by Bob Wonders
The 95th running of the legendary E.C.Griffith Cup is set for November 29-30 on Yarrawonga’s Lake Mulwala and if there’s any powerboat racing in the blood it’s exactly where you’ll want to be.
Warlord at E.C.Griffith
Hosted by the Victorian Speed Boat Club and Yarrawonga Mulwala Tourism, the cup is the culmination of battle between the fastest boats of Australia and New Zealand.
Recognised as the oldest international motor sport trophy in the Southern Hemisphere, the E.C.Griffith Cup is essentially the Australasian Unlimited Inboard championship and attracts competitors from across Australia and New Zealand, the victor claiming the right to host the following year’s event.
This event goes back to the earliest days of power boat racing 'down-under'.
E.C.Griffith was an early secretary of Sydney’s Royal Motor Yacht Club, still based on the shores of Rose Bay.
It was here that a meeting was held in the early part of the 20th century that led to the formation of the APBA.
Griffith was a more than competent silversmith and produced a trophy known originally as the Griffith Shield.
Under the early rules, the trophy could be retained by anyone who could win it two years in succession, a feat achieved by Anthony Hordern, of retail store fame, in 1911 and ’12.
He won both races on Rose Bay at the then ‘astonishing’ average speed of around 36mph (57km/hr).
Engine technology improved and speed increased and US designed ingle-step hydro owned by the Rymill brothers became the most successful Griffith Cup winner in the years prior to World War II, with victory in 1925, ’26, ’29, ’30 and ’33.
By now, boats were exceeding 60mph (96km/hr); it was not until 1945 that an Australasian racer was able to ‘crack the ton’ and register 100mph (160.93km/hr) and it was done by a Kiwi, Ken Southward in his hydro ‘Redhead’.
Southward was able to defend the trophy many times before the iconic Sydneysider Ernie Nunn brought the cup ‘home’ in 1963 with his quick boat ‘Wasp.’
Shortly after, the cup entered the ‘thunderboat era’, a series of giant hydroplanes powered by massive aircraft engines.
Victorian boats, “Stampede’, ‘Bayswater Bulk’, ‘Miss Bud’, ‘Aggressor’, ‘Aussie Bud’, ‘Solo’ and ‘Aussie Connection’ helped keep the famous trophy south of the Murray for 18-years.
It was Con Cunningham’s ‘Shamrock’, Bobby Halliday at the wheel, which saw the trophy back in NSW hands.
The following year (1986) ‘Shamrock’ was unable to defend the trophy courtesy of a shredded blower belt.
Since then, the cup has had another New Zealand visit with Peter Knight’s ‘CRC Latimer Lodge’, a ‘monster’ powered by a 1200hp supercharged, fuel injected Chevrolet.
The Aussie flag flew high again when veteran supporter Ron Burton re-entered the cup with Australia’s first turbine-powered racer, ‘Aussie Endeavour’, designed by Ron Jones.
Dennis Parker took the wheel and brought the cup back to the Land of Oz and successfully defended the title the following year and the battles continue..
The Australian Power Boat Association (APBA) says the E.C.Griffith Cup rates as highly as Britain’s Harmsworth Trophy and the US Gold Cup.
Lake Mulwala has proven to be an ideal venue for the racing, able to cater to large fields in all classes.
Heats and the final of the E.C.Griffith Cup are scheduled for Saturday, November 29, with competition expected to take from 10am to 4.30pm.
On the Sunday (November 30), the lake plays host to the Yarrawonga Gold Cup, an Unlimited Open race for all styles of boats, whether they’re hydroplanes, tunnels, displacements, inboard or outboard.
It’s a classic case of cornering and acceleration from the outboard-powered boats against the massive horsepower and top end pace of the inboards.
Overall, the weekend features a packed program; 6.0-litre hydros and displacements, 4.2-litre and 5.2-litre displacements, 1.6-litre hydros and a number of outboard races make this a weekend not to be missed.
Trophy races on the program include the ‘Les Spears Unlimited Displacement’, the ‘Geoff Horne 6.0-Litre Hydroplane’, the ‘Jack Kavanagh 6.0-Litre Displacement’, the ‘Haebich Trophy’ for 1.6-litre hydroplanes, the ‘Browning Brothers Trophy’ for 5.2-litre displacement and the ‘Weygood Trophy’ for 4.2-litre displacement.
Aussie competitors will need to be on the ball, for the Kiwis are coming convinced they can take the cup back across the ditch.
The Kiwis are bringing three boats, Annihilator I, II and III.
All three boast new engines and are capable of 280km/hr-plus (175mph-plus).
The weekend will equate to the Wallabies versus the All Blacks and no prisoners will be taken!
So, who will win the Southern Hemisphere’s most famous powerboat trophy this year?
Your guess is as good as mine, but ‘Warlord’ and one of the Kiwi boats would seem logical favourites.
Whatever the outcome, right here, on Powerboat-World.com is where you’ll discover who lays claim to the E.C.Griffith Cup for 2008.