ThunderCat racing returned to Bournemouth last weekend for the first rounds of the RYA ThunderCat National 2016 Championship.
The nineteen powerboats entertained spectators with flips, jumps and tense dog fights.
ThunderCat racing was born in the 1980’s on the South African surf and has spread globally becoming popular in 18 different countries all competing in National and World Championships.
The Bournemouth racers piloted their 4 inch inflatable catamarans around an M shaped circuit followed by an enduro (long haul) race between Bournemouth and Boscombe Piers, a combination which is the first of its kind in the 13 years since the Championships started.
These events are designed to push the racers to their limit, testing speed, strength and endurance. For the ThunderCat UK organisers these first rounds are their biggest event ever.
Fiona Pascoe, Event Director, says it is their best event yet: “The atmosphere is always high and exciting, everybody wants to be part of it and we have set a high standard this year. We’ve now taken it in from what I would call a fun, amateur sport to a much more of a professional level.”
Known for its thrilling and high octane action, ThunderCat racing attracts thrill seekers from around the globe. Robert of Team Honnigan/Microlink/Ahmad Tea is a “self-confessed adrenaline junkie”.
The Welsh based team formed of Robert Davies, Darren Phillips and manager Martin Tummuscheit, 33, Southport, started racing in 2014 when they climbed to an impressive third place in the 2015 Championships.
Robert and Darren have years of motor sport experience with Robert starting at the age of 15 with motocross and following the high octane trail to ThunderCat racing.
Southport based Robert, 33, said: “ThunderCat racing seemed the way to go for the type of racing that suited me and the adrenalin fix I was after. My passion has and always will be with the sea.”
Darren, 27, based in Swansea, says “I enjoy the whole experience, the build-up, testing and setting up and then going away with mates for two days of adrenalin full racing”.
Some racers like Lymington lad Bligh Julius have ThunderCats in their blood.
Racing since he was 15 with his father, Bligh who is pilot for Team 33 Multispark Racing Products, lives and breathes the water.
Bligh, 25, said: “It is about the adrenaline rush. We have really good sponsors behind us and a great team. I enjoy the community spirit.”
Team 33 were crowned winners of the championships last year and are using the Nationals as a stepping stone for the World Championships.
ThunderCat racing has gained a reputation as an extreme sport. Joanna Jedrasiak, 36, pilot of Galaxy Girls/Ahmad Tea, is hooked on the challenge.
The Surrey based fitness manager said: “I was always fascinated by water sports and speed. I must be addicted to the adrenaline rush but this all comes with my personality. I believe this makes my life interesting and makes me feel alive”.
The Polish born racer and her teammate Lynsay Crellin, 30, based in Portsmouth, represent the Miss Galaxy Universe organisation that holds beauty and fitness pageants designed to celebrate women’s physiques in a non-critical environment.
Co-pilot Lynsay came out of an eight year retirement to do battle with the boys in the Galaxy Girls first year of racing.
Joanna believes the sport is male dominated and wants to buck this trend by being part of the first female team to win the Championships, “The fact that we are women motivates us. I know this may be difficult especially as this is our first season but they didn’t build Rome in one day”.
ThunderCat racing not only acts as a sport but provides support and empowerment for servicemen and women.
Team Endeavour represent charity the Endeavour Fund who help wounded and sick army personnel to transition to civilian life by providing an outlet following their experiences in the field of battle.
The two Endeavour teams are made up of Mark Lloyd, Alex Fogg, Ryan Edwards- Pritchard and pilot and manager Stuart Croxford.
Pilot Mark, 30, from Cardiff, served in the UK’s elite parachute regiment, for six years fighting in Afghanistan and Kenya.
He suffered 4 herniated discs in his back during the heat of battle leaving him with nerve damage in his left hand.
Mark feels ThunderCat racing fulfils much of what he misses about the military, “I can compete against other people without being disadvantaged by my injuries. It’s also a great outlet for any frustration or built up energy. Being surrounded by like-minded blokes that have been on similar journeys is a great support”.
Team Endeavour, with one year of racing in the National and the World Championships behind them, are going into the 2016 Championship stronger than ever.
“This is going to further raise the profile of the team and the service personnel charities/npo that are sponsoring us which will only serve to facilitate more injured wounded and sick guys being able to be part of programs like this”.
After tough racing over the weekend, the first rounds saw Team 33 Multispark Racing Products winning the surf and weekend overall, Team Hoonigan/Ahmad Tea winning the Enduro and Team Endeavour taking home the Winning Formula award.
While being fierce competitors on the water these racers are a community with shared passion on the beach.
Lynsay believes this sense of community and family is the biggest attraction for many of the racers.
She said: “I like the social side of ThunderCats. It is competitive yet friendly, everyone is best friends”.
Fiona agrees believing this inclusivity is what draws the crowds in: “What we do is bring family values back so it is inclusive and a complete diverse environment. I think the spectators loved it and it’s been an amazing interaction on and off the water”.
For more information on or if you are interesting in becoming involved in ThunderCat racing visit www.thundercatuk.co.uk.
(Featured image is copyright of Don Hodgson)