POWERBOAT racing has traditionally been recognised as a male dominated sport, but throughout the sport's long history, women have certainly made their mark.

To mark the 60th anniversary of the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes race tomorrow (Monday) — recognised as being one of the world's toughest powerboat races — some of the sport's most influential women are celebrated.

It is relatively unknown the very first powerboat race was won by a woman — Dorothy Levitt in 1903, in Cork, from the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

In doing so, Levitt won the Harmsworth Trophy, one seen by many racers in Cowes over the past 60 years.

Isle of Wight County Press: One of the Island entries in the 60th Cowes-Torquay-Cowes race on bank holiday Monday.One of the Island entries in the 60th Cowes-Torquay-Cowes race on bank holiday Monday.

A true pioneer of female independence, she unfortunately didn’t get to race in Cowes,
dying aged 40 in 1922.

However, many strong females followed in her footsteps.

Betty Carstairs, born in Mayfair, London, to an American heiress in 1900, was fondly known for her eccentric nature and love of speed.

She was a wealthy British powerboat racer who socialised with the likes of actresses Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo — and even Oscar Wilde’s niece, Dolly.

Carstairs won the coveted Duke of York’s Trophy in 1926, the Royal Motor Yacht Club International Race, the Daily Telegraph Cup, and the Bestise and Lucina Cup, but the
one she really wanted was the Harmsworth Trophy.

Isle of Wight County Press: Lady Violet Aitken.Lady Violet Aitken.

In 1929, she raced at Cowes in her boat Estelle IV and remained on the Isle of Wight for a few years, setting up her own boatbuilding yard on the Medina, in East Cowes, commissioning Sammy Saunders as designer and builder.

Lady Violet Aitken, a pioneer in so many ways, was the daughter of Sir Humphrey de Trafford.

Lady Vi, as she was fondly known, had already watched the Miami Nassau race in 1956 alongside her husband, Sir Max Aitken, second Baron Beaverbrook, so when he organised the first Cowes to Torquay race in 1961, she was already a fan when she raced in it in 1963 — finishing sixth, ahead of her husband.

Over the next few years, Aitken drove many boats to victory and, in 1969, Ford asked
her to drive their Fairey Huntsman 28 in the first Round Britain Powerboat Race — a gruelling two-week, 1,700-mile battle against the elements.

Along with crew-mate Thelma Freeman, she won the Woman’s Prize and came fifth overall, with many teams not even finishing the treacherous race.

Isle of Wight County Press: Lady Arran.Lady Arran.

For all those who love their history, they can visit the Max Aitken Museum on Cowes High Street.

Scottish-born Countess of Arran, or Lady Arran, Fiona Bryde Colquhoun, was a thrill-seeker from a young age and known for saying: "I only drive at two speeds — flat out and stop!"

Lady Arran was even known in the close circles of powerboat racing to have stowed away in Sir Henry Segrave’s record-setting boat on Lake Windermere, when she was just a young girl.

Her powerboat career began in 1965 and she became the fastest woman on water.

In 1971, Colquhoun took the Class 1 record at Windermere, running 85.63mph in her boat Highland Fling.

Colquhoun enjoyed a colourful life and lived until she was 94.

Isle of Wight County Press: Betty Cook.Betty Cook.

Betty Cook, nicknamed the Queen of Offshore by her male counterparts.

She was one of the best — if not the best — and went on to win 17 races and two world
championship titles.

In 1978, Cook decided to compete in the UK in the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes, after a famous raceboat designer announced "you’re not a real offshore powerboat champion unless you have competed — and preferably won — the Cowes-Torquay." 

Betty went on to win it, setting a course record at an average speed of 77.4mph — completing it in under three hours, at 2hrs 58mins 34secs, alongside British navigator, Mike Mantle.

Mantle will be attending the 60th anniversary race tomorrow.

Isle of Wight County Press: Islander Laura Aitken.Islander Laura Aitken.

The Island's very own Laura Aitken, followed in her mothers’ footsteps and had that thrill for speed from a very young age.

Aitken first raced in the Cowes-Torquay in 1970 at the tender age of 16, winning the youngest driver award in 1972 and 1973.

Her brother, Lord Beaverbrook, is a fond lover of powerboats and has competed in many offshore races, especially the ‘family’s race’, the Cowes-Torquay.

Her love for powerboat racing has never dwindled and, to this day, she carries on the family tradition — at the helm of powerboat racing in Cowes since her father passed away.

She is known as a gregarious and friendly lady — the life and soul of every party — with an aim to always make sure everyone is safe and happy, both on land and on water.

Isle of Wight County Press: Laura Aitken.Laura Aitken.

Aitken runs the British Powerboat Racing Club (BPRC) alongside her husband, Martin Levi.

Most of her team, if not all, are former racers and champions of the sport — hand-picked to run the world’s most prestigious event and make it the best race on the offshore  calendar, never failing to deliver.

Gina Campbell, the granddaughter to Sir Malcolm Campbell and daughter of the world-famous Donald Campbell, started off as a competitive showjumper, with a keen love for horses.

But with a father like legendary Donald Campbell, she raced with Mike Standring to win both the Royal Yachting Association(RYA) National Championships and the United Kingdom Offshore Boating Association (UKOBA) Championships in 1984.

Isle of Wight County Press: Gina Campbell.Gina Campbell.

It wasn’t long before Campbell started setting records herself — achieving a speed of
122.85mph in Nottingham to claim her first women's world water speed record.

Tracie Clarke, 55, was the first British woman to win a world powerboat championship as a driver as part of an all-female team, alongside Donna James, in 1989, in her boat Clarke Power Products.

She took up the sport through her father, John Clarke, a successful offshore racer himself.

With deep pockets, it opened up an easy route for his daughter to start racing with
Cowes on her doorstep.

Clarke also raced with Koo Stark, the famous American photographer and former girlfriend of Prince Andrew.

She retired from racing soon after her title win and went back to her first love, which was horses and show jumping.

Isle of Wight County Press: Sarah Donohue.Sarah Donohue.

Sarah Donohue, the current race secretary for the Cowes-Torquay event, worked alongside Aitken — starting her offshore powerboat career in 1993 under the Los Locos team, owned by close friend, the late Charles Burnett III, heir to the family interests of Selfridges, Fortnum and Mason and Primark.

Donohue, alongside team-mate Deborah Cottrell, came third in the 1.3 litre 1995 European Championships in Italy and, in 2001, took the European Championship title alongside Ricky Hill.

She took the Lady of the Lake speed trophy on Windermere and the Ladies' Prize at
this famous Cowes-Torquay event in the late 90s.

In 1999, Donohue had a serious crash and was resuscitated on the deck of her boat.

Isle of Wight County Press: Sarah Donohue today.Sarah Donohue today.

She was airlifted and hooked up to a life-support machine, but this didn’t stop her love for the sport.

Donohue raced in America for Lucus Oil in the Superboat class and also Reindl Powerboats, becoming the One Design American Powerboat Association’s (APBA) national champion in 2004.

In Cowes, 2010, she gaining a third place.

Donohue was also the lead stunt woman in the 007 movie, The World is Not Enough.

Lucci Levi, 27, a third generation of the Aitken family, took to the water like her mother
and her grandmother.

She was also the great granddaughter of newspaper proprietor, Lord Beaverbrook.

Levi started in boats as a child, but didn’t start racing until she was 17, being taught by
Powerboat Racing World’s John Moore.

Isle of Wight County Press: Lucci Levi, right, and Ali Langdon.Lucci Levi, right, and Ali Langdon.

Her fist race was with another female racer, Rose Lores in a Superstock boat, powered by a Honda 150hp.

But on meeting Ali Langdon, son of champion powerboat racer, Drew Langdon, she jumped ship. Drew was another winner of the Harmsworth Trophy and, in 2018, Levi started to race with Ali, who took after his dad on water with a keen eye for speed.

Levi has won the youngest driver award three times at Cowes and has a string of podium
places, but has yet to win overall, but she is still young and has plenty of time to collect all the accolades she is expected to.