by Cathy Vercoe
Fairview and Doosan racing at Whitianga
Round Six of the Rayglass New Zealand Offshore Powerboat Racing Series takes place on Saturday 26th March at Marsden Cove in Whangarei.
The New Zealand Offshore Powerboats compete this weekend for the Stace Hopper Memorial Cup at Marsden Cove. 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 last year 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 race each year for a memorial trophy in both the 60 mile and 100 mile races.
After a riveting event in Whitianga two weeks ago, everyone is fired up to see a repeat performance of the incredibly fast, close, competitive and spectacular racing.
With a win by the Superboat Fairview at Whitianga the race for the Rayglass Superboat title for 2011 is intense. Four boats compete for the title; Fairview Windows & Doors driven by Warren Lewis and Chris Hanley of Auckland (2275pts), Doosan driven by Cary Gleeson and Sam Fillmore of Auckland (1900pts), Schick Hydro driven by Scott Lewis and Murray Tuffin of Auckland (1163pts ) and 'Profloors' driven by Wayne Valder and Richard Shores from Auckland, (1125pts). Only 375 points separate the two top boats, the equivalent of a second place, so if either of the top two boats falter in any way they seriously jeopardize their winning chances.
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.
In the Superboat Lites 'NZ Blokes' driven by Bob Smith and Andrew 'Flea' Koolen have a clear lead and look like getting a second consecutive NZ title with 2375 points. Competition in this class has been close at times, but their main opposition 'Red Steel' driven by Tony Carson and Brook Faulkner have struggled to maintain consistency and sit on 1800 points. We hope to see the return of 'Barracuda Kayaks' this week after several problem filled races which have unfortunately put them out of the running for the championship.
In all four of the 60 Mile classes a clear leader is emerging. Mike Urquhart in 'Auckland District Collections 2' has a clear advantage with a 650 point lead in the Hondas on 2375 points, while the 2010 Honda champion Mikey Knight is leading in the Sports Restricted Class in the other Auckland District Collections boat after changing disciplines this year. Mike Gerbic leads with 'Espresso Engineers' in the Super 60 class, while Ross Christiansen in 'Konica Minolta' has an easy romp to the podium, needing only 26 points to win the Classic Championship for the season.
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.
Forecasts for Marsden Cove indicate a light 8 knot north easterly breeze and a half metre easterly swell. High tide is at 12.52pm so the race starts just as the tide starts to pour out of the Whangarei Harbour against the swell and breeze. With several areas of shallow water, and a predicted eight second swell period, the waves could stand up more in places producing a lumpy chop which will see the smaller boats in particular, leaping spectacularly.
The race can be viewed best from the foreshore at One Tree Point, where the boats will race close to the shore. The race usually takes one hour and starts at 1.00pm.
The NZOPA would like to thank Hopper Developments, Placemakers, The Whangarei District Council, and Energizer for their support in making the Marsden Cove Race possible.
They also acknowledge the ongoing support of the series sponsors Rayglass.
More information and updated championship points table can be found on the New Zealand Offshore Powerboat Association website www.nzoffshore.co.nz.