When it comes to the 112km marathon that is the Sydney Bridge to Bridge water skiing classic, everyone arrives on race day with a plan…or perhaps more accurately, a very loose plan, depending on who you talk to.
Ahead of tomorrow’s 57th running of the internationally renowned Sydney race, here’s what four competitors – who have a combined 14 outright victories between them – had to say.
Greg Houston – six wins:
There’s little doubting that Greg Houston’s pedigree when it comes to this event. Six wins and on the hunt for his seventh, the Hawkesbury local will be aiming to spring a challenge from the Unlimited Inboard class in 2018. Houston won four on the hop from 2002 to 2005 and then added a further two outright wins in 2007 and 2009.
“Tomorrow’s race will be interesting. We’re running in unlimited and on the second grid, chasing the Superclass guys. If conditions are like Saturday with a bit of breeze and chop on the water, the boys up front might want to keep an eye on what is coming from behind. We’re using the big boat, Stinga F1,” Houston said.
“Our team combination is one we started this season with and have done about four races together. We’re gelling well together and performing well. We’re top of the leader board in the NSW point score, so we’ll see how we go.
“To be in a position to win a seventh Sydney Bridge to Bridge would be amazing.”
Danny Cropper – five wins:
Danny Cropper first tasted victory in 1988 with the ‘Supafortruss’ crew, in what was the first of an unprecedented (at the time) four-run streak for him at the Sydney Bridge to Bridge. From 1989-1991 it was a hattrick with ‘Top Gun’, before his last win with ‘Mirage’ in 1994. This year, he’s racing with Greg Houston, who has also claimed four successive wins in his career and together they are the most successful combination in this year’s race.
“Patience is the key to this race, patience at the start of this whole thing. You need to make sure the skiers are looked after at the Dangar Island end if the water is a bit rough, especially with the wind of the last few days…but it is expected to ease tomorrow,” Cropper surmised.
“My dad taught me about patience, but I’m not a very patient person when it comes to other things – except for racing! You just have to practice it.
“The years that I won four-straight in this race was a fantastic time in ski racing. Superclass consisted of 12 boats that we capable of winning the race, so it was pretty tough. You had to do the right thing, be patient and get through the bridges to get to the river. Then, it was all about skiing hard.”
“Having the experience of Greg and I, it helps the team. You can organise what you will do, where you will do it and how you will do it…but it all changes once you hit the start line.”
“Tomorrow, the plan is just to stay in touch.”
Daniel Cotton – two wins:
A veteran of Superclass, at 42-years-old Daniel Cotton will be looking to add a third win to his resume after he and the ‘Superman’ team claimed back-to-back outright titles in 2014 and 2015. Only a brave person would write Cotton’s team off, even with a young and enthusiastic field chasing them down.
“Tomorrow, I am sure it will be a little tougher than what I raced in veterans today, but in the Bridge to Bridge anything can happen,” Cotton smiled.
“You’ve just got to get up and just get some rhythm going and hopefully get into the river first. If you can do that, the day gets a lot easier. There’s no real game plan, get a good start and go from there.
“I wouldn’t say there is an expectation on us to be the leaders tomorrow. I have the most experience and also the most age on my legs at 42-years-old. We’ll see what happens, I am pretty fit but so are the young fellas!
“I hope we have better luck with the boat than we had at the Hawkesbury 120, it doesn’t need to be much better luck to be better.”
Note: ‘Superman’ will line up for tomorrow’s race with a brand-new motor. Let’s hope they have some mechanical luck!
Jamie Oliver – one win:
Oliver has won nigh on everything there is to win in ski racing but has just a singular Sydney Bridge win to his name, which came in 1995 with ‘God’s Gift’. What’s special about that victory was that Oliver and his team were the first Victorian team to win the Sydney Bridge and to date, are the only full Victorian crew to have won outright. This year Oliver will race with the ‘Mistress F2’ team.
“What I recall from 1995 was the first 15 to 20 minutes, which was side-by-side racing and it was quite quick. Us and Mirage led, so it was tough and really good. We were up and down on speeds, but it was also great to get to the end,” Oliver recalled.
“Back then it was all very different. We didn’t know the river, and we were used to the Murray River. But we knew in 1995 that we had to get to the front first, get there early to win. That was the plan, that’s what we did.
“For the big guys this year, it will be a really good race. There will be a few quick boats, but really all of the competitors in Superclass can win. Actually, in every class, all the competitors are a lot more developed than they were in 1995 so it will be close racing the whole way.
“My pick for the outright win? It is hard to go past Superman. But I would also put a mention towards Arkham Asylum and TR – they’re all in with a good chance.
“We won F2 last year, it will be very competitive, but we will have the same game plan – get to the front and stay there.”