Sunny skies and glassy water set the scene for a thrilling day of racing last Sunday as 51 entrants vied for the number one position as winner of the 2016 Grafton Bridge to Bridge ski classic. For a full round up and more images turn to page 24. Image: Lynne Mowbray
The 2016 Grafton Bridge to Bridge water skiing classic has been won for the fourth consecutive year by team Superman, the crew from NSW edging out team Merc Force by just under 12 seconds on Clarence River.
One of the most demanding events on the Australian ski racing calendar, the Grafton Bridge to Bridge saw teams complete a 108 kilometre endurance test from the banks of the Crown Hotel to Harwood and back. Without a break at the turnaround buoy, the race is one of the toughest and places a premium on skier fitness.
The main event could not have been run under more ideal conditions. Sunny skies and glassy water set the scene for the day, and it was business as usual for Superman who needed no invitation to hit the gas from the get go.
Led by owner/driver Darren McGuire and observer Brett Armstrong, the team took advantage of their ability to maintain a consistently high speed to lead home their closest rival in ‘Superclass’, team Merc Force. Sydney’s ‘Team Stinga F1’ finished third.
While it was the fourth win in a row for Superman, skier Daniel Cotton notched up his eighth victory in Grafton, the veteran of water skiing saying that he and fellow skier Daniel Graziano arrived fit and ready for any challenge from their rivals.
“We’re always training to be fit for skiing, and this year we also have world championship selection so there is plenty of emphasis on fitness,” Cotton said.
“We’re fit, but not worlds fit, and our plan today was to just pick a nice, fast, consistent speed that we could stick to. We also needed to keep an eye on what Merc Force were going to do, and if they made a run for it we needed to be ready to go with them.
“It was a good start to our race, we were a little bit behind Merc Force off the start and it wasn’t until we went under the bridge on the way out when we got into the nuts and bolts of the race that we could pull up beside them and get ahead.”
Although conditions looked to be ideal, Cotton said that the water was somewhat deceiving on the way home, noting that any hopes of a course record were dampened by rougher water than had been anticipated.
“It was glass water all the way to the turn buoy in Harwood, we had good speed, but coming back was a bit more difficult,” he said.
“It was a bit rougher than normal, mainly from boats going the other direction. Nevertheless our speed suffered a little bit, that’s where the time got away from us.”
That was our fourth win in a row, but to be honest I don’t take a huge amount of notice of the numbers. I just really enjoy skiing, I love Grafton, the weather and the race and love coming every year.”
For Daniel Graziano, this was his third winning race, behind the four time winning boat, ‘Superman’.
Daniel said that it was definitely an exciting experience, winning consecutively for the last three years.
“It’s great to keep coming back each year and performing,” he said.
“We just try to improve each year.
‘I started skiing at the age of two and started competing at nine.
“I am the youngest of four and we all ski.
“My brother Jamie has won this race twice over the years, once behind ‘Rampage and also behind ‘Stinga’.
In total 51 teams made a start to the race, including the crew of Top Gun who returned to the race a year on from the passing of teammate Jared ‘Jed’ Coey. Coey who suffered a fall at this event last year was remembered in a moving memorial prior to the commencement of this year’s race.
1st – Superman: 36.23.74; 2nd – Merc Force: 36:35.19; 3rd – Stinga F1: 37: 38.66.