Area 61

Tucked away inside a secure compound, guarded by men in uniform and only a few miles from the urban sprawls of Birmingham, Tamworth and Stafford the drone footage looks sinister. Who is that man with the beard? What are those vehicles? What is that huge vehicle?

Deep in the heart of England, behind the barbed wire fence lies a stunningly beautiful lake where swans glide and sailing dinghy’s potter around the fringes like a picture postcard from 1952. But this lake hides a secret that needs to be exposed.

Inside the compound are precision ranks of canvas, behind the colour coded walls, hidden from view, are hundreds of uniformed people who are engaged in secret work that goes on long into the night. Flashlights spark in the gloom and shrouded figures in protective clothing scurry from place to place like furtive agents in a John Grisham novel. Bangs and shouts punctuate the silence and the occasional roar of an engine screams into the twilight mist before being replaced by raucous laughter and then, as curfew falls, silence.

The morning brings a revelation. The site is transformed from a dark and forbidding spot where extra-terrestrials could be hiding to a comfortable retreat.  It is the weekend of the Powerboat GP races and the tents are hiding nothing more sinister than row upon row of race boats. GT15, GT30, F2 and F4’s crowd the concourse. On the lakeside are hundreds of spectators and the once pristine lawns are packed with parked cars. As the sun beats down on this English idyll people set up picnic tables and blankets. If you didn’t know better anyone would think they were at Goodwood. Its only when you hear the distinctive Black Country accents that it is apparent that the location is Chasewater Country Park.

A weekends racing ensues and the roar of engines and gasps and cheers of the crowd echo across the baleen waters. Children as young as 9 compete in their events on the same course as more venerable entrants. No one retreats from the challenge and no matter what the age or experience each racer is treated with respect. In the top classes of F2 and F4 this respect is essential. Boats travelling at high speed are unforgiving beasts. One mistake and the boat will porpoise and flip like a giant coin in a washing machine. Sitting in the blue and white chequered Powertech boat is our very own Sam Whittle.

The boats line up, held by their crews the engines roar in life for a minute and then silence decends again. On the far bank a series of red lights sparks into life. “one minute” comes the warning and suddenly the lights go out and the engines scream into life again. The race has begun.

Screaming across the water to the first turn the boats hold a steady line and then suddenly cut at right angles around the mark. Plumes of white water cascade into the air and the boats pincer towards the next turn. Boats at the rear buck and bob like some kind of aquatic rodeo. At the front a boat noses ahead and suddenly there is clear water. It settles and skims around the turn as the following boats flick and flutter in a vain attempt to gain back the initiative. In the lead boat there is a calmness that is clear to the spectators. Sometimes quality demonstrates itself in subtle ways.

By Sunday afternoon the water is calm again. A huge green giant of a crane lingers by the slipway like a mechanical preying mantis and basking in the glow stands a figure, wrapped in white, and in his hands he holds a shield and trophy. Sam Whittle, Powertech’s very own racer has won every round and has gathered in a flawless 61 points for his efforts. Sam is currently 34 points clear of Rob Vears but he is gradually pulling away from the rest of the pack. It has been a stellar weekend and the only aliens in sight were a few racers from the remote corners of the British Isles who received a warm welcome from everyone.

Two days of races and hundreds of spectators, a clean sweep and top step on the podium combined with a camaraderie and fellowship that you will not find in many other sports resulted in a spectacularly successful weekend for all the Powertech Team. The championship is within site again. Now it is time to prepare for the next race at the Sprint Championships at Stewartby in Bedfordshire and then the finals.