Round Five of the Rayglass New Zealand Offshore Powerboats takes place on Saturday 12th March at Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula.
This could be make or break week for four of the classes with consistent performances by the leading contenders shutting down the chance for any other boat to take the season title. Anyone wishing to make an impact on the leaders has to make their move this week, or risk slipping too far down the points table to have a chance at the title.
Points are awarded on a sliding scale, the winning boats gain 475 points each week, with the second placed boat getting 375. Third place is awarded 300 points and so on down the scale, 244, 201, 170, 146, 128, 115, 97. A boat that fails to complete the race is awarded only 75 points as a DNF, so all teams must ensure they are careful to complete the full course or risk throwing a huge advantage to their opponents.
Though 'NZ Blokes' leads the Superboat Lite class with four wins on 1900 points, they have no chance of relaxing with 'Red Steel' on 1425 points providing plenty of competitive close racing at each venue. One DNF at this stage by' NZ Blokes' will provide 'Red Steel' with the boost they need both psychologically and on the points table.
In the Classic Class Konica Minolta has four straight wins, and bar major mechanical issues, looks the likely season champion. A proven champion boat, Konica Minolta originally raced as 'Miller Group', and then 'Sleepyhead' winning the NZ titles in 1989 and 1992 respectively. With a lead of 1000 points there is little chance of dropping from the top position. Competition in this class comes from the Scarab 'Gull Force 10' on 900 points, and 'Topaz', another former NZ Champion, having won the title in 1975. 'Topaz' has been lovingly restored, with many of the original parts located and reassembled from all over the countryside to get the boat back to as close to original as possible.
The 2010 Honda Champion Mikey Knight changed classes this year and has successfully transferred his skill and ability to the Sports Restricted class with four wins from four races in 'Auckland District Collections'. Jono Hanley in 'Marineworkz' has had his work cut out to keep up with Mikey, but has raced competitively, ensuring plenty of close and exciting racing between the two boats. Only 400 points separate these two with 'Auckland District Collections' on 1900 points and 'Marineworkz' on 1500.
The Honda boats are always entertaining as they race closely, and change positions frequently during a race. Mike Urquhart in 'Auckland District Collections 2' leads this class by over 500 points with four straight wins, some admittedly by a very small gap. The Hondas however, unlike the other classes, throw another complexity into the mix with each team able to drop their worst result, and the season effectively decided on their seven best races. 'Rayglass' and 'Total Oil' are battling for second place with only 56 points between them on 1350 and 1294 points, while 'CRD Automotive' and 'The Gambler' are separated by only 13 points on 863 and 850.
In the Super 60 'Espresso Engineers' have regained their confidence after submarining and colliding with another boat at Maraetai.
In the Superboats, 'Fairview' driven by Warren Lewis and Chris Hanley leads with three wins on 1800 points, with 'Doosan' still in a very strong position on 1600 points, and the title still very much up for grabs. 'Schick Hydro' lies in third place with 919 points and 'Profloors' in fourth on 750. Cary Gleeson and Sam Fillmore from 'Doosan', will be determined to prevent 'Fairview 'from dominating the season any further.
Forecasts for Whitianga indicate very light conditions with southwest winds of 6 knots and an easterly swell of less than half a metre. Traditionally the ocean swell has provided plenty of lift and some of the most spectacular action has taken place here. The course layout ensures the boats must race out to the island against the swell, but with little height and 10 seconds between waves the race is likely to be much flatter and faster than years in the past.
The race can be viewed best from the foreshore at Buffalo Beach. The race usually takes one hour and starts at 1.00pm.
The NZOPA would like to thank the Coastguard, Gull Pure Energy, Whitianga Ice Supplies, The Blacksmith Bar & Kitchen, Marina Park, AB Marine, and Energizer for their support in making the Maraetai 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