Ken Cassir, the 1977 winner of the Cowes Torquay Cowes, passed away yesterday with his family around him, he was 83.
Cassir will be remembered in Offshore Racing for winning in Class 1 in a Cougar Catamaran for the very first time.
As Kevin Desmond explained in 2002:
So far Cougar had built cats for both Class II and III.
If only they could get one contract for a Class I boat!
That chance came in 1977, Ken Cassir, Clive Curtis’ old friend, had not been having much success with a Cigarette 36 at the World Offshore Championships in South America.
He suddenly had the idea of commissioning James beard to design a Class I Offshore catamaran, Cassir recalled:
James wanted to put the engines in the wing.
I asked him if he could put them in the sponsons.
Yellowdrama III was built and was duly taken down to Poole to race. It was a hit of a failure; the steering was not strong enough to take the stresses of twin McLaren Chevrolet engines.
But we persevered and put in new steering. But even then we had various engine problems in the races leading up to the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes. Indeed Yellowdrama III never actually finished a race.
On the day before the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes race, one of the engines had blown up, working through the night John Hodder and Clive Curtis rebuilt the engine, but as Cassir said:
I didn’t really take it too seriously because we didn’t think we would last very long.
We then left our lifejackets back in Netley and had to borrow a couple.
But James nursed those engines and somehow we lasted down to Torquay, the sixth boat to get there.
We had nothing to lose on the return, we started overtaking the rest of the boats one by one. At Portland Bill we were one of the four leading boats – with Unowat, Limit Up and Alitalia Due.
If we could keep our engines going, we could win the race, because the calm sunny conditions favoured the faster top speed of our design.
We allowed John Irving, navigating excellently for Alitalia Due to find the North Head buoy for us then overtook her going past Hurst Point.
Towards the end of the race a helicopter timed us doing 95 mph. Cougar had at last proved that even in Class I, catamarans could be V bottoms. Clive Curtis was so pleased with the victory that he jumped into the water.
The following April of 1978 in the far from ideal conditions, Cassir drove Yellowdrama III to a new Class I offshore record of 92.16 mph.
Clive’s son, multi world champion, Steve said last night:
What a fantastic man, he had faith in my father and James and ultimately paved the way to offshore as we know it today, he was one of the founding fathers of caterman powerboats as we know them to day.
Ken was always very kind to me and I will always think of him m as an inspiration in racing and life.
John raced Offshore UIM Class 3 in the 1980’s & 1990’s.
He served as the Cowes Torquay Cowes Event Director for 4 years, including running the 50 th Anniversary Event in 2010.
He has recently organised 4 British Offshore races under UKOPRA sanction.
He is the Editor of Powerboat Racing World.