Legend of Oulton Broad finally comes home
For nearly a decade she was the fastest powerboat on Oulton Broad, her striking aluminium hull skipping over the surface like a water-borne E-Type Jaguar.
For nearly a decade she was the fastest powerboat on Oulton Broad, her striking aluminium hull speeding across the surface like a water-borne E-Type Jaguar.
Fifty years on, and still a crowd-puller, Rooster finally made it home to Lowestoft after an epic life journey to be welcomed at her new place of honour in Pleasurewood Hills theme park.
Among those gathered to watch the park's general manager Alex Camelin unveil the gleaming hypdroplane speedboat on Saturday was Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Motor Boat Club member Dennis Lord, 59, who remembers the fateful summer night in 1960 when Rooster's reign over the broad dramatically ended in a fire ball sparked by a fuel pipe leak.
While driver and owner Toby Sutton escaped with severe burns the explosion heralded the end of Rooster's racing days after a glittering eight-year run which had seen her win Oulton Broad's Battle of Britain trophy and set new lap records for the broad reaching speeds of more than 60mph.
Mr Lord, of Fir Lane, Lowestoft, recalled that part of Rooster's magnetism had been her innovative design, one of the first boats of its kind to be built in the area.
To satisfy his ambition for owning the fastest powerboat on the broad, Mr Sutton, a businessman who owned a chain of garages and fish shops, had sourced the two-bladed prop and six-cylinder Wayne Chevrolet engine in the US while the hull was coachbuilt by Albatross Marine of St Olaves, near Great Yarmouth.
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However, following the explosion, the wreckage of Rooster was left to slowly rot in the garden of his St Olaves home until boating enthusiast and Lowestoft College engineering lecturer Ken Rix bought her as scrap and set out to revive her glory days in 1979.
With the help of his students, he rebuilt the hull and installed a more modern five-litre Chevrolet engine, but in subsequent trials on the broad she was never able to capture her former speed again.
In 1987, Rooster became a star exhibit at the National Motorboat Museum in Basildon, Essex, but her future was again thrown into uncertainty when the museum closed in December 2009.
Pleasurewood Hills' employee Tony Bayliss, who knew Mr Rix, had the idea of bringing Rooster to the park and he has been instrumental in repainting her with colleague Steve Harvey.
Mr Rix, 66, of Foxborough Road, Lowestoft, said: 'When I found her in 1979 I virtually had to dig her out from the side of the road. I thought it would make a good project for my students.
'I am so pleased that Rooster will live on at Pleasurewood Hills. It's so important that she remains in the local area. She is part of Suffolk's local heritage and should live on for everyone to see.'
Mr Camelin said: 'We are delighted to rescue Rooster from an uncertain future and bring it to Pleasurewood Hills where thousands of visitors can enjoy it each year.
'Rooster has a fascinating history and we hope it becomes a welcome addition to the rides and shows we currently have at the park.'