Thirty years ago this month I was asked by fellow powerboat racing photographer, Brian Platt who back then ran Verwood Photographic Studios if I wanted to join him for a trip down to Monte Carlo.
As a novice photographer in offshore racing the prospect of attending the UIM Class 1 Offshore World Championships in such an amazing venue was too good an opportunity to turn down.
I needed ‘Media Accreditation’ so after a quick phone call to Pat Ainge at Powerboating International magazine I was sorted.
Brian had been asked to take down a van full of spare parts for the Debenhams backed racing team as their mono-hulls gearboxes were prone to the odd issue.
Having navigated non-stop through the night we arrived at the Monaco Harbour entrance.
Fortunately for us Roger Fletcher was waiting there to get us into the pit area where we parked up near the swimming pool.
This was going to be ‘a low – to no budget ‘ trip for both of us, which meant when we off loaded the teams spare parts the van became our ‘hotel’ room for the duration.
On the plus side when I presented the ‘Press Officer’ with my letter from Pat Ainge it immediately opened up a whole host of privileges, including journalists luncheon each day in the Café de Paris restaurant next to the Casino.
We had already missed Heat One of the Championships but with two to go the prospect of some great pictures lay before me but with only a handful of films in my pocket I knew I had to be selective when it came to pressing the shutter.
Heat Two race day morning and having freshly showered in the swimming pool complex I headed over to the harbour to photograph the various entries heading out to the muster area.
Then as the flare went off the fleet made its way past us as we watched on from the harbour wall. Closest to us was the 42-foot catamaran, Pinot di Pinot, throttled by Princess Caroline of Monaco’s husband the defending World Champion Stefano Casiraghi and driven by Patrice Innocenti.
A little while later some of the entries started to limp back in with mechanical issues but the mood suddenly took on a more solemn note with news that there had been an incident involving Casiraghi.
Whilst trying to make up for time they had lost earlier in the race, when they had stopped to assist a competitor’s raceboat that had caught fire, Pinot di Pinot had crashed out at 150 kmph, killing Casiraghi and seriously injuring Innocenti.
One of the first to arrive on the scene was Britain’s Steve Curtis and despite valiant efforts he was unable to free Casiraghi from the upturned hull.
Amid all the confusion on shore I got talking to Ray Bulman, who was there reporting for the Daily Telegraph or at least trying too, as the Monagasque authorities had shut down all telephone links with the outside world due to the severity of the incident.
It soon transpired that the remaining round of the championship would now not take place and that all privileges were null and void.
So, with little else to do Brian and I headed back to England.
When I finally arrived home my parents were surprised that I was back so soon as little or no news about the death of Casiraghi had filtered through.
His funeral Mass was held in Monaco’s Cathedral of St. Nicholas eight years after Princess Grace’s funeral in the same place.
He was just thirty years old and had planned to retire after the World Championships.
Having only been photographing powerboat racing for three years it struck me that I had been at races that had seen the demise of Didier Pironi and now Stefano Casiraghi, what I hadn’t imagined at that time was that it wouldn’t be the last fatality that I would witness.