SIMON Harding is understandably thrilled to have won the British P750 Thundercat title in his category of Powerboat Racing and a measure of the esteem in which he is held can gauged from the fact that at the end of a hard season’s racing he scored enough points to gain the title of ‘British Champion Driver’ and ‘British Champion Team’.

His undoubted watchword was consistency because Simon was placed in all the races at venues as far afield as Caernarvon, Fistral Beach (Newquay), Liverpool, Bournemouth and Clevedon before the finals on The Solent at the Isle of Wight, coming first in Caernarvon and Bournemouth.

“There are three different types of racing,” explained Simon, “Surf, Circuit and Long Haul, which is my favourite because it takes place over 68 miles and demands total focus in my Thundercat boat, and assisted by a few co-drivers who have been a great help, including Tom Hamilton, Rylan Edwards, Mark Lloyd and Mike Littler for those final, vital races.

“So I was chuffed that the final was over that long distance. I was just a point ahead going into it and came second, but that was comfortably enough because my main rival was further down the list of competitors.

“It all seems a long way from the time I first started out because as a younger feller I was very involved with horses and used to ride promising young horses for Sheik Mohammed at the Herringswell Bloodstock Services.

“I was there for four years, helping to break in his yearlings and I really enjoyed my role but then one day one of them reared up unexpectedly and I broke my pelvis in four places so that was the end of my equine career.”

But once he had recovered Simon needed something else to focus on physically and he started out on the water with Pembrokeshire Paddlers and enjoyed kayaking for several years.

From this introduction to the waves Simon became an instructor of youngsters with Pembroke County Council at Warrior Way before becoming the deputy marine manager at Lydstep Beach, dealing with customers and instructors alike in launching and recovering boats.

“Then I enjoyed another role as I helped a disabled student at Ysgol Dyffryn Taf and as well as taking an interest in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme I started up an indoor rowing team which went to Birmingham for the national indoor championships and came second.

“From there I started to help Ceri Davies at Swansea Water Sports as a freelance jet skier and power boat instructor, as well as demonstrating the Thundercat power boats at venues like Margam Park - and enjoyed it so much that I decided to try competitive races and bought a second-hand boat.

“To be honest it didn’t stand the rigours of racing over a period of time so I acquired a new hull, using the old engine, before I built a new boat to race in the ‘stock’ class for modified engines.

“I did this for four years and enjoyed every moment of it alongside Tom Hamilton as co-pilot, with the highlight in the British Championships being a final heat in Cardiff Bay where we were in with a chance but blew our gear box.

“It meant we had to fit a new gearbox in a hurry but we did really well to finish in second place despite these problems!”

The next stage in Simon’s development was to go to the 2012 World Championships in Grimstadt, Norway, and shared the boat with Joe Farley; and did well - and in 2016 went out to the World Championships in Malta with Kurt Croft from Pembroke and they came a hugely creditable world ranking of fifth.

Simon was also joined by Rylan Edwards (Goodwick) and more recently Mark Lloyd, from Pontypridd, as co-pilots, and the 2017 racing calendar has seen his No 51 boat go from strength to strength as he has been helped with the fine tuning by Martin and Tom, of Bury Port Marine Services, plus Jeff at Ocean racing from Gosport, with regard to the engine building.

Also of help for Simon Harding were bworx Ltd, Italy, and ‘percolated design’, and he was able to celebrate his success with sponsors Synchro Motor Factors.

He had moved up a class to ‘Modified’ (no holds barred with regard to engine modifications) but was still approximately 10hp down on most of the opposition, but such was his consistency that he was in contention throughout and ended up as champion against 17 other top racers.

As well as his undoubted successes Simon has also experienced some hair-raising spills and one of the scariest was in the UK Championships last year when the late arrival of a new hull from South Africa meant it had to be assembled quickly and with a little time less than normal for pre-race practice.

“It was in my third practice lap that I caught a rogue wave and before I knew it I was well and truly dunked in the water and saw the boat starting to fill up - but we managed to drag it back to shore, worked on the engine and within half an hour we had it restarted and I did what we all do in power-boat racing, which is get straight back in and have another go!”

So what of the future?

One of Simon’s ambitions would be to move up into Class 3 Offshore Racing but knows that it will need a bigger boat, usually 18 feet long and with a 135hp engine that would reach 75-85 miles per hour.

But he is lucky to have every support from his wife Nia, whilst eight year old son Tomos is taking an interest and could well end up in the junior section of the sport once he is old enough!

There’s one thing for sure and it’s a fact that whatever Simon Harding chooses to do it will be with a highly competitive approach and determination to do his best in the hurly burly action of power boat racing – and we wish this modest and unassuming Pembrokeshire flag-bearer in his sport continued success in all he does!