Speedboats deliver the thrills

There were thrills, spills and the roar of engines that gives the Hydro Thunder New Zealand Series its name at Glendhu Bay, Wanaka, at the weekend as young and old enjoyed powerboat racing.

Race commentator Andrew Holtham said racing started with the under-15s but there were pilots in their 50s and 60s who were still racing.

"It’s very much a family environment. Not just families watching but also families racing."

The main prize competed for on Saturday was the AE Baker Cup — "the most prestigious Australasian trophy there is", Mr Holtham said.

Event organiser Denise Preece said Baker was an Australian hydroplane champion and New Zealand had held the transtasman trophy since 2001.

With no racers crossing the Tasman to compete this year, the New Zealanders retained bragging rights, with the silverware going to David Alexander of Waverley and the Miss Waverley team.

AE Baker trophy winner David Alexander (holding prize), children William (5), Jimmy (8) and Rosa,...
AE Baker trophy winner David Alexander (holding prize), children William (5), Jimmy (8) and Rosa, wife Sarah and team members Mark Crawford, Lance Devane, John Hodges and Phil Crawford celebrate their win. PHOTO: TRACIE BARRETT
Saturday morning started with some unintentional aeronautics courtesy of pilot Raymond Hart, of New Brighton, in Thunderstruck.

Hart said he got "a little bit mixed up [at] the start" and launched off the wake of another boat to take more air than advisable.

He set the wings on his boat’s front as high as possible to push the nose down and came out of the spectacular spin with no injuries to man or boat.

"The next race I won and the race after that I got second despite being low on power because a spark plug lead had become unattached,’ he said.

The incidents showed the sensitivity of the high-performance machines but also the obsession with risk management and minimisation, Mr Alexander said.

"The safety is second to none."

Another recognised name on the circuit is Jason Haggerty of Invercargill, who pilots Miss Aberdeen and Lady Liz, the latter named for his grandmother and based in Cromwell.

Haggerty has an affinity for water, as a commercial crayfish fisherman in Fiordland when not racing on more sheltered waters.

"The big boat here can do 260-270kmh and as long as the boat is sitting flat you can corner at that speed," he said.

"It’s a lot of fun."

At 15, Lily Weir, of Timaru, has moved up from the under-15s where she started racing at age 12.

"My dad is a boat racer so I have been co-driving with him since I was 9 years old.

"I love the sport and all the people that are here. You make good friends and everyone helps everyone."

That is especially appreciated by the young racers, she said, where entry fees paid by the older racers allowed the young pilots to enter at no cost.

By: Tracie Barrett