We’ve been saying for years that there’s nowhere quite like our Wild Atlantic Way, and this is going to be witnessed up close and personal next June when a fleet of the best powerboat racers from across the world get to race along its entire length. The prize, aside from bragging rights, is the Venture Cup – the World’s longest, toughest and most prestigious powerboat race that will take place on the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme funded Cool Route.
Over seven days of intense competition, more than 1,000 miles of challenging seas, and expected spectator numbers in excess of 1 million people, a global fleet of 25 offshore powerboats will be cut loose in a new dawn for international powerboat racing. The sport, which was once the most glamorous of all motorsports, is embarking on a whole new adventure which will see it add the spectacle and attraction of major land-based public festivals to the raw, unpredictable forces of true ocean racing.
The journey formally begins at the Irish Embassy on Grosvenor Place in London on Friday November 20th when the global governing body for the sport – Union Internationale Motonautique (recognised by the International Olympic Committee, and a full member of both SportAccord and ARISF) – formally awards the 2016 Venture Cup to Ireland. This star-studded ceremony will also provide an opportunity for teams to discover just how difficult a challenge they’ll be taking on, as the full course is revealed. The start-flag drops in Cork Harbour on Sunday 12th June and the epic race concludes in Dublin on Sunday 18th June.
“Make no mistake. This is going to push teams and their boats to the absolute limit” said Peter Dredge, technical director and lead driver of the Vector Martini team – believed by many to be one of the favourites, and featuring the legendary David Gandy amongst it’s star-studded team. “This is no place for the faint-hearted, and only the bravest and best prepared will succeed. Even in the middle of Summer we’ll be encountering 15-metre swells as we race along the some of the most dramatic and demanding coastlines in Europe”.
While the fleet will contain the biggest and best names in international powerboat racing, the very youngest competitor will have the benefit of having quite a bit of experience in these waters. Adam Brennan (son of John Brennan – RTE’s ‘At Your Service’) has been on the waters off the coast of Kerry for as long as he can remember.
While the conditions off Ireland’s coast will prove incredibly unfriendly, the opposite will be the case onshore. Major festivals are planned right along the course in Cork, Dingle, Galway, Killybegs, Belfast and Dublin. It’s no secret that Ireland can ‘party’ better than most, so competitors and visitors can expect nightly celebrations just as big as the waves the teams will be forced to crash over, through and under.
“This is a return to true adventure in racing” added Aidan Foley, event director for Venture Cup. “We’re seeing too much predicability in motorsport right now, too much blandness. When you add the types of conditions we’re expecting into a mix of 25 top international teams full of personality, bravery and good old fashioned derring-do, you get a sports event which is wildly more exciting than what’s currently out there. We think people are going to love following this race. Whether they’re watching on land or on-line, we’re going to give them something very special and unique.”
Stuart Walker, Venture’s commercial director is keen to add that there are multiple layers to the overall event – “At the upper end you’ve got the cream of the world’s powerboat racers – the very best from right around the world. However, behind this you’ve got innovation and research being conducted at every level of the race which will lead to genuine positive change in the maritime sector. The ‘blue economy’ offers great opportunities for ourselves, our partners and for all of us. In recent years Ireland has been leading innovation in this area, particularly with the great work being done at the internationally-respected IMERC Campus in Ringaskiddy. We’re currently working extremely hard to ensure our partners, both from marine and mainstream sectors, benefit from the enormous visibility and credibility the Venture Cup offers.”
The teams will be competing for two top honours over the race. The overall first team will take the Venture Cup which can trace its history back to 1908 and the Vanderbilt family, while the winning nation will be presented with the Harmsworth Trophy – the word’s very first international award for powerboat racing, dating back to 1903. Coincidentally, the very first time the ‘Harmsworth’ ran was the exact same spot where the 2016 Venture Cup will commence from – Cobh, in Cork Harbour.
The world will be watching when the teams strap on their helmets, point their bows at the Atlantic and take their places alongside the best in the World next June.