Speed racer: We go for a ride on the P1 Panther powerboat
What does it feel like to be on a boat going at 100kmph? We find out.HT48HRS_Special Updated: Feb 25, 2017 12:15 IST
We are at the Indian Naval Watermanship Training Centre (INWTC), Pilot Bunder, Colaba. It’s at the edge of Mumbai, with the Arabian Sea stretching out before us. You don’t feel like you’re in the city anymore — no high-rises around, no cars honking. Only low-rise army quarter buildings. Even the few taxis around are driving within speed limits.
In contrast, we are here for a ride on the P1 Panther, a racing boat that is popularly used in water-racing across the world. Think Ducati for the sea. This is ahead of the Indian Grand Prix of the Seas, an international water racing event that’s set to launch on Marine drive from March 3 to 5.
The 26ft long boat is anchored to a concrete slope leading into the water. We are strapped with a life jacket, and helped onto the boat. Our driver, Ganesh, warns us not to stand during the ride. “Seat pe hi giroge, par chot lag jayegi (You’ll fall back in your seat, but it’ll hurt).”
Soon, we’re heading out to sea. About 50ft in, Ganesh turns to us: “Ready?” he asks, like the captain of the USS Enterprise about to enter warp speed. We nod. And off we go.
Imagine you’re on a roller coaster sitting in the front seat. The wind makes your skin ripple. You are pinned to your seat, and are unable to even look sideways to see your co-passengers.
A powerboat ride is exactly like a roller coaster but on open waters. We’re sailing at 50 knots (92km per hour). Sure, that’s not much on the road. But we are bouncing off waves. And on water, we can make sharp turns without slowing down. One minute, we can only see the horizon. The next, buildings along Marine Drive are zipping past. We can almost hear the Baywatch soundtrack playing in the background.
This speed is actually considered slow. It won’t win you races. Professional powerboat pilots can drive the P1 up to 113kmph (250 kmph on road; according to p1india.com). Come March, seven teams from all over the world are set to battle it out on a 5.2km racing track off Marine Drive.
“The Grand Prix is the first powerboat race in India. And though the action is going to take place on the sea, it’s going to be just along the Marine Drive promenade. The boats are equipped to race in shallow water, so Mumbaikars can cheer for their team from the shore,” says Anil Singh, managing director, Procam International, a sports events organising firm, which is bringing the event to India.