Miami is the place where this photograph’s story begins, as so many things with go-fast boats do. Sometime in the late 1950s, John William Maxwell Aitken witnessed one of the earliest Miami-Nassau powerboat races. In 1961, after participating in the Miami-Nassau race himself, Aitken launched the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes race in Britain, creating the first offshore powerboat competition in Europe.
A British man named Tim Powell spent many years trying to win the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes race, starting in 19 consecutive versions during the 1960s and ’70s. Despite all of his tries, he never could make it to the finish line first. Then, in 2001, Italian boat designer Fabio Buzzi invited the 63-year-old Powell to drive Gincanotto, a 55-foot RIB that Buzzi had designed with quad inboard diesels totaling 3,120 hp. Buzzi—who himself had raced powerboats since the 1960s—had, by 2001, established a global reputation for speed with his FB Design company. It was a regular winner of World Championships and a near-constant setter of world speed records.
Powell and Buzzi shared the driving duties in the 2001 Cowes-Torquay-Cowes race, where they looked like surefire winners on paper, and then averaged a speed of 76.54 mph for the 190-nautical-mile round trip. Disaster nearly foiled their date with destiny about 2 miles out from the finish, when an electrical failure left the boat’s navigation system dark. The crew made repairs with the boat still underway, but in the process, they ended up going around the wrong side of a race buoy. Once the nav system was back up and running, they had to retrace their wake before they could finally head for the finish line.
In the end, though, it was Gincanotto crossing the finish line first, just as many experts had predicted it would be. British publications celebrated the win with headlines that read, “Tim’s trophy glory at last.”
Powell went on to live another 16 years. He spent several decades not just racing in, but also organizing the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes, and became commodore and president of the United Kingdom Offshore Boating Association.
Buzzi died in 2019, in a crash off the coast of Italy while trying to break a world speed record. The boat reportedly struck barriers erected to prevent flooding in Venice, launching the hull some 100 feet into the air, and killing him and two other crew on impact. He was 76 years old.
This article was originally published in the August 2022 issue.