Bring on the torpedo: we’re starting to bounce back

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Within the yachting and boating fraternity the name Sunseeker has become synonymous with Poole in Dorset.

To those who move in such circles, the luxury motor yacht brand has become an icon.

Established there in 1979, possibly to derision from those who predicted it might not last, the company now employs 2,000 and last year made £320m. Not bad in a deep recession.

Move east along the coast to the Portsmouth area and, fingers crossed, it is possible we might win a similar reputation. Not in 10 years, but within the next two.

Today we reveal Alan Priddy’s exciting plan to race around the world in 53 days. Not in a balloon, but in a ‘super boat’ – one built at Hayling Island. He hopes he and his £3.8m torpedo boat will knock seven days off that 60-day, round-the-world record.

Before you scoff, Mr Priddy, Portsmouth born and bred, knows what he’s doing. He circumnavigated the world in a yacht in 2008 and has beaten 37 world records on the sea.

All great news for Hayling, but Mr Priddy envisages an even greater spin-off for Portsmouth, where he plans to build the torpedo boat on the back of what we all hope will be his successful record attempt.

That could bring 300 jobs, secure long-term commercial boatbuilding for the city and its hinterland and attract huge amounts of investment for Portsmouth.

Coupled with Sir Ben Ainslie’s plans to build Britain’s America’s Cup ocean-racing yachts at Old Portsmouth, we are beginning to sniff the spring air of a revival in the Portsmouth area’s maritime future.

Sceptics might sneer at this – luxury boats for those with millions to spend. But jobs are jobs and we have the skillbase. Look at how many of those once employed in the boatbuilding industry around here were snapped up by Rolls-Royce when it came to Goodwood.

Suddenly things are beginning to look up. After last week’s Scottish independence vote warship-building is not coming back, so bring on the torpedo and the super-yachts.

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