Fifty years ago, 1972 England was in the grips of an economic depression. The British government had declared a state of emergency following a forty-seven-day miners’ strike, and UK unemployment had risen to one million for the first time since the depression years of the 1930s.
Against this backdrop the Offshore Powerboat Club of Great Britain were putting the final pieces of a ‘jigsaw like’ race together.
After twenty-one months of challenging work, competitors would finally take to start line of one of the most iconic offshore races of all time, the Port Richborough London to Monte Carlo Powerboat Race.
So, on the 10 June HRH Princes Margaret flagged away the twenty-one entries on their 2,700 nautical miles marathon from the Thames in London. The route went along the south coast of England, down the Atlantic coastline of France, across the Bay of Biscay to Northern Spain.
From there they rounded the Portuguese coastline and headed along the Mediterranean and finally into Monaco, where Princess Grace welcomed those exhausted, but satisfied teams that had completed the endurance race.
One of the six classified finishers was the Fairey Huntsman ‘Double Century,’ who were also awarded ‘The Best All Rounder’ trophy. Only thirty-two cruisers were ever built, and they are widely considered to be one of the most classic powerboat designs of all time. The original owner of ‘Double Century’ was sherry importer David Palengat, who named the boat after one of his best-selling sherries which used to be the biggest brand of Domecq and was first introduced in 1930s for the bicentenary of the company.
Driven by Palengat with assistance from Peter and John Pearce, the 31 ft Fairy Huntsman with double cabins was a genuine offshore cabin cruiser powered by twin Ford Mermaid diesels.
Palengat and his crew were normally amongst the tail end of the fleet, but no one doubted that they would make it into Monaco, even after rescuing the five-man crew of the ‘Spirit of Michaelhouse’ which sank on the leg into Alicante.
Their average speed was 24.94 knots which gave them a total elapse racing time of 102 hrs 38 mins 49 seconds, thirty-one hours behind the winners ‘H.T.S’.
A four-year restoration project of this famous power boat was started back in 2013 and involved replacing the original 180hp Ford Mermaid diesels engines and gearboxes with a power plant capable of replicating her original race performance.
The previous owner Richard Miller had approached Hendy Power, who provided the two original race engines back in 1971 and Fiat Powertrain Technology engines were suggested. The footprint and overall dimensions of the new engines were considerably different to the original Ford ones. So, Hendy allowed them to build a scale model of the engine’s beds in their Cosham workshop. They also helped model the installation and then altered the fitment of ancillary items and provided custom engine feet so that there was sufficient clearance between the engines.
Now Double Century has found a new mooring in the Lake District, where the current owner Andrew Turner, who runs Windermere Classic Cruises, is adding the boat to his rental fleet so guests will be able to enjoy a two-hour cruising experience.
I’m thrilled to be bringing this classic example of our boating heritage to Windermere. Double Century is an epic powerboat with an incredible racing history. We have lots of original memorabilia from the race which I can’t wait to share with other boat lovers. It’s going to be an incredible opportunity for people to experience cruising on England’s most beautiful lake onboard one of the most beautifully designed boats ever made.