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Tuesday 14th June 2022 10:00-13:00 Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth PO1 3LJ

High Speed Action on the Solent with RAF High Speed Launch, HSL 102

A morning of fast exhilarating impact photography in the company of HSL102 the RAF’s high speed recovery launch that dates back to the Battle of Britain.


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About this event

If you love high speed power boats and fast pace photography this is just what the doctor ordered! A morning’s sailing out of Portsmouth into the open waters of the Solent you will be astonished at just how fast HSL 102 is. With a top speed of in excess of 30 knots she will astound you as her skipper puts her through her paces doing figures of eight around us while we try to catch our breath before the next dynamic pass.

HSL 102, the only survivor of the 100 class in the UK, launched in 1936 and was one of the very first, fast offshore rescue boats in service with the Royal Air Force. She was one of the most technologically advanced production craft of the day, the brainchild of Hubert Scott-Paine. From his powerboat racing days, he developed the concept of fast planing 'hard chine' powerboats. He realised that boats which travelled over the surface of the water could travel more quickly and more efficiently than those which travelled through.

Of mahogany double-diagonal construction, she was powered by three Napier Sea Lion petrol engines. During the Battle of Britain, she was mostly based at Blyth, Northumberland. Her war service also included periods based on the Firth of Forth at Calshot. In two months in 1941, she rescued thirty-eight aircrew from the North Sea, including the crews of two German bombers. As a result, she was inspected by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in July 1941. When working off Calshot, she was damaged by a Messerschmitt 109 and her radio operator was killed. In 1943, she transferred to the Royal Navy for target towing, and paid off in 1946. She became a houseboat in Mill Creek at Darmouth and was in a sorry state when acquired for restoration. The extensive work needed was carried out by Powerboat Restorations at Fawley between 1993 and 1996. Three six-cylinder 420-bhp Cummins diesels were installed, giving a top speed of about 38knots.

On 5 July 1996, HSL 102 was relaunched at Fawley by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and was subsequently based at Lymington, Hampshire. In late 2009, she moved to Portsmouth following her acquisition by the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, with the help of a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Our morning with HSL 102 will see us leave Portsmouth Historic Dockyard at 10.00 and shadow her out of the Harbour and into open water. Once clear of the speed restrictions hold on as we will push out toward the famous Solent Forts where we will really see this icon of British Engineering push your photography skills. Not afraid of her and what she can achieve her skipper Richard will show you just why this beautiful boat was the savior of so many during WWII.

No WWII scene would be complete without correctly attired personnel, this being no exception; aboard 102 to complete the storyboard will be 2 or 3 RAF Pilots, happy to have just been rescued from the waters icy cold Solent.

Our photo boat for the trip is Anchorman, skippered by a very experienced sailor, this catamaran offers the perfect platform for photography, with its large flat rear deck. It also has the capability of keeping up with HSL102 with a top speed of 28 knots. 

This event will be limited to 11 photographers only due to insurance requirements.

There is also an opportunity to purchae a ride upon HSL-102 and take photographs from her and of the re-enactors on board.

Event requirements


  • Spare batteries
  • Camera
  • Lense cloths
  • Lenses
  • Camera protection - rain covers etc


  • All levels welcome


  • Medium

Other essentials

  • Sturdy outdoor shoes
  • Warm clothing
  • Wet weather gear

Event location

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