Thrills aplenty as hydroplanes put to test

High-octane energy took over the tranquility of Glendhu Bay as the Lucas Oil Hydro Thunder New Zealand Series kicked off its 2023-24 racing series at the weekend.

Spectators lined the shore - and parts of the water - to watch the boats being put to the test by junior competitors through to the big guns.

There was no shortage of thrills as the high-powered hydroplanes raced their four laps of the 2000m course, spraying walls of water behind them and planing above the water as they vied for the lead.

For Invercargill-based racer Jason Haggerty there was nothing like racing a Grand Prix Hydroplane - the top racing class in New Zealand, and second-top class worldwide.

He grew up watching the "old boys" of the sport race and the passion grew from there.

He started off racing the smaller boats until about five years ago when he was in the position to upgrade to the bigger competition.

The change was a big step up, he said.

"There’s nothing like stomping 1400 horsepower because it's unbelievable. You'll never experience anything like it."

Grand Prix Hydroplane driver David Alexander races across Glendhu Bay during the Hydro Thunder...
Grand Prix Hydroplane driver David Alexander races across Glendhu Bay during the Hydro Thunder New Zealand Series heats on Saturday. PHOTO: SHANNON THOMSON
There was a strong community among those involved in circuit racing, he said.

"Everyone's there for the same reasons [love of the sport].

"They come from all different walks of life and it's cool but you just can't beat it."

Haggerty’s game plan for the weekend was to start and finish every race, so he was "pretty happy" to get some places in the hot laps and heats.

Event director Denise Preece said the hydroplanes could reach race speeds of between 150-180mph (241-290kmh) an hour which made for great viewing for spectators.

"They can do that in two and a-half minutes - so that just sort of gives you an idea on how quick they are."

Competitors came from throughout New Zealand for the event, which would continue with the next stage in Twizel on November 18 and 19.