Imagine 40,000 motor bike enthusiasts on a small island with NO SPEED LIMITS and the only rule being that you must follow the race circuit in the same direction as the professionals!
Every year there are multiple deaths on Mad Sunday but that does not deter the weekend warriors. We stayed clear of the roads and enjoyed the festival day in Peel where ‘Roaring Meg’
was moored. Lots of stall holders and a small fun fair and thousands of people.
I received a text from Richard Uttley to say that his father John and stepson Lee would be at the Waldeck Hotel in Peel by 4 pm that afternoon. So armed with a gas bottle that needed filling
I climbed up the dockside ladder en route for the Waldeck only to find John and Lee standing above looking down on our yacht! After a quick of introductions we proceeded to the PEVERIL,
a pub that we had adopted as head office. It was heaving and as I queued at one bar John queued at another and alas we had ‘two rounds in’! Well a bird can’t fly on one wing and so down they went along with a lot of banter. A big slap up meal followed at a Chinese restaurant who were still serving after 9pm and the food was good.
Monday was a new day with a bigger group John, Lee, Paul, Graham, Rory, myself and our new guide to the Isle of Man, MARK THE LOCAL. John suggested we grab a taxi and get him to drive the entire course of the TT ( 37.7 miles) stopping for a commentary at key features on the track. The first observation is that the track is not a smooth surface and has the usual bumps and potholes that you would expect with any country roads. Secondly that there were a number of rises in the road that would not only kick up the front wheel of the race machines but launch the entire bike into the air. The rock walls and metal barriers were protected with hay bales but at an average speed of 130 MPH the net result of one small error in judgement would be the same – GAME OVER!
The taxi dropped us off this time at “Quarter Bridge”, a spot near Douglas where the riders arrive at the bottom of a hill doing MACH 10 before braking heavily for a sharp right hand bend – at least you had time to read the numbers from the bikes. The event was the 650cc. Supersport TT. We were supporting the Kiwi rider Bruce Anstey who has been racing on the Isle of Man for the last 18 years. At one stage he lead the race and finished a very close second being only 1.5 seconds behind the winner Gary Johnson. It was a 4 lap event and each lap 37.7 miles. When the riders were interviewed Anstey said he was out front when they reached the mountain section at 2034 ft. and it had been raining on the third lap. He pushed the bike as hard as he dared but could not judge the exact conditions with no riders in front of him.
By the time we had walked back into Douglas the organisers had decided to call off the sidecar practice as conditions had deteriorated and it was too dangerous. We toured the pit area where the race teams prepared the bikes. We were surprised to see four Japanese engineers with lots of analytic equipment working on Anstey’s bike. The tyres that he had used to smash the lap record were sitting in a rack with the lap record written on them in chalk.
‘Man of the match’, for this years TT Racing was Michael Dunlop from Ballymoney in northern Ireland. He achieved three wins in three different categories. His uncle Joey Dunlop was a motor bike super hero in road racing and obviously Michael has attained the same skill level. When we walked past his pit area he was signing autographs so Kiwi hero Rory McGuigan had his photo
taken with him!
While waiting for a taxi we met a Maori woman (Corinne) who had lived on the IOM for a couple of years before moving to London. She greeted us like long lost friends. She had seen us walking by wearing the All Black shirts and caps and it must have stirred up a longing for
Aotearoa, the land of the Long White Cloud. She had lived for 2 years on the Isle of Man before moving to London for work.The day turned cold and so it was back to the yacht for the old Kiwi favourite Fish ‘n Chips.
Tuesday 3 May was a fine day and as we were all leaving the island it was decided to catch a taxi to a vantage point on the outside of the course that would allow us to exit early. John and Lee had a plane to catch and we could only leave the harbour up until 5pm and before the tide receded. We chose Ballacraine and found a good spot along the straight. Sometimes Man and machine passed as close a metre from where we stood. You could feel the air draft as machine and rider hurtled past. This event was again won by Michael Dunlop who dominated the event.
We said goodbye to John, Lee and Mark and sailed out of Peel Harbour en route for Bangor Bay in the Lough of Belfast. We had fair winds and after a short sail we arrived off Bangor Marina
at 0100hrs. The anchor party dropped anchor a short distance outside of the mole and we were tucked up for the night. When we woke in the morning it was raining and Meg was rolling from port to starboard on a heavy swell so we “pulled the pick” and steamed into Bangor Marina.