Changing gear for an evening of fun at Oulton Broad

Modern day racing

Modern day racing - Credit: Archant

It's a free summer spectacle for both locals and Broads holidaymakers who plans their journey to include a Thursday night stop-over at Oulton Broad.

Change of pace on Oulton Broad

Change of pace on Oulton Broad - Credit: Archant

The high-octane thrills of power boat racing around a 1km circuit of the broad could not stand in greater contrast to the 4mph cruising that is de rigeur in all other parts of the Norfolk and Suffolk waterways (and at Oulton Broad outside the witching hour of race time).

Oulton Broad is the oldest motorboat racing circuit in the world - the first race held on it in 1903 - and the only venue for weekly race meetings.

Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Motor Club (LOBMC), which organises the race nights usually starting at 6pm, also has a rich history dating back to 1933 when it was founded by local dentist Charlie Nichols.

Club secretary John Staveley said: 'There have been a lot of changes over the years, not just in the styles of the boats.

'Up to the 1960s and 1970s, cigarette companies such as John Player used to sponsor the racing and, in that high-profile era, big crowds used to gather to watch it in the park.

'However, even today, especially in the height of the summer, there can be good crowds of spectators.'

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Racing, which continues on Thursdays throughout July and August, culminates in special final events at 4pm on Monday, August 31 and Sunday September 6; the races are conducted in classes for catamarans, juniors, hydroplanes and supercats.

Mr Staveley said: 'Most races start on an individual, computer-calculated handicap basis. This gives a chance to smaller, and in some cases hand-built, boats to compete.'

After LOBMC was formed, the Daily Mirror sponsored what was initially an offshore motor boat race with a £100 prize; after three years racing switched to Oulton Broad in 1936.

In the immediate post-war era, racer Toby Sutton's Lycoming-powered Whisso-Bang acquired almost legendary status locally and that was superceded by his spectacular inboard hydroplane Rooster.

At the opposite end of the speed spectrum, Oulton Broad was also the place where Robert Richardson bought his first motor boat, heralding the beginning of the Broads boating dynasty.

In recent years, Rooster was rescued from the scrap heap and put on display at Pleasurewood Hills theme park in Lowestoft.

Bob Spalding became the club's first world champion in when he won the F1 series in 1980 and a further milestone came in 1985 with a visit by the Queen and Prince Philip who watched a drive-past of racing boats.

In 1998 and again in 2007 the club staged a world championship race on the broad with racers coming from as far afield as China and the US.

The lightning-fast lap record of 27.78 seconds was set in 1984 by the late Tom Percival in a F1 Hodges catamaran powered by a 3,500cc Evinrude outboard.

•This article was brought to you by Richardson's Boating Holidays. Follow the link to find out more on the history of Oulton Broad and the role it played in the growth of Broads holidays at Norfolk Broads Boating Holidays.