by Cathy Vercoe
The New Zealand Offshore Powerboats compete this weekend for the Stace Hopper Memorial Cup at Marsden Cove.
Doosan is the current leader of the Superboat Class.
Stace, the son of Leigh and Gwen Hopper of Hopper Property Developments, was the key project manager in the development of the Marsden Cove Marina Waterways, and was killed recently in an aircraft accident. He was an avid motorsport competitor, in both cars and boats and was involved with the Marsden Cove 60 Mile Powerboat race. As a tribute to him the New Zealand Offshore Powerboat Association have provided a trophy for both the 60 mile and 100 mile races.
The race is part of a family day organised by Hopper Developments at the Marsden Cove Marina. With plenty of entertainment for everyone including drift cars, helicopter rides and a gala run by the One Tree Point School, this is an event not to be missed.
With a win by the Superboat Fairview at Whitianga the race for the Rayglass Superboat title for 2010 is intense. Four boats compete for the title; Doosan driven by Cary Gleeson and Sam Filmore of Auckland (2400pts), Fairview Windows & Doors driven by Warren Lewis and Steve Whitford of Auckland (2075pts), A1 Homes driven by Scott Lewis and Murray Tuffin of Auckland (1482pts ) and Team Three driven by Steve Nugent from Australia and Craig Archer from Auckland (2069pts).
Racing 100 miles are the top two classes; Superboats and Superboat Lites. Reaching speeds in excess of 180 km per hour they usually complete the distance in one hour. These boats have a crew of two - one responsible for the steering while the other controls the throttles. The driver has to be constantly looking for the next mark in the distance, and the throttleman has to deal with powering the boat over each wave, so needs to concentrate on what is happening directly in front of the boat.
The other five classes of boats compete in a 60 mile race with the popular AB Marine Formula Hondas providing the most competitors. Super 60, Sports 60, Sports 60 restricted, and Classics, make up the other classes. The Classic boats are restricted to 80 miles an hour, but with no speed limits for the other boats, racing is fast and furious. The 60 mile race is usually completed in one hour with boats reaching 100 km per hour in speed.
In the AB Marine Formula Hondas competition is fierce. Rayglass driven by Mike Smith and Matt Hopkins still lead the field on 2575pts, but are being chased hard by the boys in Honda Marine Mike Knight and Yael Pook (2369pts) who are running in second place for the season overall. Battles continue further down the field to see who can grab third place on the podium at the end of the season.
All boats are allocated points according to the finishing position, and we have seen several instances of boats being nursed around the course in order to gain maximum points. A boat that starts but does not finish is allocated 75 points, while a boat that makes its way slowly round the course to the finish can still get 244 points for finishing fourth - even if they finish well after the rest of the field. With four or five boats competing in some of the classes this can make a huge difference to the overall tally for the season.
A lot can go wrong in these races, and even the simplest mechanical failure can lead to a boat pulling out of the race and falling back in the rankings. With only two races left in the season, time is running out to get to the top of the leader board, so fierce and competitive racing can be expected.
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 boats will be on display both before and after the race and it's free to wander around the 'pit' area at the Marsden Cove Marina, and to watch the race from the foreshore or other vantage points.
This is the ideal opportunity to get up close to a 'Batboat' or hear the engine of a superboat revved before a race. The boats are big, bright and loud and should appeal to anyone with an interest in motorsport.
With a predicted 15 knot South West wind the harbor should be perfect for some fast racing.
Excellent viewing of the course will be available, particularly along the beach from One Tree Point as the boats race up the harbor and back along the foreshore.
Boats are on display from 11am Saturday morning at the Marsden Cove Marina where the Superboats will be craned into the water.
Boats depart from 2.00pm
Racing starts at: 3.00 pm
Radio Coverage: Tune in to 88.3 FM for race commentary before and during the race
Event details and results are posted on the NZOPA website, www.nzoffshore.co.nz.
The Rayglass NZ Offshore Powerboat Championship concludes on Auckland Harbour on 8th May.