It was a lucky streak for Cambridge skiers racing in the 36th annual Bridge to Bridge Water Ski Classic over the weekend.
Although Australians Ray Ball and Dylan Stevenson took the top title in the open race, Cambridge’s Mitchell Horan was just five minutes behind to take the third-place title alongside co-skier Mark Preistly, following a 38-minute water ski race from Cambridge to Taupiri, towed behind speed boats travelling at 160km/h.
“Conditions were probably more challenging this year,” said 23-year-old Horan, who was racing in his 12th year at the competition. “The wind was going against the current… but it wasn’t too bad.
“It’s an extreme sport so you can’t be complacent, you could get injured.”
The day before the event, at Lake Karapiro on Friday morning, an Australian skier due to take part in the Bridge to Bridge race was practicing and “took a bad tumble” according to people at the scene. He was taken to Waikato Hospital in a critical condition and remained in the intensive care unit this week.
Organiser Brad Dutton said the event itself had run smoothly over the weekend.
“There was a bit of rain, but everything went very well,” he said, noting a good turnout despite Sunday’s wet weather. “The rain was a bit of a shame, but it was forecast for much worse so we’re pretty happy with how it turned out really.
“It was just typical Waikato weather, getting sun burnt in Cambridge at the start line, and then rain in Taupiri.”
Jess Sinclair, a new resident to Cambridge, competed in the 82km race alongside Australian skier Emma Barnes, and won the women’s open.
Former Cambridge resident and jet ski racer Robert Ferguson competed in the jet ski class and finished first in the ‘stock forced induction’ division.
“It can’t get much better than that,” said Ferguson, who was competing in first race since taking a break from the racing circuit for surgery.
“It went really well considering I had a knee reconstruction eight months ago it was my first race back,” he said. “I was pretty nervous to jump back on the ski and compete but had to overcome my fear sooner or later, so it felt pretty good to get back out and start competing again.
“Hopefully in years to come I’ll win the race outright.”
Meanwhile Cambridge’s Annie Martin competed in the women’s open alongside Ngaruawahia skier Paige Arnott and placed third. They also placed second for under-19s.
“We weren’t expecting to place but we had some luck,” said the 18-year-old, who was competing in her third year at the competition. She too had recovered from surgery in October last year, and “honestly didn’t think” she’d be back at the competition for at least a couple of years.
“So, to come back this year and be able to do it was pretty cool,” she said.
It was tricky, she admitted, racing for over half an hour over 82km, at such a high speed.
“We were racing people who have been in this sport for their whole lives and racing the open boats as well. So, it was pretty cool to be able to come up against them and beat a few of them.”