Powerboat racing has the potential to get your heart racing. The speed and adrenaline has many hooked on to it. Bouncing around at speeds of close to 120 kmph in the high seas can never be easy. Add to that the tide and the currents, and you have a heady mix that could make nerves of the calmest of souls to jangle.
A multitude of these adrenaline junkies will converge at Mumbai’s famed Marine Drive over the course of the weekend for the inaugural P1 Indian Grand Prix, the latest addition to the world powerboat movement.
One among them is 29-year-old Daisy Coleman. A former Lance Bombardier with the Royal British Artillery, Daisy has seen here fair share of near misses.
It was one such incident that forced her to be medically discharged from duty. She suffered a severe shoulder injury during her tour in Afghanistan. She was even diagnosed with a case of Ankylosing Spondylitis, a condition that made the spine vulnerable to injury.
Having joined the army in 2004 at the age of 18, it was all she ever knew doing. She spent nine years in the military with tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of Britain’s Royal Artillery regiment. She flew Unmanned Aerial Vehicles while there. Unfortunately, her stint abruptly ended.
To add salt to injury, her condition meant she could never pursue her passion of horse-riding even after leaving the army.
In a lucky break, she was directed towards the world of powerboat racing during sessions with a charity that helped war veterans make a smooth transition into civilian life.
“My confidence was shattered after the injury. It was a tough phase to come out of. Powerboat racing played an important point of transition for me,” says Daisy, who is in Mumbai to compete in the P1 India Grand Prix.
Transition into civilian life
Sitting in the makeshift paddock of her team Baleno RS Boosterjets at the Indian Naval Watermanship Training Centre in Colaba, Daisy recalled her journey that has travailed through a quaint small town of Pembrokeshire in the United Kingdom to the Afghanistan and Iraq and now Mumbai.
Soon after being medically discharged, Daisy made an early decision to make powerboat racing her primary pursuit. Extensive rehabilitation helped her achieve the necessary fitness, but there were other problems to contend with. “I faced a lot of ridicule for being a novice in the powerboating world. Not knowing what is what for starters can get you in a lot of trouble on a boat,” she says. “I have even been taunted for being a woman and with cliché of women not being able to read maps being thrown around,” she added.
The initial ragging though was never going to faze the army veteran, who soon took it in her stride. She trained under seven-time world champion Neil Holmes. In her debut race, Daisy stunned the field with a podium finish. She was soon upstaging more experienced racers.
“At the end of 2012 the class I was racing for with Mission Motorsport folded and the charity was unable to support us in the bigger class. Then I received a phone call from ex-champion John Wilson and was asked if I would step in to navigate for him in the bigger 250 class.
“I took up the challenge. We secured multiple podium finishes; finishing 3rd in the championships in 2013 and 2014. They finished 2nd a year later,” she added.
A brother-sister duo
In 2013, Wilson retired. Daisy has since been racing alongside her brother, Sam, who is also her partner at the ongoing Indian Grand Prix.
Last year, just four years after taking up powerboating, Daisy enrolled herself to be part of a 12-member crew - Team Britannia - that attempted to circumnavigate the globe in a powerboat.
It was a huge leap of faith for someone, who had stepped in a powerboat for the first time in 2013. With a crew comprising of fellow war veterans, injured during their time in Afghanistan and Iraq, Daisy set sail on her on a new chapter in her life.
Unfortunately, the start was delayed due to technical problems with the customised powerboat. A new start date is still awaited.
Sitting in Mumbai, Daisy is far away from the constant danger that engulfed her while in the war-torn states of Afghanistan and Iraq. She, however, refrains from talking much about her missions or her injury.
“The focus is now solely on racing,” says Daisy, who specialises in being a navigator. “Let’s talk about powerboats. I remember the first time I sat in one of these machines. I was rattled to the core. Jumping around in the ocean in a steel container is not an ideal place to be in.”
“I came out thinking to myself, I am never going back in there. Few minutes later, the results were announced and I had made it onto the podium. The competitor in me has since dissuaded any notions of ever not going back into a powerboat.”