T&T Powerboat icon Ken Charles has achieved almost everything there is to achieve in powerboat racing.
He has won the first T&T International Great Race. He competed back in 1970 and has moved on to be the winner of the most events over the 50-plus years of the event.
But last week, he was caught off guard when he was awarded the T&T Powerboat Association's Lifetime award, which recognised him for his contribution over his 58 years of racing.
Charles, the owner of 30 mph A-Class boat Mr Solo Too told Guardian Media Sports he was surprised but very happy to have received the award at 75 years, the oldest racer in the Great Race. Only last year, Charles won the event (his class 30-mph) for the 18th time, more than double the achievements of any other competing boat.
Since his inception in powerboat racing in 1962, Charles said he has seen it all.
He began racing aboard a 17-foot fibreglass boat but failed to take part in the inaugural Great Race event in 1969, instead, he took the time to watch Brian Bowen, another powerboat racer, build his first wooden boat to contest the event the year after.
That year (1970), Charles entered the 28-foot Boen event and won the race in a time of one hour and 28 minutes, and thereafter, the rest was history. Charles said he has had to make some desperate decisions over the years, including putting his trophy and everything on the line to prevent the event from dying in 1973.
"The sponsors had pulled out of the event and there was to be no race that year. So, I called up Brian and told him I was putting my trophy on the line if he would race against me. He agreed, so we called up other racers and that was how the event took place that year and eventually continued. I was determined not to let the powerboat race die," Charles said.
In the years that followed, Charles formed a partnership with Bowen and raced and built many boats, a venture that saw him gain his first 32-foot fibreglass boat in 1975. Charles, who played an instrumental role in the formation of the T&T Powerboat Association as well as promoting racing, also took a leadership role in bringing down the first international boat to compete against the T&T boats. It was a 35-football boat which, according to Charles, proved that international boats were not superior to the local boats.
He put his boat to the test by competing in international event on four occasions, where he returned with two second-place finishes, a third and a fourth. Charles' desire is, to see more international competitors in the Great Race in the coming years and as he does not intend to give any time soon, Mr Solo Too will be in contention for more awards.