Dag Pike, Powerboater Extraordinaire, Dies at 88

Dag Pike

Ironically, Dag Pike passed away on the weekend of the 2021 Cowes-Torquay-Cowes offshore powerboat race, which he won twice.

Veteran navigator, seaman and Author Dag Pike died on May 29 at the age of 88. He had more than 65 years of experience on the water in sail and powerboats and wrote more than 40 books on boating subjects. For the last several years he was a regular contributor to BoatTEST, and many of the weather, seamanship and navigation articles we have published were written by him. Pike was perhaps best known for his record-breaking Atlantic crossing with Sir Richard Branson and Sir Clay Blyth on Virgin Atlantic Challenger II in 1986. 

Branson’s boat beat the previous transatlantic speed record of three days, 10 hours, 40 minutes that had been set in 1952 by the American cruise ship, United States. Pike was also the navigator in the failed 1985 attempt that saw Virgin Atlantic Challenger I sink hours from the finish line at Bishop Rock Lighthouse off the Isles of Scilly.

Dag Pike

Pike (second from right) navigated all of Sir Richard Branson’s (second from left) attempts to break the transatlantic speed record.

Pike participated in many long-distance record attempts including six Atlantic speed attempts and he was involved in the design of cockpits and dashboards for high-speed boats. In 1964, he was also involved in the development of the first rigid-hulled inflatable boat.

Life on the Water

A native of Bristol, England, Pike first went to sea at age 16 and went through his first shipwreck two years later off the west coast of Scotland on a 6,000-ton cargo shop. All told, Pike was reportedly rescued 13 times including during another attempt at crossing the Atlantic in 1989 aboard Peter Phillips’ 80’ catamaran Chaffoteaux Challenger.

Dag Pike

Sir Richard Branson (dark jacket) gives a triumphant wave as Pike (to Branson’s right) readies dock lines after the team broke the transatlantic speed record on the Virgin Atlantic II.

By age 21, Pike had circumnavigated the world multiple times in the Merchant Navy. By the time he turned 29, he was the youngest Trinity House lighthouse tender captain before becoming an inspector of lifeboats for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation, a Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology, an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute and an Associate Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society.

Longtime Competitor

In 1992, Pike was aboard the 220’ (67.06 m) Destriero that crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a record time of 58 hours, 34 minutes and 5 seconds, averaging 53.09 knots, beating his previous record with Branson made in 1986. He also won numerous championships in offshore powerboat racing including the 2008 World Offshore Powerboat Championship in Blue FTP at the age of 75.

Dag Pike

At age 75, Pike navigated the Blue FTP (foreground) to the world powerboat racing championship.

Pike published his first book, Powerboats in Rough Seas, in 1974 and went on to write more than 40 books on subjects racing from navigation and disasters at sea to weather analysis and cruising guides. Along the way, he wrote articles on powerboats and power boats for nearly every boating magazine on the planet.  He was prolific, prompt, and his copy needed virtually no editing, because it was so well written and flawless. 

BoatTEST founder Jeff Hammond first met him in 1976, when he came to New York, and thus began a long relationship and the production of many articles on weather, navigation and seamanship, a number published the last several years in

Pike is survived by his wife Cath.