It all started in the bath.
Hull businessman Sam Whitaker had that morning attended a meeting where two major events for the East Yorkshire region had been announced – The Rugby League World Cup, and the P1 Powerboat World Championships. The P1 director had mentioned that due to logistical issues there was a spare boat, going cheap. “It’s yours if you want it”, he joked.
Sam was laid in the bath, and an idea struck him. If he submerged the King’s crown… Nope, Archimedes had already done that, and Sam wasn’t the type to run naked down the street – especially when it was chilly! He had a thought about a boat.
Within 24 hours he had promises of £2000. In five days, £5000. Six weeks later, a cheque for £7500 was handed over to the P1 people to secure the boat as the money kept rolling in. Businesses, individuals, charities, schools and community groups had bought and sponsored a boat, but it was more than just a powerboat – it was a symbol of what an inspired and commited community could do. One ant can carry a leaf. A colony of ants can carry a tree. It just has to want to.
There was still the matter of a crew for the boat. Jonathan (Jono) Searby, MD of major sponsor JS Power Ltd. said he’d give it a go. Jono is one of lifes “really nice blokes”, but he’s also a bit nuts. Driving a powerboat isn’t a hobby for sane people. To cap it all, he asked Sam to be the navigator. Two businessmen, one powerboat. It was like passing your driving test in a fifty-year-old Mini and being given a Ferrari! Needless to say, intensive training was involved…
One Hull of a Boat had made a big splash, in more ways than one. The P1 organisation was interested in the story. Other race venues wanted to know how they’d done it. The national press was involved. One Hull of a Boat will be part of the P1 world tour.
The P1 races start their 2013 season in Hull. Jono and Sam had only a few weeks to learn how to drive and navigate, and get some experience of the boat. They spent a lot of time racing up and down the Humber, watched by hundreds of fans. The fans waved, Sam waved back. Jono was busy.
Saturday 1st of June. Race day. Hull was packed with spectators, there were events across the city. Time for One Hull of a Boat to do its stuff. Watched by thousands of fans along the banks of the Humber, the P1 boats roared around the tight course close in to the north bank. One Hull of a Boat didn’t win, but did finish. A good start to the races!
Sunday 2nd of June. Fans gathered again, this time to see two P1 races. In the first race, One Hull of a Boat again hurtled acros the muddy brown waters, scaring the local fish. Two blokes, second ever race, keeping up with seasoned crews. Again, they didn’t win, but that was not what it was about. It’s about Hull, and it’s about the community. In the second race, Jono and Sam were zooming around the course and doing well. All of a sudden One Hull of a Boat hit a wave, or a wake, no-one’s really sure. All we know is that One Hull of a Boat rolled, and Jono and Sam ended up underneath the water, in an upside-down boat. The guys in the rescue craft did what they do, and Jono and Sam were quickly rescued. Both were shocked, of course, and Jono had to spend time in hospital while they checked out a suspected broken leg. Luckily he was fine, if shaken, bruised and very sore!
One Hull of a Boat was towed back to the marina, and righted. Considering that it hit the water at about 70mph it was found to be in good shape, with only relatively minor repairs needed. It will soon be racing again, as will its intrepid crew. We look forward to many more races, and who knows? Some wins too?
The boat looked okay, but further investigation revealed that it was really, thoroughly, knackered. The inverted tow from the centre of the Humber into Hull Marina had killed it. If they’d turned it right way up before the recovery it may have been saved, but we’re all happy that the emergency services and support looked after Jono and Sam before the boat. As it was, the insurance covered the acquisition of another boat, with the warning that “we’ve replaced it for you this time, lads, but you only get the one…”
We’re looking forward to Plymouth at the end of June. Hopefully this time we’ll stay a bit dryer!
Hull is a strange city. It’s sat on the east end of the M62 motorway, 40 miles from any other large town. It’s weather is average, it doesn’t get too hot, or too cold. It is, however, consistently windy. Its inhabitants are proud people, who talk “funny” and have a dry, often morbid sense of humour. What Hull has, in spades, is history. Community. Hull has been on the map for centuries. We have links with the Pilgrim Fathers. We defied a King. We have the largest parish church in England. William Wilberforce, James Reckitt, Thomas Ferens, Maureen Lipman, The Beautiful South, Fine Young Cannibals, Sade, and so many more – we have more than our fair share of big names. We have a lot to be proud of.
One Hull of a Boat didn’t put Hull on the map. What it did do was remind people of what Hull has to offer. For that we will be forever grateful to Sam, and to Jono, and to the many, many people who came together and bought a boat.
There are too many people to thank for this story, and I could never have space for all of their names and the roles that they played. You know who you are. All photographs remain the copyright of the original photographer, and all copyrights and trademarks are acknowledged.