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Just like rally driving in a convertible... only without any seatbelts; POWERBOAT P1 SUPERSTOCK CHAMPIONSHIP.

Byline: Gareth Bicknell

FOR Andy Musgrave, racing powerboats is like "rallying in a convertible without seatbelts". That's how the North Wales-based racer describes the rush of hurtling at speeds up of up to 60mph around the coastline of Britain, exposed to the elements and relying on his navigator to keep him from crashing into rocks or his fellow competitors.

Musgrave, from Pwllheli, begins his second season in the Powerboat P1 SuperStock Championship later this month when the competition starts at Penzance in Cornwall.

Then, following a second event at Galway in Ireland next month, in July the championship comes to Musgrave's home town, where the 23-year-old hopes his knowledge of the waters around Pwllheli will give him an edge over his rivals.

"You can read the water a bit better and you know what to expect from it," says Musgrave, who with his navigator Chris Smith makes up the Mr Daydream team.

"We'll get the map for the Pwllheli race at the same time as all the other competitors, but at least we'll get chance to plot the map out - you can never simulate a race before you actually go out there but it gives you chance to have a bit of practice."

Musgrave has high hopes for this season, which takes place over five events throughout the summer, after finishing his debut campaign midway in the rankings.

"Last year we were finding our feet and there's no reason why we can't be up there this season," he says. "Pwllheli last year was my first race ever and we finished fifth out of 13. We improved through the season but we couldn't make the last event and finished the championship seventh.

If we'd been to the last event and done well there's no reason why we couldn't have been up there."

One of the youngest competitor in the championship, Musgrave did win one accolade last year - the award for most spectacular crash after a flip in a race at Lowestoft.

"I got a bit cocky and we ended up nosediving at about 55mph and snapping the boat in half," he said. "I had a couple of black eyes because I ended up headbutting the steering wheel, but nothing more serious than that."

Musgrave moved to Pwllheli from Manchester about four years ago to start his own Powerboat company, Rock Powerboats. However, he'd never thought about racing himself until he enquired about hosting an event off Llyn.

He says: "The racing came after I moved here. I wasn't interested in racing myself - I just wanted to host an event in Pwllheli to generate a bit of publicity. But one thing led to another, and one night over a few too many bottles of wine we were offered the chance to buy a boat and race, so we did that."

Despite growing up around boats, however, nothing had prepared Musgrave for the adrenaline-charged world of powerboat racing.

"I've been driving boats since I was about five or six, and I've been going fairly fast in them since then - but it's not really any training for when you're out there racing," he says. "You're running maybe eight or 10 inches from the other boats and getting thrown around by the chop and the spray, and you've got to rely on the person next to you to shout if you're about to hit something.

"To be honest your navigator doesn't do a lot of navigating - the courses are never usually more than three or four miles, so it's mostly observing and making sure you don't hit other boats."

Explaining the thrill of the sport, he adds: "It's an adrenaline rush, it's scary, it's fun and it's fast. You sense the speed a lot more on the water - you're only pulling 55mph but it feels a lot faster than a car.

"You're open, you're exposed - it's like rallying, but driving a convertible without seatbelts. You end each race saying you're never going to do that again, but then you're out there again a month later."

The P1 Superstock Championship - previously known as the Honda Formula 4-Stroke Association - is televised, and Musgrave says it can be a springboard to the world's biggest competitions.

"It's a good way to learn the craft, and if you want to go on and race bigger stuff you can. In the past some drivers have been invited to drive P1 evolution boats, which are Europe's biggest and fastest racing boats.

"Maybe one day I'd like to do that, I haven't really thought about it. But the main problem is it takes place on weekends throughout the summer, and you're going across Europe, so it's not a case of taking a weekend off here and there - you'd have to take whole weeks off at a time."

While there is prize money on the international circuits, P1 Superstock teams are just racing for the prestige, and at around pounds 15,000 per season to compete at the five events and for the running of the boat, Musgrave says the expenditure is "modest" in the context of powerboating.

"At our sort of level, teams who have got sponsorship are racing for free because the sponsors are picking up the bills. We're always looking for sponsorship, so if anyone wants to get involved we can take clients out on the boats - and maybe they can even navigate a race if they want to."

.THE Powerboat P1 Superstock championship is at Pwllheli from July 9-11. For more information go to www.powerboatp1.com. Anyone interested in sponsoring Andy Musgrave in the championship can contact him on 01758 614614.

CAPTION(S):

Pwllheli powerboat racer Andy Musgrave (inset) and on his boat, Mr Daydream
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 15, 2010
Words:946
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