On a typical Auckland day the New Zealand Offshore Powerboats raced on Auckland Harbour completing the seventh race in their eight race 2012 series. In weather ranging from bright sunshine to pouring rain and howling wind the teams assembled outside the new Viaduct Events Centre. This was the first time the race has been hosted in the city and it was great to see so many of the public down to have a look at the boats.
There were a lot of teams with something to prove, and a number of day entries, including some past titleholders who wanted the world to remember them. And remember them, we did especially when Doosan, winner of the NZ Superboat Championship in 2010 was the first boat to emerge from under the Harbour Bridge half way through the first lap.
The Superboat race was one of the highlights of the day. There was a lot of pressure on Tony Coleman and Chris Hanley of 'Fujitsu Better Heat' to win if they were to have a chance at the Championship title for 2012.
Finishing in third place today behind Doosan and Fairview, Tony Coleman of 'Fujitsu Better Heat' later explained that they had the lightest Superboat and without water ballast the boat gets lighter as the fuel load drops, and the conditions today were not in their favour. At one point Tony felt them leap off a wave too high and he was almost convinced they would come to grief when the wind straightened them out and they were able to land safely.
Doosan driven today by Cary Gleeson and Richard Shores were incredibly lucky at the top of the course when they spun out while leading at the top turn. Fortunately they were able to get it together, re-round the mark and continue at the head of the field. Fairview in second place also had a sticky moment when the boat landed badly on its side almost vertically and Andrew Koolen, driving today with Bob Smith thought they would not be able to recover. They too had luck on their side and were fortunate to land back up the right way and continue the race.
Fairview now look pretty much assured of the 2012 Superboat title as they have enough points on the table provided they complete the course in the last race at Tauranga.
After an incredibly harsh season for the Superboat Lite Class in which two of the competitors were too badly damaged to continue racing, Tony Carson and Brooke Faulknor in 'Red Steel' had competition today from Speedy 1. Driven by Steve Bone and Peter Jonas, this team put on a great show in the rough conditions, but were unable to catch the boys in 'Red Steel' who figured the Superboats were more in their league. 'Red Steel' is assured of the Superboat Lite title for 2012.
All of the boats found the conditions hard going at times. The sea state was incredibly messy with a swell of about a metre with a lot of chop on top and strong wind gusts. The wind was blowing straight down the course from west to east which made the run from the Harbour Bridge out past Watchman's Island and on to Kauri Point more demanding than usual, especially for the catamarans who had to take care that the wind didn't catch under their bridge decks and send them flying high in the air. The monohulls too were tossed around by the inconsistent sea state and there were plenty of spectacular leaps and clouds of spray. The spectators of course like nothing better than a fast furious race with the odd bit of drama thrown in, and that's pretty much what they got.
In the sixty mile race 'Fish City', another past champion was out to play in the rough conditions, sparring with another day entry 'Gull Force 10' in the Classic Class. These boats both had experienced teams who know the rules and on this occasion thought they'd have some fun. Classic Boats are restricted to only 80 miles per hour and both of these boats are capable of far more than this. While coming first and second in the sixty mile race they were later disqualified from winning the sixty mile overall race because according to their GPS they were speeding. This could perhaps have something to do with the fact that they lent their GPS to two of the Superboats just to spice things up. Turned out that both boats recorded speeds of over 100 miles per hour! As day entries neither team had anything riding on the race and were simply out to enjoy the racing. The boats did however take first and second place in the Classic class for the day.
This of course left 'Espresso Engineers' as the outright winner of the sixty mile race. Mike Gerbic had plenty to smile about as he and co pilot Alan Branch also took out the Super 60 Class title today with their win in Auckland. Mike won this class last year so makes it two in a row after swapping classes part way through the season when his Superboat Lite by the same name was damaged.
In the Sports 60 Restricted class there were boats flying everywhere, and at times crew as 'Triple Trouble' can attest when they were tossed out of their boat after a particularly nasty landing. Both were unhurt but retired early from the race. Jono Hanley continued his drama packed season when he broached badly in 'Energizer' and damaged the boat. Once more he was stopped in the middle of the course with his race tape at work shoring up the boat so he could successfully complete the race.
'Konica Minolta' driven by Mikey Smith put on another outstanding performance to win this class and secure the Sports 60 Restricted Title for the season. 'Thin Ice' was second today, and 'Auckland District Collections' third. Mikey Knight of 'Auckland District Collections' looks set to take the second place on the podium for the season and 'Total Oil' driven by James Taylor looks to have his sights on third place.
The NZOPA would like to thank Fusion Electronics, MarineWorkz, Stonebridge, Need a Nerd, Marine Medics, Ocean Bridge Shipping, Trade A Boat, Fish City (Brett Archer), Placemakers Pakuranga, AB Marine, CRD Automotive, Rainbow Haulage, Fulton Swim School, Scarborough Brothers Ltd, Eaton Hydraulics, Bob Smith, Building Solutions, Domobar Espresso Machines, Mazzer Coffee Grinders, D & H Steel, Profloors, Total Access Ltd, Profloors Concrete, Global Pacific Corp, Vertex Electrical, and O'Hagans for their support in making the Auckland race possible.
The final race of the 2012 New Zealand Offshore Powerboat Season will be held in Tauranga on May 12th.
More information and updated championship points table can be found on the New Zealand Offshore Powerboat Association website www.nzoffshore.co.nz.