On the same weekend that saw the tragedy of Black Saturday unfold across rural Victoria, the 2009 Club Marine Southern 80 Ski Race, held in sweltering 50C-plus conditions at the Murray River town of Echuca, was abandoned. While a full day of competition was completed on Saturday, February 6, racing was halted halfway through Sunday due to attending emergency services personnel being called away to the bushfire disaster.
As the enormity of the disaster became apparent, race organisers and competitors immediately announced a fund raising effort for fire victims, initially raising nearly $1500 at Sunday afternoon’s prize-giving presentations.
The organising club, the Moama Water Sports Club, also pledged the remaining uncontested prize money of $8000, while Ski Racing Australia and Ski Racing Victoria both pledged $5000 each.
Well-known ski racing veteran Greg Houston, owner/driver of Stinga, led the way when he pledged $1000 to the bushfire appeal.
Many others came to the fore, donating their prize money to the appeal.
Alan McDonald, president of the Moama Water Sports Club, explained the decision to abandon the race.
“We had no option but to cancel Sunday’s racing,” he explained. “The safety of our competitors is paramount and without paramedical support we could not proceed.
“The people of Victoria deserve our full support at this terrible time.
“Every ski racer present over the weekend could recount a link to someone affected by these tragic fires, which have ravaged the state,” he added.
As we go to press, a special Southern 80 Bushfire Relief Appeal had raised an additional $20,000, with more donations welcomed at the club’s website: www.southern80.com.au.
Crowds estimated at close to 60,000 descended on the Murray River for the 2009 Club Marine Southern 80 Ski Race, some taking to houseboats along the river. Many others watched from the banks, relying on the cooling effects of the occasional dip to ease the discomfort of the heatwave conditions.
Prior to the race abandonment, spectators were treated to some standout performances, with Queensland boat, Blazen powering to an average speed of 175.6km/h to take out Saturday’s headlining Baker’s Blitz event, which determined the starting positions for the Southern 80 the following day. Blazen’s time of six minutes, 50 seconds equalled that of last year’s record set by multi-Southern 80 winner, Hellbent.
Second place in the Blitz was won by The Syndicate, while third went to local boat, The Mistress.
A total of 2200 competitors, coming from around Australia as well as New Zealand and the US, ensured that there was much anticipation for plenty of action spread across a total of 38 classes. But with the premature close to the event, a number of classes, including the headlining Superclass, plus Unlimited Inboard Expert, 6 Litre Expert and MOC Expert failed to achieve an outcome.
For all confirmed results for the 2009 Club Marine Southern 80 Ski Race, go to: www.southern80.com.au