only for Campbell to sprain her ankle later. Even with these miss fortunes the pair still completed the ten-day endurance race which was won by the world-famous Italian racer and boat builder, Fabio Buzzi, in the equally famous White IVECO, completing the course in just over twenty-seven hours of the toughest sea conditions ever seen.

Now hoping the water conditions will be a lot calmer is the UKOPRA British Offshore Champion Drew Langdon when he tries once again to finish another endurance event, the 70th edition of the Raid Pavia Venezia racing Campbell’s Agfa Bluebird. Even by powerboat racing standards this one is an unusual event that ran for the first-time last year after a break of ten years.

When Langdon spoke to PRW he said


My dear old friend Fabio Buzzi was always talking to me about doing the race. And it’s a shame that I couldn’t do it while he was still around. Nevertheless, we gave it a go last year and to be fair the day I spent having the boat scrutineered before the race was worth going just for that because I met so many of my old friends from Italy, though it must have been ten since we last met, to me it only felt like yesterday.

For Langdon, last year’s race was a bit of a disaster. He went with a boat that he though was race ready, but it was far from it, and he didn’t get much further than the hook of the crane. Back then there were ninety entries, and he was the sole British competitor. Since then, the word has gotten out as amongst the one hundred and fifty-eight boats entered eight of them are British offshore teams.

Although the Phantom was originally rigged for a driver and navigator, Langdon will be making the trip along the Po River to Venice by himself.

I have given the race a great deal of thought and I did consider taking a mechanic along in the navigator seat in case of any mechanical issues. Yes, I want to complete the race, but at the same time I want to do well overall. Having that extra weight in the hull because the crew do not count as the dry weight of the boat makes it uncompetitive and if something did go mechanically wrong in that race then its game over because there is no time to make any repairs.

In preparation for the race Langdon spent today out testing in Torquay, England and he felt extremely comfortable having re-rigged the Phantom over the winter. Race Marine have rebuilt the two Mercury powerheads and the speed has certainly improved. He told PRW that it was an incredibly good test session, and they were able to try out three different propeller choices.

I am now able to drive the boat and not fight it the whole time, something that will be key on a journey of over four hundred kilometres. I am encouraged that there are more competitors entered from the UK as this race needs to be supported, it’s full of history, and it will be an adventure for all of us. Plus, it’s great to fly the flag on such a historical boat once more.

Testing images by Tim Tapping.

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