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Ryan’s Ocean 11

John Moore on 18th April 2017

The UIM Marathon Allblack Racing team are going after a full 11 offshore ocean endurance long distance and speed records, and you could be part of their crew.

Email Team Owner, John Ryan if you want to be involved and have a few old Irish Punts under your mattress to spare.

Ryan’s team will be attempting the following records over the next 3 years;

  • Cork – Fastnet – Cork
  • Round Anglesey
  • Round Britain and Ireland
  • London to Gibraltar
  • Gibraltar to Monte Carlo
  • London to Monte Carlo
  • Napoli to Capri
  • Round Britain (under 50ft class)
  • The Southern Islands, includes Guernsey, Jersey, Scilly Isles and Isle of Wight
  • Miami to New York
  • London to St Petersburg

Ryan told me today;

Our Allblack Racing Team are delighted to announce our UIM World Record plans, we acknowledge that they are ambitious, with the support of sponsors we will get there, it’s an exciting opportunity for our team and we hope that everyone will get behind our efforts to create a stimulus to reinvigorate our amazing sport. spoke to Ryan recently about his powerboat racing passion;

So John, how would you describe powerboat racing to someone who’s never done it?

It’s like driving across a ploughed field with two metre high furrows at 80mph with no suspension, with every furrow moving in a different direction. You’ve got 30G-plus split-second impacts on a constant basis. It really is the most unusual situation. We’ve had Eddie Irvine and Carl Fogarty out in the boats before, and most of these guys would say the same – it’s extreme to the absolute limit of extreme.

OK… so, er, what’s the pleasure part of it?

The pleasure part of it is the start and the end – the bit in between is just pain and stress and thinking ‘What am I doing here? I wish I was at home having a coffee!’ But no, there is pleasure. In a race situation, the adrenaline beforehand when you’re getting up to the start line and everyone’s lining up to get the best possible angle – that’s very exciting. And if there’s close racing, that’s a lot of fun during the races. But for the longer races, you’re pretty much on your own out there. It’s pretty hardcore.

And now you’re looking to break 11 records…

That’s right, 11 records over a three-year period. It’s ambitious, but it’s do-able. There aren’t enough organised, point-to-point powerboat races out there, so we’ve decided to promote it a little bit ourselves. We think that by setting records, we’ll get a bit more publicity for the sport. It’s about getting the visibility for powerboat racing back out there, as it was in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s when it was a TV sport that was shown regularly on a weekend and people used to follow. So there is an opportunity for it to come back into the public eye again, and it’s only a matter of time before it does.

Which one of those records do you think will be the most difficult?

London to Monte Carlo, definitely. We’re looking at English Channel seas, the Atlantic, the Bay of Biscay, the Straits of Gibraltar, then back up into the Med, which can be a little bit funny at times. It’s a 61-hour record at the moment. 61 hours holding onto a steering wheel and throttle where typically, if we get good weather, we’re looking at a two-metre sea – that’s pretty tough going. But we’re hoping to get a weather window this summer.

So 61 hours – but you don’t do that straight, right?

Er, yeah we do – I know it sounds crazy! We’ve got a crew of three, and then a fourth which will probably be a sort of paying passenger – someone foolish enough to want to wreck themselves for a few days. We’ll rotate the throttle, but we’ll essentially be on our feet for those 61 hours – well, we hope to be on our feet for 54 hours or less, because the current record is 61 hours and we think 54 hours is achievable. It is extremely tough on the body; it’s all about stamina and the absolute pig-headedness to keep going.

What are you doing in the gym to prepare yourself for this?

Everyone’s got a stamina regime, which we’re doing three or four times a week, and that’s pretty much it. It’s just cycling, and while this sport isn’t physically demanding like climbing up a mountain, it’s demanding like any sort of motorsport.
Hopefully the rotating of the driving will give us a break from the mental fatigue too. You can be 100 miles out at sea, there’s nothing around you, all you see is the same thing coming at you – it’s like driving on a bloody motorway most of the time, it’s so boring. So the mental fatigue in many ways is tougher than the physical fatigue. It’s about keeping that attention, because there could be debris in the water, a wave direction change – there’s a multitude of things. The tiredness is probably more mental than physical, although after 24 hours, I’m sure that physically we’ll be absolutely burnt out. But if other teams have done it, we’ll do it – we’ll get through it somehow.

So tell us a bit about the boat

The original designer was a Swedish guy. He designed it specifically for long distance records, but seems to have lost interest. We were adapting a 40ft yacht when we found out that this boat was available and I made an offer for it.
We’ve done some modifications to it; we’ve stiffened it quite considerably, we’ve installed ballast tanks so that we have a level boat rather than having a porpoise situation with lots of being airborne. We’ve put some additional ventilation for the engines and installed some very hi-tech Ullman racing suspension seats, because last year I suffered a few injuries like broken ribs because of the rigid standard seats that we had. So it’s a good boat – it’s well set-up for it. And it’s fresh – it’s only done about 160 hours, so it’s pretty much just run-in.

You’re also on the hunt for additional passengers – what will those people get when they sign up?

We’re looking for a panel of about five or six people, and we need financial support. Doing this is expensive, so everyone in our team brings a certain amount of money that each record demands, whether that’s the cost of fuel, accommodation, logistics for trucks and support crew and everything else. Whoever the fourth person is, we’ll train them up and they’ll be listed as a co-driver of the boat, and get a recognised record, all being well. They’ll have to be capable physically, mentally, and they have to go through the training courses that are demanded, whether that be sea survival, first aid, general seamanship, a powerboat course – there’s a few to do, if they haven’t done them already.
Of course, some people might just want to have an experience. So for example, the London to Monte Carlo is going to be a five-refuel situation, which is part of the timed journey. So someone could sit on the boat for four or five hours from one refuelling point to the next.

OK, here’s a stupid question, but how difficult is it to stop your head spinning and go to sleep once you’ve finished one of these trips?

You do feel ill! But you get over that pretty quick, because exhaustion takes over. It’s a very confused mental state when you get off a boat: your legs are all over the place, your head’s all over the place. But mental fatigue will take over even more at that stage, and you’ll pass out alright!

So finally, how can people get involved in powerboat racing?

Well I suppose the ideal thing is to go to the Royal Yachting Association. They have a whole training section and details of various different races that you can try. So that’s probably the best place to start.

Photo: Cameron Davies

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