Words by Bianca Maher
Photography: Paul Wilson and Kevan Wolfe

Steven Morley retired from ski racing four years ago. But the temptation of the Southern 80 proved too much. When the 1992 Thundernuts crew of ‘geriatrics’ decided to give it one more shot, Steven just had to be part of the team. “I came out of retirement just to win it – we set a goal and we did it,” Steven said.

It was a decisive win by Blown Budget driven by Mike Dominguez, his brother Tim was the observer and son Brett rode the planks with Steven. The team from East Kew in Melbourne’s east finished in a time of 31 minutes and 42 seconds, just 19 seconds outside Top Shot’s 2000 record.

The 2003 Club Marine Southern 80, was a race of attrition, many of the favourites failed to make it to the finish line. Last year’s winner, Hellrazor, had oil pressure problems, blew an O-ring and was forced to retire from the race. The Chief only made it 20ks down the river before the Chev 496 packed it in and after breaking the ski ropes three times The Sting decided to call it a day.

Last to cross the line in 50 minutes and 51 seconds was the crew from Humble. With just two corners to go from the finish line the boat spun out throwing driver Chris Tindale and observer Bernard Tindale into the drink.

“Some people were pushing logs into the water and we hit one which spun us out,” Chris explained. After climbing back on board without a scratch and firing up the bilge pumps, they got going again and finished the race.

“It was definitely an experience I don’t want to repeat,” said Chris.

The Bakers Blitz is a 20-kilometre race of the Super Class held on the Saturday afternoon of the weekend program, with the fastest across the line leading the pack for Sunday’s main event. This year there were 19 entries, only 11 finished.

First to leave the five-mile boat ramp was Hellrazor, the favourite to grab pole position after picking up the Blitz/Southern 80 double last year. But the guys had to settle for sixth position after fuel problems saw them finish in a time of seven minutes and 24 seconds.

Fastest across the line was Stinga. The team took out the Blitz in six minutes and 53 seconds, just two seconds outside Hellrazor’s 2002 record. With Greg Houston behind the wheel, Kevin Boylan observing and Mitchell Galvin and James Graziano skiing, they looked to be the ones to beat come Sunday.

Hitting a top speed of 122mph in “conditions nowhere near as good as last year,” Kevin Boylan admitted that they had to run the boat a lot harder and divert around one swimmer who had swum out just a bit too far. Kevin, who has twice won the Southern 80 as a skier rated their chances “as good as anyone’s, but it’s a totally different ball game tomorrow.”

Coming second in the Blitz was the 2001 Southern 80 winner, The Sting, from Abbotsford, NSW, driven by Cliff Priest with third place going to Blown Budget. Last year’s winner and record holder of the six-litre inboard expert class, The Real McCoy, was unable to make it a back-to-back victory. An engine problem put an end to the team’s campaign just 10 minutes into the race.

In the S.M.O.C. Social Class, Shaun Tomkins notched up a second consecutive victory driving Little Man. Shaun stood in for his father Lance, the Director of the Moama Waterski Club a couple of years ago. This year he won the race in 41 minutes beating his father’s 2000 result by more than two minutes. Lance still got his turn in the driver’s seat of Little Man in the S.M.O.C. Expert Class.


For the third year in a row the team from Parkes, NSW, in E.Coli Septic Shock won the 16-19 Boys Expert Class. And in the Open Women Class, Status, cruised to victory shaving four seconds off the record.

For the winners of this year’s Southern 80, there will be little celebration as the guys from Blown Budget work towards achieving their next goal – developing the boat to make it handle better. While it may come as a surprise to some to hear that the boat wasn’t developed for the Southern 80, Mike says “it’s coming along nicely and I think in the next month we’ll have it worked out.”

This year the Southern 80 returned to its usual timeslot of the second weekend in February, after last year’s event was almost cancelled due to problems obtaining liability insurance. Competitor numbers were down slightly on last year due to insurance costs, but for the die-hard enthusiasts, like Mike Dominguez and the team from Blown Budget, nothing deters them from coming back.

“We’re pretty happy with this race, he said. “We love it. It’s the best race in the world bar none.“