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Former world champion Chris Marshall makes surprise return to local powerboat scene

Chris Marshall in action with co-pilot Kenneth Matthie during last month’s Bermuda Power Boat Association’s season opener (Photograph supplied)

Chris Marshall was back competing in Bermuda waters for the first time in three decades last month.

The former professional racer and three-times S class world and US national champion took part in the A class with co-pilot Kenneth Matthie at the Bermuda Power Boat Association’s season opener at Ferry Reach .

“"The last time I actually raced in Bermuda was probably 1990 or 1991, so it’s been almost 35 years since I have raced here,” Marshall told The Royal Gazette.

Marshall did not manage to pick up a win on his return, finishing runner-up behind Shane Madeiros and Erin Butterfield.

“We had a bunch of mechanical problems that we are still trying to sort out,” Marshall added.

“I was commodore of the [Bermuda] Power Boat Association back in the 1980s and I have to say the committee that is running it right now is really committed.

“They do a really good job down at the racetrack and I have been really impressed with what they are doing and think they deserve a lot of credit as it’s not an easy job.”

The 68-year-old has come out of retirement to groom his grandson, Jacari Marshall, who has also taken a liking to the sport.

“I had a hard time going down to Ferry Reach because if I was down there watching boats I wanted to be in a boat,” Marshall said.

“It’s hard to explain but I couldn’t watch the boats without being in a boat. But then my grandson was growing up and I’d take him down just so he could see the racing. Last year after the Round the Island Race he said he wants to race boats, so I asked his mother for permission first, and she said yes.

“He’s away in school now but I am trying to get a boat. We are working with old equipment here but are trying to get a boat together so it’s competitive for when he comes back.

“The idea is really to get his boat for him and then let him get the feel of it before basically passing it over to him and his friends to start getting into boating, and I would go down there and help them.”

Marshall is delighted to see his grandson following in his footsteps.

“It does make me happy that he's interested in doing it,” he said.

“I can tell from just things we have done that he's got the feel for the boats and the speeds, which makes me happy that he has that enthusiasm.”

The three-times A class Round the Island Race winner helped put Bermuda on the world powerboat racing map in the P1 Offshore S class in the United States alongside American colleague Dennis Berry back in his heyday.

“The S class is so competitive and is just a great class,” Marshall added.

“I can’t even explain the feeling of driving one of those boats. I guess the easiest way to explain is it’s one of the few things I did in life that the only thing you were thinking about is what you were doing in that moment of time.

“Your mind was never wandering. You always had to look at the next wave or where everybody was, so it was pure concentration. It wasn't an exhausting concentration, but was more like an exhilarating concentration because you were in the moment.”

Marshall’s success overseas on the professional circuit has inspired others to pursue a career at that level, such as compatriot David Selley, who is presently competing with Steven Bridges in the S class in the US.

“It’s fantastic to see those guys competing over there,” he said.

“That’s a really competitive class. They have a lot of competitors in that class as well and they are doing really well.”

Pilot Selley and throttle man Bridges were forced to settle for fourth at last month’s Thunder on Cocoa Beach offshore races in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and sixth at last weekend’s Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri after suffering technical problems.

“They have had some unfortunate mechanical issues,” Marshall said.

“But as far as pure driving and throttling of that boat, they are right up there with everybody.”

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Published June 07, 2024 at 11:24 am (Updated June 08, 2024 at 8:23 am)

Former world champion Chris Marshall makes surprise return to local powerboat scene

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