WHILE this weekend will be a huge opportunity for the competitors in the Australian Powerboat Association (APBA) National Championships at Lake Wyangan, it looms as an even bigger one for the Griffith Boat Club.
For 16 years straight across the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, the event was held in the city but after a 21-year wait, it will finally return to what organisers have described as the best boat racing venue in Australia.
If the national titles – which start on Friday and wrap-up on Sunday afternoon –run without a hitch, there’s every chance they will stay in Griffith for the forseeable future.
That’s according to Wayne Smith, the vice-president of inboards for the NSW Council of the APBA, who raced himself the last time the event was held in Griffith back in 1992 and can’t wait to see it back here again.
“I reckon Griffith will be in the box seat to keep it for the next 12 years if this works out,” he said.
“At this stage we’re on a three-year program with the APBA to run the championships in Griffith and we hope the people get on board and we can keep them there.
“Griffith is the perfect venue because of the expanse of water and the proximity to the spectators.
“They’ll be at the same height as the racing is, so it just adds to the experience being at water-level. Seeing the boats at water-level is incredible.”
A conglomeration of the nine boating clubs of NSW made the decision to bring the titles back to Lake Wyangan earlier this year.
The event left Griffith after the 1992 edition because the local boat club fell on hard financial times and was unable to reaffiliate with the APBA, Smith said.
But the new driving force behind the Griffith Boat Club is ready to grab this long-awaited chance with both hands.
“It’s mainly a bunch of 30-year-old business owners from Griffith on the new committee and they’re all really keen. They’ve just thought, let’s do it,” Smith said.
“There’s a few of the original members with them and that’s helped as well, but it would have been physically impossible to do this without their input and what they’ve done down that end. I really hope we don’t disappoint them.”
The new blood includes Griffith Boat Club secretary Scott Collis, committee members Stan Dale, Paul Woolnough, Wayne Spencer, Jason Cronk and old hands Brian Wallett and Ray Gullifer.
“It’s a new breed of boat lovers and enthusiasts,” Collis said.
“The older guys kept it ticking along but we’ve come along and ran with it.
“The titles are good in a couple of ways – it helps the town, it helps the boat club itself, because we need money to keep things ticking over, and it provides something else for people to do.
“We’re very happy. It’s tough on a long weekend when there’s so much happening in Griffith but if we can make it work it’s a really big opportunity for us.”
Griffith’s location also played a massive role.
“It’s smack bang in the middle and the plan was that everyone would get keen if we brought the Australian championships there,” Smith said.
“We decided to really promote the sport we need somewhere that’s central to everybody and Griffith has the best water in the country – there’s no risk about that.
“Unfortunately being the inaugural year we haven’t had the influx of entries we would have liked, but we’ve got enough to put on a pretty good spectacle. The proof will be in the pudding.”