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Double TWO Shirts
When Double TWO Shirts (almost) ruled the waves!

When Double TWO Shirts (almost) ruled the waves!

In a special dose of nostalgia, we take a trip down memory lane to 1984 and the 'Everest Double Glazing' Round Britain Offshore Powerboat Race.

The race, which had previously been held in 1969 and has only ever been held once since, in 2008, was a 10 stage tour around the British coastline. With huge costs involved, sponsorships were invited involving some of the big brands of the time. Double TWO were delighted to be involved.

Beginning in Portsmouth, 28 powerboats set off racing to Falmouth. Leg 2 saw a race further up the coast to Fishguard in Wales, then to Douglas on the Isle of Man, a race around the Isle of Man for leg 4 and then on to Oban in Scotland. Competitors then cut through the Caledonian Canal as part of a non-racing cruise before resuming the race from Inverness to Dundee. From there the race continued to Whitby, to Great Yarmouth, to Ramsgate and then finally back to Portsmouth. A total race distance of 1,650 miles.

Battling rough seas and all types of typically British weather, the ten day event attracted some of the biggest names in powerboat racing including Italians Fabio Buzzi, in his 38 foot 'White Iveco' boat powered by four Iveco diesel engines and Renato Della Valle, driving his 43 foot 'Ego Lamborghini' powered by a pair of 7 litre V12 Lamborghini petrol engines!

Our boat, known as ‘Double TWO Shirts’ was a 40ft Don Shead designed, Planatec built racer with Sabre Diesel power crewed by Tim Hill, Richard Lawson, Viv Williams and Jan Hicks.

From day one, the racers were battling the elements far more than each other. Of the 28 boats that set off from Portsmouth, only 18 made it to the Falmouth finish line to end the first leg.

Retirements during each leg of this endurance event were quite common due to some mechanical failure or other. These incurred time penalties, but as long as you could get going again for the next leg, you were back in the race. Which is just as well, or by the time the race reached its halfway point they would have been hardly anyone left as the rough conditions took their toll on the boats!

Support teams, mechanics and fuel tankers leapfrogged from port to port to ensure they were on hand at the end of each leg to get the boats back out on the water each day. Our own team were teamed up with the Jaguar support crew to help reduce costs and the partnership of mechanical expertise was certainly working well with the Jaguar powered ‘The Legend’ and our own ‘Double TWO Shirts’ among the early frontrunners.

Although that was soon in doubt when on day 2, a strong wind powered ‘The Legend’ driven by Colin Gervais-Brazier into the lead before the boat blew a gasket and set on fire!

Team ‘Carlsberg’ were also expected to provide a strong challenge and despite struggling around Land’s End in rough seas, they still seemed on course for a good race until a freak wave hit the boats hull and she sank within minutes!

Full credit to Heineken, sponsoring a small inflatable craft named 'Thirst Aid' who latched straight onto a PR opportunity, printing T-shirts like the one pictured below.

By Day 3, ‘Double TWO Shirts’ was seen as the closest challenger to the dominance of the two Italian’s Fabio Buzzi and Renato Della Valle, yet Buzzi was leaving everyone trailing in his wake, reaching incredibly consistent high speeds and with a typical Italian shrug stating, “In Italy this is just a cruising boat.”

By the time the race reached Scotland, Buzzi was 33 minutes ahead of the ‘Ego Lamborghini’ with our own ‘Double TWO Shirts’ two hours back but going well in a respectable third place.

However, Inverness to Dundee was to be the turning point for our crew as things took a turn for the worse...

Mechanical problems began to set in as a failed outdrive affected ‘Double TWO Shirts’ balance on the water. Crew member Viv Williams attempted to climb on board the foredeck to keep the boat on course, but ended up with a dislocated shoulder in the process! Our first retirement of the race, left us finishing the journey to Dundee by road, with dreams of a major prize in tatters on the back of a 12 hour time penalty!

With a further retirement on leg 7, the overall time penalty grew to over 45 hours and despite a run of three leg victories for the Jaguar powered ‘The Legend’' it seemed that, barring any mechanical disasters, Buzzi and his ‘White Iveco’ had the race all sewn up. However few could have predicted what happened at Ramsgate…

After the completion of the penultimate leg, from Great Yarmouth to Ramsgate, ‘White Iveco’' was being crane lifted out of the water for inspection when she slipped from the harness, landing on a bollard and gashing her hull, almost pulling the crane over in the process!

After a frantic 36 hours in which the crew worked around the clock to repair the boat, 'White Iveco' made the next days’ final leg and was able to power home for the Round Britain title.

As for ‘Double TWO Shirts’, further mechanical problems saw the crew fail to make the start of the final leg back to Portsmouth, sliding down the rankings to eventually finish in 16th place. Just below another shirt sponsored boat, 'Propeller Shirts'!

Our chairman, Richard J Donner remembers the race well.

“We put on dock parties for our customers at each stage of the race, hot footing it around the country to see the boats come in at the finish line each day. There was a huge amount of publicity at the time, with write-ups in the Telegraph and various boating publications. Getting to go out on the boat was a great experience, reaching speeds of 70-80 knots, you were stood up in the boat. You couldn’t be sat down at those speeds or you’d have broken your back! You had to have a good stomach about you too, as our marketing manager at the time found out, rushing from view to resolve her seasickness once back on dry land!”

The period also saw the boat star in an episode of Channel 4’s ‘Treasure Hunt’ with Anneka Rice. The episode saw Anneka racing round on the boat searching out treasure from the clues provided during the show.

Double TWO’s powerboating adventures also led to a meeting with Virgin tycoon and boating enthusiast, Richard Branson, which led to us supplying the outfits for his 1985 and 86 world record Atlantic crossing attempts, the latter of which was successful.

Whilst the Round Britain race got away from her, ‘Double TWO Shirts’ had a rather successful racing career during her time under Double TWO sponsorship. Competing in 14 races between 1984 and 1986 she won 8, finished 4 and only had to retire from 2, giving a win ratio of 57%. No mean feat at all considering the many challenges and demands of offshore powerboat racing.

Originally beginning life in 1974 under the name ‘ABO’ (Short for 'Another Bloody Omelette', after owner, Bobby Buchanan-Michelson’s first boat 'Hot Omelette' which sank!) racing in the Cowes-Torquay race of that year. The boat then took on the name ‘Radio Rentals’ as part of a sponsorship deal, before taking on the name ‘Macho’ in ’77, right up until Tim Hill became her owner and Double TWO entered the scene.

Following our sponsorship, the boat became known as ‘Follet Cars’ before she was sold and taken over to Atlantic City to compete in the 88’ World Championships as ‘Rejuga’. She stayed in the States for quite some time, with a few more name changes before coming back home to England where she languished in a barn for around 10 years.

Her big return to racing action was intended to be the 2008 revival of the Round Britain Powerboat race, but after the owner at the time ran into sponsorship difficulties, the boat was once again sold.

After a little research we managed to catch up with new owner, Martin Warren, and were delighted to hear that after an extensive refurbishment, the boat is now once again known as ‘Double TWO Shirts’!

Despite the many name changes over the years it seems the one that is most famous across the powerboat racing world is that of ‘Double TWO Shirts’. Under this racing livery the boat had its most successful period of racing. And so, choosing to restore her to her most successful name, Martin Warren and his crew began their restoration work in 2009.

It was an exhaustive process. When the boat was brand new in 1974 it cost the equivalent of 2.7 million in today’s money!

Not only that but the font we used for our logo back then was no longer in use! An accomplished sign writer with much experience at painting powerboats had to be brought in to painstakingly recreate the famous Double TWO livery by hand. It took 4 days to paint the boat, and when he had finished the only payment he would take was some flowers for his wife!

Despite the numerous setbacks and postponements for her planned relaunch, ‘Double TWO Shirts’ was finally re-introduced to the water in 2012 and entered her first race in over 20 years when she was entered in the Torbay Classic in 2013.

Unfortunately, after an engine blowout the boat is now awaiting further repair before she gets the chance to race again. But we're sure she'll certainly not be allowed to sink into the state of disrepair that owner Martin Warren found her in!

For more nostalgic memories throughout our history be sure to like our page on Facebook.

You can follow the progress of ‘Double TWO Shirts’ and current owners Team MWA on their Facebook page where among many great photo’s, you can see this video of the boats rebuild.

To find out more about the 1984 'Everest Double Glazing' Round Britain Offshore Powerboat Race take a look at a You Tube video here.

Many thanks to new owner, Martin Warren of Team MWA for providing us with an update of ‘Double TWO Shirts’, some images and a few further details on her history. Also thanks to the Powerboat Archive for racing information and articles and images from:

Motor Cruiser, September 1984

Offshore Magazine, ‘A Quick Spin around the Isles’ by Ray Bulman, 1984

Motorboat & Yachting, ‘Ten Days Round Britain’ September 1984

Powerboat & Waterskiing, 1984

by Richard Hopwood
Double TWO