Race Six of the New Zealand Offshore Powerboats takes place on Saturday 14th April on Wellington Harbour.
Only three races to go in the series for 2012 and there's still plenty to compete for. Wellington is never an easy race with a difficult chop created by the waves in the harbour striking the sea walls and bouncing back out to sea. Complicated by the occasional inter-island ferry, this race is possibly one of the most challenging mentally for both the drivers and throttlemen who have to concentrate on the confused sea state, making minute adjustments to keep the boat racing flat and fast.
'Fairview', the leading Superboat with four out of five races won will be looking for another victory in Wellington this week. Warren Lewis and his co driver Andrew Koolen have another psychological hurdle ahead of them going into this race as Warren was in the boat in a previous race when he tripped on a wave and barrel rolled the boat. He was incredibly lucky to land the boat up the right way and continue racing, but he, more than anyone on the course, will be well aware of just how dangerous and unpredictable this race can be. With Fairview only 300 points ahead of them 'Fujitsu Better Heat' driven by Tony Coleman and Chris Hanley will be well aware that they need to win in order to keep their chances of victory alive. With the difference between first and second worth 100 points, a win in each of the next three races will see the season tied for this class, provided the Fujitsu boys can hold Fairview in second place. A tough challenge, but enough to add even more pressure for both these teams.
In the Superboat Lite Class Tony Carson and Brook Faulknor have a lead of 950 points in their boat 'Red Steel'. Provided they complete each race without calamity, the boys will see themselves at the top of the Podium with a well deserved win when the season ends.
In the 60 mile classes the main competition will be in the Sports 60 Restricted class where Konica Minolta has a clear lead on 2000 points, a lead of over 500 points from the second placed boat Auckland District Collections. Rest assured however that the racing will be just as fierce as ever, as these drivers see each boat as a full on contest, starting each race with their eyes on a win and racing accordingly. With several of the chasing boats low on points due to mechanical failure or injury everyone is well aware that no one is assured of finishing, and that anything can happen in the next three races.
This perhaps is the underlying factor that keeps these drivers so fired up at every race, and what makes the racing so exciting. No class is safe as already we have seen boats sustain damage sufficient to prevent them from finishing the season.
Wellington once more looks set to provide the public with a spectacular display of speed and skill. Possibly one of the best venues in the country the crowds can get close to the action with large parts of the race along the harbour's foreshore, where they can hear the roar of the engines, smell the exhausts fumes and feel the spray on their skin as the boats negotiate the choppy seas. With a southerly forecast the Wellington race could well be wetter and wilder than usual. The turn into Evans Bay should be a particularly good viewing point as the boats turn into the wind that is funneled through the gap in the hills over the airport and straight into the bay.
Best viewing for spectators will be from the old Overseas Terminal, along Oriental Parade, Point Jerningham (by the lighthouse) and along Evans Bay Rd. Two races run simultaneously, a 100 mile race for the Superboat and Superboat Lite classes and a 60 mile race for the other classes. The race usually takes one hour and starts at 1.00pm.
The NZ Offshore Powerboat Association hold a family oriented event and are happy to talk to anyone who has questions about the boats and the way they are raced. The NZ Offshore Powerboat tents and Headquarters will be set up behind Te Papa, opposite Chaffers Marina and the old Overseas Terminal. Some of the boats will be on display both before and after the race and it's free to wander around the "pit" area, and to watch the race from the foreshore or other vantage points.
The NZOPA would like to thank the Wellington City Council, Four Kings Bar n Restaurant, Mcintosh Cranes, Helipro, Jetts Gym and Free Heat for their support in making the Wellington race possible.
More information and updated championship points table can be found on the New Zealand Offshore Powerboat Association website www.nzoffshore.co.nz.