For Flying Start – which was published in Sunseeker's yearbook, Sundeck – I joined Peter Dredge and Ian Sanderson aboard their Sunseeker XS2000 for the first leg of their (successful) attempt on the 24-hour endurance powerboating world record.

Flying Start

At around 63 knots it takes the XS2000 just 48 minutes to circumnavigate the four corners of the Isle of Wight - Cowes, Bembridge, St Catherine's Point, The Needles - and return to our starting point, Yarmouth. Flying a long pennant of tattered spray, we carve around Sconce Point and driver Peter Dredge leans forward to peel the first of four pieces of tape from the Sunseeker's dashboard. Passing Yarmouth harbour, he holds the tally out in the slipstream and lets it fly. One lap down, three more before refuelling - and 23 hours and 12 minutes to go in the Sunseeker XS Racing team's bid for the record books.

By the time that the last lap counter is floating in the Solent, the team aims to have bested the 24-hour endurance powerboating world record of 636nm, shattered three other endurance world records, and set two British records on the way. And, stowed firmly in the bolster immediately behind Peter and throttleman Ian Sanderson, I'm riding along for the first four hours of this record-breaking run. It's a remarkable vantage point.

In the cockpit ahead of me, only the smallest movements betray the intense, almost intuitive co-ordination between the driver, throttleman and machine that is balancing the boat in its flight over the glassy waters towards the horizon. Such is the balance, in fact, that it creates a curious feeling of detachment that is made all the stronger by our speed. To the left and right, everything – powerboats and sailboats, the floating island of an aircraft carrier, freighters and ferries – everything seems motionless in the moment of our passing, fixed against the bright summer sky that silhouettes waving crews. It feels like we're hanging in a vibrating vacuum – until I look behind. There, the brilliant rooster-tail of spume, the widening arrow-head of wake, and the roar of the engines are chasing us across the sudden chop that lofts the knife-edged hull into the air with a wastegate-whistle from the diesels. We're flying...!

 

Everything seems motionless in the moment of our passing, fixed against the bright summer sky

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© David Roberts 2019