Taupo was scheduled to have a full two days of boat racing this weekend, and while the white capped waves on Lake Taupo were too much for some, they were not enough to stop the might of the New Zealand Offshore Powerboats as they roared into their 2012 season in an exciting and action packed race.
There were the usual pre race nerves as boats and crews assembled on the shores of Lake Taupo for the first race in the 2012. The last few hours before the first race are a mixture of excitement and apprehension as each team eyes up the changes their competition have made over the winter season ands reviews their own changes and their strategy for the upcoming race. Anxious glances are cast at the sky, checking the weather, and at the waves which by the time the race started were a metre high.
It certainly looked like hard work for all the classes today with everyone getting plenty of airtime. The Superboats took turns at standing on their tails as they fought their way out against the waves. 'Fairview' driven by Warren Lewis and Andrew "Flea" Koolen was one of the first boats to make use of the smoother water along the western side of the course and soon established a significant lead, which they maintained to the finish.
While their handling in the corners may have seen them slowing, their speed in the straights, particularly in the run back to shore has certainly given the other teams something to think about. Warren said afterwards, "It was Challenging, but excellent offshore conditions really. It was different on every lap and we pretty much just had to make it up as we went along. It was a huge confidence builder for the rest of the season."
His driver Flea added, "Very different from where I've come from in a smaller boat on the throttles to a bigger boat at the wheel, but a pleasure to drive in those conditions. Certainly a magic carpet ride compared with the smaller Skater. It was reasonably comfortable, and we didn't have to push too hard. Fairview's an unbelievable boat and we've just to keep out heads together, we've got another seven races and we've just got to chip away at them one at a time"
Tony Coleman and Chris Hanley made a few spectacular leaps off waves today in 'Fujitsu Better Heat'. Finishing in second place, this award-winning team have had two seasons away from racing and will no doubt increase their speed and handling with each race. Tony said afterwards "We were keen to get one under our belts, I was really looking for calmer water today but it was pretty ugly out there." Chris added "We have put a lot of work into the boat. It was a boat breaker today so there no sense going out there to win it. If we had got into a battle with Fairview one of us was going to break a boat. We've got three days before we head down to Gisborne, we were happy to take an easy second, we were cruising."
'Schick Hydro' finished third today with Scott Lewis and Murray Tuffin in the cockpit. They appeared to have few problems in the conditions and like many others racing at a steady pace in today's race were possibly conscious of the need to get round without breaking anything as there is only a week's gap until the next race in Gisborne.
Tony Carson and Brooke Faulkner raced 'Red Steel' with determination and confidence in the Superboat Lite class today, taking off at the start and never really looking back. While at times too they probably saw more sky than they were comfortable with they had the experience of past seasons to draw from and deserved their first win of the season. Finishing second was 'Alimax' with Gordon Robinson and Craig Archer at the controls. Gordon has worked hard to improve the performance of his boat so will be pleased with a good result so early in the season. In third place were the new team of Mike Gerbic and Allan Branch in 'Espresso Engineers' who along with fourth placing Peter Jonas and Steve Bone in their boat 'Speedy 1' are new to this class and will be pleased to have their first race under their belts.
The expanded Sports 60 Restricted Class took to the water with seven boats and as expected spent plenty of time in clouds of spray as the boats negotiated the waves around the course. James Taylor and Phill Knowles in 'Total' looked determined to make a statement and led this class for all but the last two laps when Mikey Smith and Adam Smale in 'Konica Minolta' overtook them to finish in first place.
Graham Pike and Brett Archer in 'Thin Ice' had a great race finishing third in their class and third overall for the 60 milers. Jono and Ashley Hanley in 'Energizer' had problems with their cowling today which saw them lose valuable time but along with Colin and Corey Dunn in 'CRD Automotive' and Tim Fellows and Kevin Ireland in 'Yeah-Naa' completed the race. Mikey Knight and Nigel Smethurst in 'Auckland District Collections' were forced to retire before the end of the race. 'Back2Bay6' in the Super 60 class driven by Glen and Chris Powell also withdrew early.
In the Sports 60 class Bob Smith and his son Alexander in 'Triple Trouble', had a good start to the season finishing fourth overall in the 60 milers. Several day licenses were issued today but only three of these boats started the race, and none unfortunately were able to finish.
The NZOPA thank and acknowledge the support of their key sponsor for this event; Milano Italian Restaurant. They also acknowledge their supporting sponsors; The Taupo District Council, Pitch Bar, Helisika, Dean Collins, M21, Senjo, Penny Homes, SsangYong NZ, Cooper Liddington, TSR Motors, JR Wade, Steiner Moses Engineering, Central Trim, Harcourts Taupo, Terrys Tyres, Elite Auto Spray, Wholesale Vehicles, Concrete & Kerbs, Skelton Marine, Farmlands, Morrell Motors, DPA, Ingham Motor Group, Wings & Wheels, Acceleration on Water, Marineworkz, and Marine Paramedical Services.
Results and upcoming event details are posted on the NZOPA Website www.nzoffshore.co.nz
Racing continues at Gisborne on the 4th February, Beachlands on the 18th February, Napier on the 17th March, Whitianga on the 31st March, Wellington on the 14th April and the final race of the season in Auckland on the 28th April. A replacement date for the cancelled Tauranga race may be added to the season.