This year will see the introduction of a new race format and course for the popular Bridge to Bridge Ski Classic, which is held on Sunday of the October long weekend each year.
The annual 108km water ski race from Grafton to the Harwood Bridge and return will no longer be seen in the lower river villages of Maclean, Harwood and Lawrence.
The new course will consist of two 50km laps from Grafton to Brushgrove.
The top end of the course will remain the same as previous years, with boats heading upstream from the Crown Hotel in Grafton, to the tip of Susan Island before heading down the back of the island and under the Grafton Bridges and heading down river.
This year, competitors will turn around just near the Brushgrove Bridge, before heading back up river to complete the first lap. Crews will complete two laps of this course, before crossing the finish line at the Crown Hotel in Grafton, to complete a total course distance of 100km.
This year’s race will also be divided into two Heats.
Heat 1 – Will start at 9am and run until 11am and include the following classes: Superclass, Unlimited Inboard, Unlimited Outboard, Unlimited Naturally Aspirated, Sportsman’s Class and Under 18 Years.
Heat 2 will run from 11am to 1.30pm and will be for the following classes: 1up, MOC, F2, Women’s, Under 16 Years, 70MPH/Weekend Warrior, Under 14 Years, 60MPH and Under 12 Years.
So there will actually be two separate races this year, with the faster boats racing in the first heat at 9am.
Big River Ski Club president Jason Disson said that there were a number of reasons for the changes to the popular race.
“Across the whole sport there’s been a drop in competitor numbers due to increase costs in the sport and in the insurance; so that’s a factor,” Mr Disson said.
“There’s also a manpower issue as well. We’ve had to condense the race course, due to the small numbers on the committee.
“The amount of course markers particularly in that lower river area is just enormous, so (by condensing the course) it takes a huge weight off the shoulders of our committee members, in having to set the course,” he said.
Mr Disson acknowledged that there would be some in the lower river area who wouldn’t be happy about the changes they have had to implement.
“Unfortunately, that’s a side effect of it, but it’s something we’ve had to do just to maintain the race, with the resources we have available,” he said.
Mr Disson said that there would be an added bonus however for spectators between Brushgrove and Grafton.
“Anyone who’s watching the race upstream of Brushgrove will actually see the boats travel past four times.
“So spectators will get a lot better view of the racing from any of those vantage spots.
“These changes are not necessarily a permanent thing as we’ll re-evaluate and debrief after this year’s race and work from there, as far as what happens in the future,” he said.