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September 25, 2017


Seagull Engine Racing - Bermuda | The Great Race 2004 | 'Chummy Memorial Round-the-Island Seagull Race' | Propspring | 2004 Results | Pictures from RISR | WANTED/ FOR SALE | THE GREAT RACE … WAIKATO RIVER NEW ZEALAND… 2004 | Waikato River 2003 - first timers story |

THE GREAT RACE … WAIKATO RIVER NEW ZEALAND… 2004

GREAT RACE REPORT FROM NEW ZEALAND 2004

It was with much trepidation that I stood at Auckland airport awaiting the arrival of the Bermudian Seagull Team, last year they arrived looking like a bunch of winos.. In hindsight I could possibly understand their inclusion on the passenger list as Air NZ was having a bad time financially and had obviously lowered their standards… Air NZ must be doing a lot better as this year they arrived with Qantas, however …behold a Broose looking like he had stepped from the shower and was going out on a date, Charlie Brown likewise, both shepherding Henry Johnson along carrying his bags directing him to the toilets, fetching drinks, .. I tell you folks I was gobsmacked, here am I, having subtly checked the whereabouts of friends and checked on their imminent departures because of past performances by our visitors, find myself standing in the midst of three perfect gentlemen .. These Bermudians know how to throw a “curve” ball, its off to breakfast at the Truck stop and home to unload the bags, hook up “Jezebel” and head up river, do a bit of socialising, have a little lunch at “Muddy Waters” a riverside tavern 25 miles upstream from the finish of ‘the Great Race”.. John Dickey, Hoppy, Denise and Julie are on “JayDee” a 6m cat, I’ve got Henry, CB and Broose, two hours into the trip and we haven’t got 3 miles, calling into various baches renewing old friendships, toasting each others health… looks like lunch just went out the window… finally we get on the move, get up to cruising and The Broose drops his first bottle of wine.. now he’s getting there … pull into “Muddy Waters”… plan, have a couple of rounds then, lunch, have couple of more rounds, couple more, order lunch… kitchen closed… sorry .. merde’… Denise to the rescue, opens her carry bag to reveal an array of chips, dips and assorted goodies.. a few more rounds, by this time our party of 8 has swollen to 12 +…. 5pm we got to go, the river after dark is infested with unseen sandbars and snags …. We back off the beach “ ready” ready, all call, “Jezebel” answers the call and SMASH..tinkle tinkle…mutter mutter, got another bottle plus a bonus, Brooses glass, guess who lost a glass in return, inevitably a cruise turns into a race with drunken captains in control, a lot of quietness from my crew, CB is nodding, Henry is keeping him company and Broose is trying to fight it by moving and hurling insults at “Jay Dee”… back to Hoods, load up, home, cleanup out to dinner, another session, but as the night winds on the Bermudians are slowly slipping off the plank, at this time I am reflecting, I have 7 days of this before the race and reinforcements arrive tomorrow in the form of Ian Finnerty [Burt]… over the next week boats are prepared and Broose attends to his usual “trick’ and gets a creation built in secrecy, to launch on the day before the race, with much laughing and finger pointing at myself “Alladins Shoe” is readied.. Broose climbs aboard steadies himself and winds on the throttle.. instant motion.. as the sled type thing launches at about 45degrees and no amount of scrambling can get the nose down as the open bracket has caught the water passing between the hulls … the throttle is snapped off and idled back .. probably the shortest test run known, by now a very quiet and subdued Broose, after a little reassurance and some calming medicine, it was back to the job in hand…. Race day tomorrow. Last year “Retro” spent its time skidding down SH1 causing mayhem and sending people too Hospital, she has been rebuilt, some of her lines aren’t as correct as they had been, but she’s a tough little boat, this year, no trailers, no other boats on top, just me… incident free to the start, have a test run on the Lake.. needle valve has dropped, over fueling, another run, alls well…. Race Day.. a very poor turn out this year, only 19 boats, but the competitors are great mates with a common interest, I have at this stage identified 3 hidden agendas .. Ross to set a new dinghy record with his beautifully built dinghy with an extremely strong sounding motor and cleaver prop.. this boat really sang… Broose of course has the same agenda each year .. to humble “the old man” he has now been joined by “yet to finish a Race Raoul” they both look pretty hot, Raouls boat is flying, word around is 25+mph, Bruce is running a close second, I’m down a couple,, Charles has got me covered and Pete Nottman is around the mark. The Dinghies go, with Ross leaving the pool last as he’s not wanting to swamp his attempt at the start… Henry, CB and Burt have commandeered the “club boat” and are on their way, sorting out their weights with Henry standing in the bow like a figurehead and acting as a hazard early warning system, Burt assumes the role of captains steward. The day is dull overcast, but no wind or rain at this stage, the modifieds get away at 9.30, and then we have that pause while the “open” boats wait, last minute checks, nervous piddles behind the bushes etc .. Piracy at the dam face, with Broose and Raoul adding “brution” to my boat “Retro”… it proved to be just that, the “Taniwha” gets them both, later…. 11am all hell breaks lose as the open boats head through the pool entrance, Raoul is away followed by the rest, Raouls boat is perfectly balanced for the race and looks a picture, rivers average height this year, but we have had large floods, thankfully, and a lot of the snags that have made the event hazardous to hulls and motors have all been swept away, our boys are faithfully following the deep water or outsides, Hamilton brings me upon my first retirement.. Charles parked up the beach at a funny angle, with a broken motor leg, [he who claims is your friend, sometimes tells lies, especially if his nickname is Pinocchio] let that be a lesson to you sir, after having a controlled smirk to myself and sending off a wave of condolence, its time to settle down, concentrate on the trim, the line, the instruments and BANG there goes a prop.. quiet paddle to a suitable beach, turn the stern on to the beach, hammer off the prop, replace, much contemplation going on, as I think about the fact that every 2mins 30secs that goes by there’s another mile added to the leaders .. a mild form of panic is starting to set in, however, released from the weeds, The Sport fires first pull and soon we are running at 24+mph, back into the routine of trimming, line and instruments, giving polite waves to all the various classes as I pass, finally to catch Pete at Huntly but Raoul and Broose are waiting on the bank at Rangiriri to relive their absolutely fabulous race .. they are the leaders it is their right to be able to do this.. we hang about telling our individual tales of woe to anyone who is polite enough to listen, as the back up crews arrive with news of another retirement Capt Tony King, Tony will make it one day, then watch the party develop, over the next 2 hrs all the remaining boats slide up onto the bank at Rangiriri … Captain Large borrows my truck to return home to get a 5R leg so he can restart tomorrow, Toni goes along for the ride so she can have a cuppa with Carol and a freshen up while the Captain takes a perfectly good 5R leg and bastardises it so he can fit his smelly 170 to it,….. the depths I descend too in the name of hospitality, truly amazes me,…… after creating this carnage in my workshop, unsupervised I must add, he then collects all he needs, bids Carol farewell and promptly backs into her car…., when he arrives back at Rangiriri, he immediately blames Toni for not keeping a watchful eye out, poor long suffering Toni…. While Osamas protégé is away, the bridge campers are organised , accommodations are raised, boats are serviced in readiness for tomorrow, a fire is started to clear the area of debris, obviously left by tourists as “clean green kiwis” would never leave this amount of rubbish behind, a few tins and vino ala Broose, its pub time for dinner, few more vinos and its marae time with who’s left standing CB, Burt, Broose and myself.. Henry has politely excused himself and gone to bed … I’m going to the Marae where the “real” people stay, to have a nightcap with Ollie, Mo and all the “real” people, but on arrival I find we double the number of the “real” people on this earth, however, I do have the presence of mind to turn the truck around, [thinking all the time] as the morning wears on CB is on the Karaoke Machine, Burt is having his own party and “living up in de hills” Broose busies himself into putting his “backup crew” to bed with a selection of pills and potions, then returns to further humiliate me by beating me at arm wrestling.. time I left there’s only so much the average kiwi male can endure at the hands of interlopers and these interlopers are intent, back to the truck/bedroom, a little mishap at the door, shit I’m on all fours “that’ll do, could be worse” a rather sedate trip back to the bridge and over the river, down to the camp site, slide into swag, best thing that ever came out of Australia … goodnight Next morning I wake to the wind whistling through the trees, the rain belting on the canopy, I‘ve seen the amount of time that has to be made up.. 21mins behind Raoul, 8 mins behind Capt Cruel..” na to old for this shit “ but slowly as the morning wore on “cant let the team down” and the spirit slowly returned and the pump got up to speed in readiness of the start at 10.30am, the conditions are horrible, wind on the nose of 25knots, short standing chop, the dinghies start on the final 35 miles, continuously baling, pitching, damn cold…Henry standing as true as a Kauri in the stem, holding on to his faithful painter for balance [for those who don’t know, Henry Johnson is 78 years young, at sea most of his life,]……“The Race is not for the Swift but for those who can Endure” this is the motto of the Bermudians for their race, I really believe it belongs to all Seagull Dinghy racers,…. after seeing what the dinghies and crews endured this year, They ARE the Iron men of the Sport Raoul is on target to set a new record with an estimated time of 3hrs 30 mins, if he continues at the speed he has set on day1 … calculate that back over 88 miles, this boy is cookin at approx 25mph.. not bad for a standard 5hp Sport… 10.30 rolls around and the “opens” go, Pete Nottman suffering with a short boat and riding on his knees, Capt Charles is faring much better and soon disappears, bouncing from crest to crest, uncomfortable but at least he is sitting, I’m suffering from a hangover and cavitation .. terrible combination … finally I get drive and balance and set off In pursuit of the Broose, Raoul and Charles, who have well gone, settle down concentrate, drive the lines, apply local knowledge, after an hour of bouncing, and singing the praises of this tough little boat, in the distance, spray with a glimpse of yellow, aha Broose or Charles, finally the latter, as we get closer to the sea, towards the end of the Race the conditions have further deteriorated and Charles is starting to Really Bounce , each impact is increasing the likelihood of headless driver appearing at Hoods…. “Retro” at this stage is clearing 3 waves in a leap, the rev counter is going too 8500 rpm then popping back in to return to normal until the next launch, I’m continually feeling for this crankshaft and gearbox, they must be hurting, but I can now see two more splashes in front, about a mile ahead, down through the Elbow sand plant, a little dangerous pass between the anchors and the bank [ a gap of about 6ft] calm water, for the next half mile, just got to watch for snags in close.. these are desperate times, we have only 5 miles to go, around the corner into the heavy weather again … I cant believe my eyes Raoul is broken down in front of me, not 50 yds away is the Broose scrambling to change an engine, he has snapped a bracket and the engine has snapped hard over at full throttle, sending him on a wild ride doing 360 circles while bouncing from crest to crest, unfortunately I didn’t witness this act, but I’m told it put paid to his supply of beverage until he reached shore[took him a week to get the glass out of the hull] meanwhile the sedated “backup crew” are on the scene, delivering another motor so he can finish……, the lengths these boys will go to beat me …. A condolence wave to both and heading for the finish, Calculating the time required to beat them both, Broose approx 7mins 30 secs Raoul a whopping 20 mins, every corner was straightened and every risk was taken in those final 3miles.. to arrive at Hoods too lie in the reeds while watching the minutes pass by.. Broose finally appears 7 mins after the deadline and Raoul is carried home by a friendly supporter, broken wire on the coil… Pete stuck too the task to place 3rd and Capt Charles broke a crankshaft 400yds from the finish.. to record a double DNF Ross Leger set a new record in the dinghies [one man] of 7 hrs 29 mins av speed of 11.75mph, in good conditions that combination will peel 30 mins off that elapsed time. Fred Southerwood and Brian Neville endured along with the dinghies to register credible times and tell tales of hard ship and along with the dinghies demonstrated their ability to endure, finally congratulations to Ian Clark for your victory in The Bermuda two man class, to Ray George and Tony Kunac [our oldest combined team] still keep turning up each year, haven’t heard them grumble yet, Rodger Carline and [Miss Grit] Ainslee claimed 3rd place . Thank you to Bruce Lorhan, Charlie Brown, Burt, Henry Johnson, Charles Large and Toni Marr for taking the time to join us for the 2004 “GREAT RACE”… hope to see you again next year, bring more of your friends they’re welcome …. Cheers JOHN CRIGHTON