Ski-racer Kris Knights and team Mercforce are in possession of the country’s two major water-skiing titles following last weekend’s triumph in the Southern 80 adding to last year’s success in the Bridge to Bridge.
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Knights and Merforce defied the odds, recovering from 16th after Saturday’s 20km time trial by making up the ground on Sunday to win the race labelled one of water-skiing’s toughest events on the calendar.
Mercforce, made up of boat driver Don Gulley, observer Kevin Boylan and skiers Kris Knights and Jake Tegart, claim the victory their greatest achievement after three years of consecutive second place finishes in the event.
In a thrilling finish, Mercforce edged out reining champions team Mistress by eight seconds finishing the 80km race in a slick 31 minutes and 10 seconds.
Race callers jumped the gun when they announced Mistress as back-to-back champions while Mercforce were blitzing the final 20kms.
Hitting top speeds of close to 200km/hr Mercforce silenced the crowd.
“The last 20kms was extremely tough. Both Jake and I were skipping over the ripples on the water all the way to the finish,” Kris Knights explained.
“Jake was first to see on the big screen that we had won and he began to yell in excitement at the rest of us.
“I knew we had done enough to grab a podium finish,” driver Don Gulley added.
Hosted annually, the Southern 80 is raced on the narrow waters of the Murray River beginning from Torrumbarry and finishing at Echuca.
With more than 120 bends in the race and boats starting one minute apart, it’s understood that it’s virtually impossible for boats starting outside the top five to win.
Engine troubles and an overheated turbo limited Mercforce’s speed throughout the weekend but they were able to overcome the issues on Sunday.
“I didn’t think it was possible,” driver Gulley said.
“The boat was really good we knew were going well and the guys did the hard work in the dirty, challenging water and dug deep. The turning was very tight and it was hard on the skiers. It was a good day at the office.”
Observer Kevin Boylan described the feeling as unbelievable.
The Southern 80 usually attracts about 900 competitors, 260 boats and more than 100,000 spectators.
Thirty-nine different classes cater for different engine capacities of both inboard and outboards.
Meanwhile, a strong contingent from Cowra and Canowindra also headed to the event recording some great results in Saturday’s 20 kilometre short course run and the 80 kilometre race on Sunday.
Showbiz from Canowindra - with David Tidswell of Canowindra at the helm and Melissa Knights from Cowra observing - and Cowra skier Brendan Tidswell placed an impressive second in the Unlimited Outboard Social (20km course) in a time of 0:08:42.60.
Ben Casey of Cowra narrowly missed out on a top three position, skiing behind Murrumbidgee Mad Dog in the Veterans (20km course), placing fourth in 0:08:33.35.
Casey also claimed seventh in the SMOC Social (20km course), skiing behind Dragon from Cowra (Matthew Smith of Albury driving and Debbie Grehan of Sydney observing).
The Bakers Blitz (20km course) saw Kris Knights place sixth, skiing behind Merc Force in 0:08:43.91.
Brendan Tidswell, also of Cowra, took eighth place, skiing behind Temper, in the Presidents Dash/Tim Driver Memorial (20km course) in a time of 0:07:24.60.
Cowra’s Jock Casey, skiing behind Dragon from Cowra (Matthew Smith of Albury driving and Ben Casey of Cowra observing) came 13th in the Under 10s Boys (20km course) in 0:29:10.40.
While Canowindra’s Showbiz, with David Tidswell of Canowindra driving, helped lead a Riley Grehan of Sydney to 14th in the same event in a time of 0:30:07.40.
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