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History of motorboat racing on Oulton Broad

The world's oldest motorboat racing venue

The inaugural motoboat race meeting was held during Oulton Broad Regatta Week on Thursday 20th August 1903 as part of the sailing programme organised by the The Royal Norfolk & Suffolk Yacht Club, under the auspices of the Norfolk Automobile & Launch Club. This was the third race meeting to be staged held in East Anglia, the two previous having been held during the Wroxham Broad Regatta. Six motorised launches competed in the single heat handicap race which was won by the steam launch Monarch driven by Mr. T. Jary.

     In the same time a proposed offshore race off Lowestoft was cancelled due to rough conditions, but it eventually took place the following year. In 1905 this event was moved inshore to Oulton Broad and organised by the British Motor Boat Club. This first meeting entirely devoted to motorboats was won by Mr. F. Shepherd in his 19ft launch Betty powered by a 20hp Brooke inboard who took home the W. Brooke & Co. Trophy.

     All racing was terminated on the outbreak of WW1, and it was not until September 1929 that offshore racing was resumed at Lowestoft with the first running of the Daily Mirror Trophy, but due to rough conditions the event was postponed for several years.

     The Oulton Broad Motor Boat Club was  founded in 1933 by local dentist Charlie Nichols and organised its first race meeting in September of that year. The Mirror newspaper was again persuaded to sponsor the trophy with a £100 first prize, and it was transferred to Oulton Broad in 1936. The starting gun was fired 4000 miles away in the USA from outside his boathouse by world water speed record holder Gar Wood, the sound being transmitted by transatlantic telephone. The winner was George Treglown in his 250cc Johnson powered hydroplane Black Magic. The American Treglown family, who lived on the edge of the Broad, were prominent pre-war racers and members of the first British team to compete in overseas outboard events in Europe and the USA during the late 1930’s. Edward Treglown also organised speed record attempts on the New Cut at Haddiscoe, setting a national 350cc ‘B’ class  record of 37.07 mph. In 1937 the Club organised its first international race which attracted a 3-boat team from Germany for the Daily Mirror Trophy. For the 6p entrance fee a crowd of 10,000 saw a fantastic speed of 32.23 mph reached by the winner Geoff Holt, a member of the Lancashire Club, who beat 23 entrants heats driving the 350cc Johnson powered Jeep.

     August Monday 1939 saw the last  pre-war meeting, but enthusiasm returned with a vengeance on Whit-Monday 1946. Strings in high places had to be pulled at this time as petrol was of course still on ration, but concessions were made to allow enough fuel to be made available for a handful of competitive club meetings.Around 1948 one of the best known craft of the local racing scene appeared on the Broad – Toby Sutton’s Lycoming powered Whisso-Bang. Her fame spread far and wide attracting visitors en-masse to the park. Whisso was superseded by another spectacular inboard hydroplane –Rooster. This fiery boat was probably one of the biggest influences of many drivers. Big, noisy and fast, it had everything to appeal to spectators. This Chevrolet powered American designed Ventnor 3-pointer was rescued from the scrapheap and restored and and is now on display at the Pleasurewood Hills Theme Park.

     The Club received a boost at this time when Guy Batholomew, a director of the Daily Mirror newspaper, became interested in the racing whilst on  holiday in the area. Keen to revive racing after the war, he commissioned Alan Darby to build six identical single step hydroplanes powered by British Anzani 350cc engines.  These craft were hired at £10

Williamette steam launch.jpg

The steam launch Williamette competed in the first motor boat race to be held on Oulton Broad in 1903. 

for the season to local  businessmen during the early 1950’s. The idea proved a tremendous success because the following year these drivers went out and bought their own outfits.The popularity of inboard racing continued into the 1960’s thanks to the Albatross Marine concern at St Olaves who produced a range of aluminium runabouts.

     By 1970 inboard runabout racing had disappeared although the Albatross is still very popular with members of the Classic Motor Boat Club. The inboards were superseded by outboard runabouts which were easily to maintain with numerous craft being constructed by the Yarmouth based Toby Marine (of Rooster fame) and by Yarecraft at Gorleston, owned by Frank and Francis Holmes. The 1960’s also saw the introduction of inboard hydro racing with Nigel Bilton dominating the 1000cc Imp powered category, finishing runner-up in the World R1 Championship at Nottingham in 1981.

     At this time the runabout class saw a major change of direction in hull design when the first catamaran appeared on the Broad, when Pat Atkinson from Yarmouth acquired Akamo from Austrian boatbuilder Dieter Schulze. He was later joined by Bob Spalding and Tom Percival who went on to gain international success as ‘works’ drivers for the major engine manufacturers. Bob became the Club’s first World Champion when he won the Formula 1 series in 1980.

     A major milestone in the Club’s history occurred in 1985 with a visit by Her Majesty the Queen and H.R.H. Prince Philip, who watched a drive-past of racing boats. In 1986 several Club members put their heads together and researched around for facts, figures,  stories and photographs to compile a fascinating book on the history of racing at Oulton Broad. This is compulsive reading, and the photographs alone will stir the emotions and imaginations of all readers. The book The Club on the Park is still available from the Club  Caravan on race nights.

     The outboard hydroplane section was revitalised in 1980 when Rex King introduced the 350cc Yamato motor from Japan, a class later adopted by the UIM (the world governing body) for international competition. Having organised several ordinary international races over the years, the Club was finally awarded its first major U.I.M. titled meeting when its successfully organised the World OSY.400 Championship in 1998. Competitors from as far afield as China, U.S.A. and Estonia competed in a outstanding event, with the overall title going to Marian Jung from Slovakia. The Club organised a second World OSY.400 Championship in 2007 with local driver Sean Barnard taking the title in spectacular style.

We are always interested in old photographs and other memorabilia related to the racing here at Oulton Broad. 


Please contact the archivist.

Oulton Broad photographed in 1885 from the Wherry Hotel.

The clubhouse in 1950.

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