• James Tapp

All dressed up and nearly nowhere to go!

Event Organiser Fiona Pascoe talks huge waves, last minute location changes and fantastic racing...

Excitement levels were high in the lead up to rounds two and three of the RYA National ThunderCat Championship. As keen extreme sports enthusiasts, the ThunderCat race teams were beside themselves after seeing reports of 6-10ft waves predicted at Watergate Bay a week before race weekend (10-11 May). The social media feeds were alive with surf reports, banter and support between teams new and old.

As the website countdown timer decreased the wind and surf parameters grew, followers were even posting weather warnings for all to see. Friday soon came and as per every season the first surf race of the year comprised of a day’s surf training/refresher for every registered team.

The competitors arrived and as the volunteer marshals battled to erect the branded flags and hospitality tents it was true to see those 35mph+ predictions were correct yet they seemed a lot mightier than the computer screens had displayed! As always The Extreme Academy and Watergate Bay Beach Hut were superb hosts providing a warm room and probably the world’s most deluxe hot chocolate!

After some local information and safety tips from Dave Whelen the Rescue Officer, Safety Team First Response GB and World Surf Champion James Tapp; the competitors headed down to the beach making sure every bolt was tight and every muscle stretched. The first realisation of how extreme conditions were becoming were when ThunderCats’ all action team Surrey Joinery piloted by Rowly Brooks and Andy Cousins turned their boat upside down.

Friday was supposed to be the quieter of the weekends swell, which did enable all the teams to have a successful run out; allowing the novice pilots some invaluable wave time.

The girls team ‘Kingfisher Fire & Security’ had all the male teams surrounding them after they both for the first time ever battled the seas and the huge waves... the lads clearly are very protective of the girls, all encouraging them – so good to see, the sexes working well together! Microlink the series main sponsor would be pleased as it is all about ‘Race for Inclusivity’.

As race control opened Saturday morning, it was apparent that the second and third rounds of the RYA National Championships were in jeopardy. Winds had increased reaching speeds of over 60mph with frequent squalls and the wave swell beyond the breakers looked like a scene from the film ‘Point Break’.

Officer of the day Fiona Pascoe, gave three experienced teams; with the backing of First Response GB, the chance to report back on the ability to run a race safely.

Jack Weller in ‘Unlucky for some’ took an inshore course keeping near to the surf line returning safely. The OOD asked Rowly Brooks then to take his boat ‘Surrey Joinery’ 300m to sea, where the course would be set; unfortunately they failed to make it through a monster wave; Rowly Brooks the driver standing 6ft 6’ high and similar to Giant Haystack said it was huge, the wave was the largest he had ever seen, the back leg of the course would be unsafe to race. The third team never got to go out, as with mutual respect the teams and organisers agreed that with much regret the racing could not go ahead. Not to be defeated the ThunderCat Community brain stormed alternative ideas for the weekend including go-karting, a warm pub and the possibility of another race venue on the South Coast.

The new venue option won! You can’t keep this community down! ThunderCats are GO…

Event Organiser Fiona Pascoe had to sort out the infrastructure; confirm with Sally Windsor – RYA Course Approval Chairman whether it would be possible to move an event overnight to another location? Clearly the only venue suitable would be Pentewan Sands Holiday Park, Nr St Austell as it was where the World Championships were held last October, so everyone was fully aware of what courses we could race. Next call, Jeni Jelf - RYA Powerboat Manager, could they have permission to do this? Rescue and Safety Officer / Co Coordinator Dave ‘Willy’ Whelan had to re arrange safety and rescue, arranging another paramedic and ambulance, getting all the equipment to Pentewan which was 45 minutes’ drive from Watergate Bay. Chief Marshalls Dave Drew and Mike Cousins had to coordinate dismantling of one event and erection at another.

RYA permission and logistics were turned around in a matter of hours – a huge thank you must go to the RYA and main officials who assisted with the transformation. With permission granted, Fiona Pascoe contacted Pentewan Sands Holiday Park to see if they would allow ThunderCat Racing to use their beach and facilities… With a wonderful, as always friendly response from Graham Brown, the General Manager welcomed the community with open arms to come over and enjoy Pentewan Sands wonderful hospitality especially at the ‘Driftwood’ a must for all that go there.

Based on the South Coast of Cornwall their perfectly secluded beach and incredible hospitality during our ten day 2013 World championship won the hearts of our officials and teams and already dates for the series to return has gone to Pentewan for 2015! The final part was to tell the teams; schedule a time and sort out Anton Roberts for commentary, Gary Bray for photography….and get out to as many of the fans and followers that the event was moving!

Finally to tell Alison Payne from Watergate Bay that they were leaving; after organising an event and putting months of time into it; too have to tell the venue ThunderCat’s were abandoning ship and finding calmer waters was not easy… but as ever, Alison was wonderful and understood why the move was essential; safety must come first!

Needless to say, ThunderCat Racing will be back to Watergate in 2015 and hopefully it won’t be so gnarly!

Sunday morning at 08.00 the circus rolled out… Pentewan Sands by 9.00am racing by 11.00, finished by 17.30. Two days racing completed in one day; with everyone going home happy but very tired and ready to pitch up at Boscombe Pier, Bournemouth Beach 31 May – 01 June for another amazing ThunderCat Racing spectacle.

Finals of the RYA National Thundercat Championship will be staged at Fistral Beach, Newquay 20-21 September.

Find out more about ThunderCat Racing UK and race results at

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