Jet-boat racers do battle

Regan Williamson, of Queenstown, shows off his jet-boat yesterday. Photos by Andrew Ashton.
Regan Williamson, of Queenstown, shows off his jet-boat yesterday. Photos by Andrew Ashton.
Competitors display their jet-boats at a boat show and safety inspection in Oamaru yesterday,...
Competitors display their jet-boats at a boat show and safety inspection in Oamaru yesterday, ahead of the start of the World Jet Boat Marathon, which starts today.

Rivers across Otago this week will be filled with the sound of jet-boats screaming across the water, as South Island racers take on the best the rest of the world has to offer in the 2013 UIM World Championship Jet Boat Marathon.

The week-long event, which began on the Waitaki River today, will see competitors from all over the South Island take on teams from across the globe, including one from Mexico and seven teams from Canada. Race organiser Tim Guthrie said, although no teams from the North Island were entered this year, racing was still expected to be of high quality.

''We have the newly crowned Canadian national champion title-holder Chad Burns.

''In terms of racers to watch, obviously Chad Burns will be one of them. The other one will be John Derry [from Blenheim], the current national title-holder - he's been the national champion for the past three years.''

Winton's Roger Preston and Queenstown's Regan Williamson were also expected to put in good performances.

At least three racers would compete with boats using gas turbine helicopter engines, which could hit speeds of up to 180kmh, Guthrie said.

The event will start with racers competing over three legs on a 60km stretch of the Waitaki River, between the State Highway 1 Waitaki River bridge and Kurow, before the competition moves on to the Clutha River between Beaumont and Balclutha tomorrow, ahead of further racing on the Dart, Waiau, Oreti and Matukituki Rivers.

That would require about 950km of racing before the event finished on Friday on the Clutha River at Cromwell, he said.

A total of 39 boats would be involved in the event, competing over 17 legs on six rivers throughout Otago and Southland, he said.

Although Williamson was keeping his 21ft Eagle jet-boat's capabilities under wraps until racing started, he said he had previously hit speeds of over 200kmh during his last tilt at the World Championship in 2009, when he finished second in the unlimited class.

This time around he and navigator Pete Reid had spent a year developing the boat in conjunction with an helicopter engineer, to get the best out of the boat's Sea-sprite T58 gas turbine helicopter engine, he said.

''It has taken us a year to get it together ready in preparation for the world event. We do a lot of testing around Queenstown,'' Williamson said.

The line-up for this year's event was the strongest he had seen, he said.

''It's a pretty strong field this year. It's probably the strongest field that New Zealand has seen, but we will do our best to try and keep up.''

The Waitaki River was ''pretty high'' at present and would provide a challenging start to the event, Williamson said.

- andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz

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