Seagulls tackling record run

Donald Stewart readies himself for a 325km boat trip from Lake Wanaka to the Otago coast, using...
Donald Stewart readies himself for a 325km boat trip from Lake Wanaka to the Otago coast, using vintage British-manufactured Seagull outboard motors. Photo by Matthew Haggart.
They might be considered by some as dirty, disgusting, smelly, leaky, and smoky, but for a group of intrepid boaties, that's all part of the charm of using vintage Seagull outboard motors.

A motley group of boats and dinghies set off across Lake Wanaka yesterday, on their way to navigate the Clutha River in a 325km "Seagull" run from the mountains to the sea.

They hoped to claim a world record for the longest powerboat "race" using Seagull outboard engines, expedition organiser Philip Bennett said.

"We're semi-competitive, but it's really about the adventure."

The former Cromwell man has been an enthusiastic collector and restorer of the vintage Seagull outboards since his days working on ocean-going ships and ferries as an engineer.

Mr Bennett decided to organise the "adventure" race down the Clutha River from Lake Wanaka after he competed in a 141km Seagull outboard race along the Waikato River.

"They bill that as the longest in the world. But I reckoned if we did the Clutha, then we would be longer."

Mr Bennett has been joined by other Otago-based outboard enthusiasts, such as Donald Stewart, of Queenstown, and 72-year-old John Dale, of Mosgiel - the reigning Seagull champion of the Waikato River race.

The group, which also includes a Seagull enthusiast from Seattle, US, has split the race into four stages, with points allocated for each section winner.

"It's more about the camaraderie and the adventure experience," Mr Bennett admitted.

The 12 boats and dinghies arrived on the southern shore of Lake Wanaka yesterday afternoon, about eight hours after leaving a beach near Makarora.

The group camped overnight at the Clutha River outlet and plan to motor down the river and then Lake Dunstan to the Clyde Dam today.

Tomorrow, the flotilla is scheduled to putter from Clyde to Millers Flat, landing their boats briefly to portage around the Roxburgh Dam, before completing the final leg, from Millers Flat to Kaitangata, on Friday.

Mr Bennett said most of the expedition group members would meet again at Easter, to take part in the Waikato River race and to boast about their "new" Clutha race record.

Seagull Outboards

• British manufactured from 1937-1978.
• Mass-produced during World War 2.
• 4 horsepower outboard engine.
• Average speed of about 16kmh.
• Powered many civilian craft during the Battle of Dunkirk - a mass evacuation of 330,000 Allied troops across the English Channel in World War 2.


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