Ask a roomful of motorists if they’ve ever hit 100mph on public roads, and many will sheepishly raise a hand. But put the same question to a group of boaters and you’ll get a very different response.
The Vector V40 R is by no means a run-of-the-mill speedboat. It’s hand-crafted in Kelowna, Canada, using the latest materials and techniques. Fashioned from a concoction of Vinylester resin, super-tough E-glass, Kevlar and carbon fibre to reinforce the most vulnerable parts, it’s the perfect mix of strength and flexibility so the hull can absorb the sort of battering water inflicts at these speeds.
Arriving at a small harbour in Hampshire, at first it’s difficult to spot the white, Martini-stickered V40 R because the sleek machine sits so low in the water. The only thing guiding my senses is the intermittent bark of the V10 engines. But, once spotted, it’s difficult to ignore – the elongated nose, aggressively aerodynamic side strakes and multiple exhaust pipes at the rear signifying its speedy intent. If ever there were a supercar for the sea, this would be it.
The tie-in with Martini also seems a natural fit, as the Italian vermouth manufacturer has recently rekindled its love affair with motorsport after a long hiatus. “The livery is the perfect fit for our boat,” explains Vector pilot Pete Dredge. “Not only is it associated with the pinnacle of motorsport like Le Mans and Formula 1, but it also allows us access to the type of customer who might be interested in buying a boat like this.”
Pete goes on to tell me that Vector Racing had a serious presence at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix and certain well-heeled individuals were gifted a test drive in the US$1 million vessel. It goes without saying, customer interest piqued once the throttle was opened for the first time.
The boat also features one of the most sophisticated video set-ups in the world. A number of broadcast-quality cameras are situated inside and outside the vessel, so the crew can capture record attempts and high-octane racing in real time.
Alex Puczyniec, the chief photographer, explains that the cameras are encased in steel and then filled with nitrogen to prevent condensation build-up. “We’ve had situations where the cameras have experienced impacts that measure half a tonne. They’ve carried on filming without a hitch, like the strongest and most expensive GoPros you can imagine.”
The cameras aren’t just capturing footage for posterity: a reversing cam makes light work of tight docking manoeuvres, while a live feed from the engine bay allows Pete and his team to keep an eye on mechanicals.
“One of the team is constantly checking the cameras when we’re at full throttle,” says Pete. “If we see smoke, condensation or a jet of fluids from that area, we know it’s time to slow down and check everything is OK.”
There’s even an iPhone holder nestled in among the plethora of fire extinguishers and emergency breathing apparatus. According to the team, it can be linked into the sophisticated noise-cancelling comms system so the crew can make hands-free phone calls or even listen to a Spotify playlist (not highly recommended at top speed).
High seas lunacy
We slowly edge our way out of the harbour as Pete explains how I buckle the enormous lap harness and correctly fit my tiny, neck-mounted lifejacket. The twin V10 engines chug and splutter behind us as several cylinders are deactivated for emissions reasons. The bucket seats are surprisingly cosseting and I’m told that they feature a sophisticated air shock system that alleviates some of the bumps we’re about to experience. According to the crew, it’s not uncommon to experience 20Gs during some of the larger drops between waves.
The harbour opens up and Pete begins to apply more throttle – the remaining cylinders are called upon and the engines begin to roar in beautiful harmony. The bow lifts as the enormous propellers start putting the power down and the scenery out of the side windows suddenly speeds up. Fellow sailors in their weekend pleasure boats stare on slack-jawed as more and more throttle is applied.
“We’re at 150kph,” Pete shouts over the roar of the engines. It doesn’t feel like we’re speeding at all, as the craft practically wafts over the unpredictable Solent. I spot a small boat fully laden with people ahead but before I’ve had time to blink we’ve shot past them, soaring through the air.
Pete decides to repeat the run so we can get a little more speed; he pulls into a sharp right turn, the boat practically lying on its side as my seat lifts a few feet in the air. As I grab for the nearest handle, I can hear Pete chuckle over the intercom. He pulls harder on the steering wheel until it feels like we might flip over completely but the boat settles and the GPS-based speedometer tickles the 100mph mark.
“Not bad,” says Pete as he navigates another group of tiny sailboats on this busy stretch of water. “If there was less traffic, we could go even faster.” We hit over 160kph on that final run, plenty enough for a landlubber like me. Next up for the V40 R? An attempt on the Poole-Cherbourg cross-Channel world record in late February 2015. Don’t bet against the champagne corks popping once again.