Eight times Ebenezer’s Kevin Boylan has stood triumphant on the grounds of Governor Phillip Park in Windsor, NSW as the winner of the world-renowned Sydney Bridge to Bridge water skiing classic. This year the racing veteran will attempt to make it nine victories as an observer, albeit with a fresh new team.
Last year Boylan chalked up his eighth win as a member of the Merc Force team, but the now disbanded crew won’t be back to defend their title. In 2017 with driver Don Gulley and skiers Kris Knights and Jake Tegart, Boylan played his part in a victory that obliterated the previous race record by close to 30 seconds.
In total, it took the team just 37 minutes and 34 seconds to ski the winding 112km course from Dangar Island in Brooklyn, north of Sydney, to Windsor in Sydney’s northwest.
But with Merc Force not contesting the event this year, Boylan will find himself with a new crew, Arkham Asylum. Despite having only contested their first event together last weekend, the veteran’s voice was filled with anticipation when talking about the chance to race the ‘Sydney Bridge’ with a young and exciting crew.
“Coming into the 2018/19 season I didn’t have a permanent team to race with, so a week before the Barrie Beehag (a Victorian race, run on Sunday November 18), I got a call from the guys at Arkham Asylum to see if I was interested observing for them,” Boylan said.
“They’re relatively young and new to ski racing, so we agreed to take our relationship race by race.
“At the Beehag, we were on for a great run and we were on record pace, but unfortunately the boat broke on the way back. We’ve only done 13 minutes of racing together! But these guys are young, very keen and love ski racing. They’re also conscientious with their craft and just want to get out there and get amongst it.”
This year’s Sydney Bridge to Bridge will see 100 crews – 400 people – contest the iconic event, with the oldest being 80-year-old Cliff Priest. Meanwhile competitors as young as under-12’s will also take to the water, and just finishing this physically gruelling event will be an achievement in itself.
At the top end of town, all eyes will be glued on the fast crews of Superclass, the premier division. This year’s field includes previous winners Superman, who will be chased down by hot young teams Arkham Asylum, Pigs Arsenal, TR and Strike Force.
While Boylan alluded to favouritism on Superman’s behalf, he added a word of warning about the unique nature of the Sydney Bridge race, while also emphasising the significance of this race for locals like himself.
“Everybody knows that Superman are top notch, but the Bridge to Bridge is a different race. You need to make your own luck, do everything right and get yourself in the right spot,” Boylan continued.
“This race is about patience. You won’t win it in the first five minutes, but you can definitely lose it there. You need trust in your team and be able to mix it early on. The good thing about this race is that everyone takes off together, so you know where you are placed in the field which means you can be calmer.
“As a local, this is our Bathurst, the holy grail. It’s like a Victorian wanting to win the Southern 80. When you come down the river towards Windsor it’s a euphoric feeling to ski past friends and family. You see the crowd and it is like no other feeling.
“To be doing this race with a new team, with new blood, it’s a great feeling.”
The Sydney Bridge-to Bridge weekend will see racing commence at 9:30am AEDT on Saturday November 24 for veterans, social, disabled and junior classes, as well as the popular ‘Parents & Partners’ class.
The 112km epic main event from Dangar Island to Governor Phillip Park will commence at 9am AEDT on Sunday November 25. The first skiers will be expected to cross the line just before 9:40am AEDT.