NZ jet-boat marathon draws crowds

The Albert Town Bridge provided a perfect spectator vantage point above the Clutha River for the fourth day of the annual New Zealand jet-boat marathon yesterday.

Sixteen boats raced down the river from Lake Wanaka outlet to Bendigo, in the third leg of the day. The course had to be shortened from its planned finish at Old Cromwell, because of choppy water on Lake Dunstan, race organiser Tim Guthrie said.

Earlier in the day, entrants had completed two legs on the Matukituki River, upstream from Glendhu Bay to Beech Forest, then downstream to the West Wanaka Bridge.

The event, which covers 780km on the Clutha, Waiau, Oreti, Matukituki and Dart Rivers, began on Sunday, at Balclutha, and finishes today, at Glenorchy. Wednesday was a rest day.

The initial field of 21 starters, drawn from New Zealand, Canada and the United States, had been whittled down by mechanical failure or boat damage, Mr Guthrie said.

The leader at the end of competition yesterday was John Derry, of Blenheim, with an overall time of 4hr 15min 42sec.

He leads by more than 11min from Roger Preston, of Otautau and Canadian Chad Burns is third, 18sec further back.