Former powerboat champion turns lifesaver with Great Yarmouth firm

Former international power boat racer Steve Kerton is moving from putting his own life at risk to ensuring the safety of those who might be in peril at sea after taking up a new role at Norfolk-based Survival Systems International (SSI).

The four-time British champion in formula one powerboat racing has been appointed operational health and safety manager for the company which provides and maintains lifeboats, principally for the offshore oil and gas sector.

The 58-year-old, who went on to become European champion and twice runner-up in the World Series, also survived some dramatic crashes.

After retirement he worked in the building safety industry until a call from SSI brought the new job.

Now, working from the company's UK base at Great Yarmouth, his role is to use that personal experience to help SSI maintain its reputation for the highest possible safety standards.

'I think it was meant to be,' he said. 'I love this part of the East Coast, have often holidayed here and fondly remember racing at Oulton Broad in the national championships and for the Battle of Britain Trophy.

'Over the years, more than 2,200 people have been safely evacuated from danger by survival capsules manufactured by SSI,' he added. 'It's a reputation to be proud of.'

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After starting his working life with Laing Homes he took up powerboat racing as a hobby. But as his skills developed, Laing backed his enthusiasm with sponsorship and together they won the British Formula Four title. He stepped up to Formula One and quickly captured two successive British championships winning 12 formula one Grand Prix and around 120 other titles. But there were some near disasters – including one at a world championship event in Leningrad (now St Petersburg), when wind funnelling down narrow streets and across the water, pushed up the noses of his boat and a rival's until they both flipped at about 140mph.

'Somehow I managed to escape from the upturned boat... Then I collapsed. My system went into total shutdown and I had to be revived by the British rescue crew.'

Before retirement, there was one final fling when Steve teamed up with a former crew chief for a one–off championship race staged in the UAE – which he won.

'It was a fitting end to what I felt was a fabulous career. Then it was back to the real world, working in the building industry in a safety role.'