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Bermuda News Weather Property Rentals Jobs Reviews Social
December 13, 2018

Seagull Engine Racing - Bermuda | The Great Race 2004 | 'Chummy Memorial Round-the-Island Seagull Race' | Propspring | 2004 Results | Pictures from RISR | WANTED/ FOR SALE | THE GREAT RACE … WAIKATO RIVER NEW ZEALAND… 2004 | Waikato River 2003 - first timers story |

Waikato River 2003 - first timers story




I shall explain a bit before we start…. Seagulls as in seagull outboards not winged pains in the ass that steal you bread at the beach and shit on your head!
(we aint that sick …..yet!)

Anyway it all began when Tony King (Ekin’s old co-driver and chicken cooker builder) and Brent Greenlees (aka Bent Darkley QSM and nine bars) came back from the Waikato raving about this boat race they had just done. Two days of fun, fun times and great people. We listened with enthused looks like kids watching the teletubbies and decided that it seemed like fun.

So 11 months go by and I get a call from Ekim saying that he is gonna do this race would I like to join him for these aforementioned fun, fun times and great people. I said sure but we are missing two vital ingredients for this to become a successful seagull campaign. A BOAT AND AN ENGINE! Much to my delight it is all been most kindly leant to use by Tony. We are to use their last years boat and engine. Great I said when do we leave. So off to Hamilton we go to pick up the boat and motor and prepare it for the two days of high-speed action in front of us!

We get the boat back to ekims and a drop of Jamaica’s Finest (JF) to celebrate!
The next weekend arrives and I miss out on the first sea trial due to work commitments and get a call and hear all went well.
Ekim had taken his lovely lady Toni out in the potential water speed record holding dingy for a romantic cruise up the Henderson creek!

So the following Tuesday we get stuck in. We open mikes garage and remove his dingy he has been working on to put the race boat in. We then put his dinghy back in the garage due to the weight of the race boat and begin to prepare his boat for the race ahead.

After a few glasses of JF, we decide to go with the jet sprint boat look and set about locating the required bits.
So we put it in the back of the falcon (affectionately know as the piece!) and set of down to the river. We unload; bolt the engines on and after a couple of pulls we then try and start the engine! Engine started and Ekim leaps in the boat and sits down next to me and we are off! Kind of…. we sit there for a few seconds then realize that the reason we aren’t moving is that the engine is out of the water!!!!!!!! So a minor seating change and we are off again!

So we decide where we are going to bolt the seats and where all the water is coming in and head back to shore. All is going well until we try to stop. For some reason the throttle cable won’t turn off far enough and there is no electrical cut off for the engine! A landing of the boat on the boat ramp is required while I lean back and pull the engine out off the water. I turn the tank breather off…no joy still going! Tried to block the carb… still going! Turn the fuel off and engine starts to slow. Success or so I think…. All of a sudden the engine leans out and goes nuts!!!!!!! Revving at twice the speed that we had been running all day was a handful to hold especially with a flywheel buzzing around on top! Finally it cuts out and we roll around laughing.
Back to the race shop and we have a couple more of JF and set to it.

Two Jamex race seats, some Marley spouting, bits and pieces and we are almost ready! A splash of paint inside and then it is off to FOSTER SIGN SYSTEMS for the flame job and naming ceremony (Thanks heaps to Ian Foster for all his help and support). So after a large quantity of JF we decide on the name CUNALINGI! Ekim and I sat in awe as Ian worked his magic painting the name on the side of the boat. Freehand and after a lot JF it was unbelievable to watch!

So the great ship CUNALINGI was born and all we had to do was assemble it and trial it.
We pieced it all together, put it on the trailer (kindly supplied by CLARKE ROOFING, Thanks John) and head of to the river. We get two the end of Universal drive, just about to get into Lincoln road and I said to Ekim, “the roll cage has fallen off!” So we park the ‘piece’ in the middle of Lincoln road run back retrieve all the bits and we are off again! After a successful trial we return to the race shop and reassemble our MANZ disapproved but WOMANZ approved roll cage (complete with homologation number…69!)

All systems go the refuel system wired up, the Toyota washer motor come bilge pump set up, the Gilligan’s island nautical steering wheel system rigged up (thanks Toni for the loan of your clock) brolly holder in place and JF storage sorted out we were ready to race!!!!!!

We decide two have one more trial before we went so it was of to the river and to be laughed at by my family, Toni and Ian.
Everything went well, I almost fell out due to the sensitivity of our jet boat steering and the high speed ‘G’s pulled while turning, and we then had a throttle cable failure just as Ian was preparing to go out. Bugger! Sorry Ian next time!

So we got that sorted and loaded up the car for the trip ahead.


First stop the wholesalers in Papakura and Pizza hut. We bought all the Appletons they had, TWO bottles!
So another stop was going to be required if we were going to make it through the weekend. (It was a long weekend!)
So after a stop in Hamilton for more supplies and the payment to Tony for the gear hire we made it to Tony’s house.

Tony’s boat this year was a sea kayak with a mid-mounted 4.5hp short shaft seagull with aftermarket refuels system and single under deck bilge pump and rum tank! Quite the bit of gear! So a night of fun times was had putting the finishing touches on the boats, us repairing a leak on our boat and in bed at 8.30 after hot cocoa and bikkies. (yeah right!)

So Friday rolled around and it was of to Karapiro for more testing, scrutineering and documentation. It was unbelievable the types of boats people had come up with for the race. Canoes tied together, inflatables, surfboard type arrangements scaled down power boats and a one that had a flymo mounted to act as a type of hovercraft arrangement (I think!).

We had a good day testing trying different props (that’s boaty talk for propellers) and only one more repair to make and that was to bolt the steering wheel back on that had come adrift during high speed cornering test. One other secret weapon we had that is sadly no longer with us! (Sorry Toni) we had a beach umbrella mounted at the front of the boat to keep the sun and rain off.

On our last trial we decided to run the wet weather set on the boat and proudly erected our brolly. After a few minutes of high speed trialling we were heading back towards the jetty when the brolly decided to part company with the boat, flipped over the back and landed in the lake. Laughter ensued until we realize it is actually sinking! A quick u-turn and it is going down fast! A quick question to Ekim and I dive in after it, look around and it is gone. I then realize that diving into a lake full of racing boats isn’t the smartest thing, resurface and jump in the boat. Gutted looks all-round and a trip back to shore.

We loaded up the boat and helped Brent and Tony load up their boat and drop it down at the start line which was at the foot of the Karapiro dam( which was a chore to get to in its self down a steep as hell hill on a kinda thing called a road!)

We jetted back to Hamilton to make the necessary repairs and get the boat back to karapiro dam for the start the next day.
A quiet night was had, partly due to the night before and partly due to the fizzing with excitement of the day ahead.


We loaded up the car and headed to Karapiro , handed the reigns of the ‘piece’ over to Brent’s mate Richard (thanks for your help Richard) and wandered down the hill with our seagull under arm. Loaded up the boat and prepared for launch. It was then I realized that didn’t have my phone or my wallet. So a quick run, which turned into a exhausted jog, which turned into a wanting to die crawl before I reached the top. Only to find that what I wanted wasn’t there! So I started back down the hill, halfway down the starting hooter went! Fuck!!!!!!!!!!!!! So here I was running again only this time gravity was against me and I was praying that my warehouse jandals would hang together! I get to the bottom to find boat running, Ekim in it and ready to go. I leap in and we were off! We had just become international seagull racers!

First corner was an experience due to the water coming from every direction due being at the foot of the dam. We get to the rapids and the land lubber side of me wanted to get out! Water splashing over the sides, boat going in every direction, and Ekim yelling like a banshee with excitement! Like Ari Vatenen on water he steered with skill and luck and we made it through only to then piss ourselves laughing as the boat in front of us had a mad panic onboard then promptly crashed over a rock sending all of them flying! Then landing back in the boat gather themselves up and grabbed another amber ‘energy’ drink to calm the nerves. About this time we decided that was a good idea and indulged ourselves.

Coming up on the Cambridge road bridge we see people on the bridge. We recognize two people as our support crew and the other two turn out to be (much to our disappointment) Tony and Brent! After much yelling and hand signals (due to the translation difficulties between Hamilton hand signals and Auckland hand signals) the international hand signal for ‘we have sunk’, was used! Gutted! We were looking forward to the passing battle that would have ensued when they had caught us.
The great ship Cunalingi would have suddenly become very wide! A phone call proved fruitless and we were left wondering what had gone wrong.

About an hour later and much spectacular scenery we started to plan our overtaking maneuver on the guys in front of us over a cup of JF. About half an hour later (and more of JF) we had gained the 6 inches required to start thinking about the pass. We got up along side and got the door shut on us. We went the other side and I grabbed the side of the boat and pulled ourselves along. Just as we got passed he turned in on us turning us around and into a sandbar. Gather ourselves up have and then find the engine not pumping any water cooling. FUCK! A double disaster. We stopped the engine cleaned the weed out of the pick-up and started of in hot pursuit. About three quarters of an hour and much corner cutting, risks taken and JF drunk, we catch up and return the favor turning them around in the middle of Hamilton! From then on it was a battle to stay in front, which I have to say we won!

We get near Narawhahia and I turn around to see that our refueling system was suddenly siphoning and we had lost a lot of fuel. A mad panic and rush to the back of followed and cutting of wires and hose blocking followed. A quick calculation of fuel and we realized we didn’t have enough. Thanks again to Tony for organizing more fuel. So we were left with the task of going to the back of the boat to refuel every so often by bridging out the fuel pump to refuel, which didn’t turn out to be to bad as after a three quarters of a bottle of JF the trips to the back of the boat to do some ‘bailing’ came around quite regularly. During one of these refuels disaster almost struck! A sudden shift of weight (we think) had the side of the boat under water and a lot of the Waikato flowing in! Yelling and frantic movements corrected the problem and actually bailing was required.( we had lost the bilge pump in the wire cutting fracar).

Minor navigation was need from there on to find the fast side of the river as we made our way to Huntly. Then the biggest disaster of the trip so far. On approach to Huntly the call went up ‘which bridge do I go under?’ from ekim. Followed by ‘I can see three of them!’ I advised him to pick the middle one as I couldn’t make a judgment either! Due possible due to the amount of JF drunk (we later discounted this and are writing to the Huntly council for moving the other three bridges that WERE there!) We hit one! Not hard but enough to clip the prop and break a prop spring. Free revving followed and in my panic, I pulled the throttle the wrong way and broke the end off the accelerator cable. So we were down to paddle power as mike closed one eye and fixed both problems. A cup of JF and we were back racing a little less excited due to the positions lost.

Rangiriri loomed and the end of day ones racing was in sight. We landed shut the engine of and apparently I spent the next while walking around the boat ramp in my boxers due to the amount of JF drunk and me removing my wet pants!

A chat with Tony and Brent reveled that they had capsized and the boat had sunk within 10 seconds! Scary stuff as Tony had gone into panic mode because he couldn’t find brent and had a few worrying minutes before finding him down river a bit. I remember commenting to Ekim about the river at that point and how I wouldn’t like to go in at that point! A condolence to Tony at the loss of his boat as it is still on the bottom of the river. Motor and all!

We got changed, erected our tent, set up the camper and got ready for dinner at the marae. A pint of beer and no sign of dinner we adjourned to the Rangariri tavern for steak dinners and good stories all-round! We caught up with the guys we had raced with all day and swapped stories. A short walk back to the tent (underneath the Rangariri bridge) and a night of counting cars and truck that go by was only interrupted by some wanker doing skids in the gravel car park and to my surprise I actually got to sleep after that!


A quick scratch of the jewels, a look around to get our bearings back and we get psyched up for another day of high speed racing! A mercy dash to the petrol station(yeah just before the start!) and we launch the boat and begin our pre-start duels in the start box.

Hooter goes and this time we are on the money, chasing the same guys we had been chasing for 7 hours the day before! A late starter was the inflatable that had been a front-runner the day before. We later found out that this was due to the indulging had the night before which as we found out later was part of the reason why we didn’t see him all day on day two! At the finish we saw him arrive less his boat, which later arrived under tow.
Apparently he had used coke bottle as fuel and refreshment containers so around refuel time he opens a bottle and pours it in. In his still happy haze he had grabbed the wrong bottle. Seagulls don’t run to good on coca cola!

So back to the action! We had a rough start due to the amount of wash off the boats moving us around a bit and we went into the first tricky section about fifth. Due to the nature of people we did the ‘last sheep follows the first sheep thing’, mainly due to the fact that we didn’t know where to go and people were breaking prop springs and paddling left, right and center due to the shallow nature of the route we had taken. Ekim quickly assessed the scene and leaped on the front of the boat pulling the engine up out of the water but still leaving enough in the water for forward motion. Full revs and we made up three places in one go with one special scalp taken from the guys from the day before. Last we saw of them they were paddle ashore to carry out repairs.

The morning was spent with eye wide open and my hand going blue from holding the rope on the motor tight ready for an emergency engine pull up should we run into anything. We were luck to emerge unscathed from a log strike and a few shallow moments.

We spent the day swapping places with a couple of kids in a tinnie mainly due to their inferior navigation skills leading them astray or to prop springs breaking. We employed the paddle as a depth gauge after we were left dead in the water ourselves following a sand bar strike and prop spring breakage. We only had one other moment where the Waikato ran out of water and we had to struggle over a sand bar.

After the mornings tension we laid back and Ekim some of JF. Me, I was still a bit jaded after the day before. John and Faye waved us on, as the stood at the boat ramp at Tuakau bridge. After a jet boat turn for the fans, we carried on! Past the tuakau bridge the river widened and the scenery took over. Fantastic! Into the port Waikato area and we could see a boat on the horizon! It was those damn meddling kids in their tinnie! We where on them! Hour later we were still on them just now we could make out the colour of their clothes! Another hour later and we were starting to worry where the finish was as nothing matched the map we had been given. We started to worry as the fuel calculations were getting stretched. Again the call was made for more fuel and the rescue boat dropped it of to us(thanks Tony and Moe).

The harbour opened up and we spent most of the time looking at all the maimais olong the river. Some are like houses! We decided to have a go at the kids and starting cutting a few corners to make up some time. It was paying off and we were gaining!

We where still unsure of the route and it was only after we found the markers we were told to look out for that we where sure of our direction. The river narrowed into marsh like areas and we were locked in a race within a race with a guy paddling his kayak!
After about half an hour we had edged ahead and were concentrating on the kids again!
We saw them stop and we had a sniff of victory. Damn, they were underway again only to stop about thirty seconds later! More yards gained to us! Another start and stop and we were looking good for the pass! Engine reluctance to start and stay running sealed the deal for us and we were up another place! WOOHOO!

Into the home stretch and we notice a lot of weed! The type that grows in the water!!!!!!!! Not good for seagulls as it can block the cooling intake. We look back to see the cooling jet showing signs of wavering!
We look up and the finish is insight and the kids just behind us! We risk it and rush the finish line! After a couple of victory donuts jet boat style we head for the ramp. We had done it! Our first seagull race completed! And with only two prop springs and wiring as casualties!

A change of clothes (sorry no boxer short parade this time) a few celebratory handshakes with the rest of the competitors and we loaded up the ‘great ship Cunalingi’ and head to rangariri ro sort out the camper and pick up our gear. Then off to Hamilton to pack up the rest of the supplies. After we arrived we discovered that car batteries and wooden boats don’t mix and the battery had smashed a hole in the bottom of the boat on the trip to Hamilton! Not good!

After a few goodbyes and thanks to Tony for his help and support we headed off home via the prize giving which we ended up not being able to find so I can’t tell you our official result! As we don’t know! But as soon as I do I will update you!

As mentioned - the boat they were chasing in the race was the Bermudians - Charlie Brown, Graham and Neil (ex Bermuda resident - NZlder)

They cannot believe the NZ team went straight into a bridge pilon - they have that story to tell!!