Local crew quacking after ski success

Water ski racing

A GRIFFITH-based ski racing team has successfully completed the biggest water ski race in the world - the Southern 80. 

Held in Echuca, the event attracts competitors from all parts of Australia and around the world to tackle the famous 80km stretch of the Murray River. 

It sees boats reach speeds of 220km/h while towing two skiers on ropes as long as 120m, and this year's edition, staged last weekend, pulled a record 500 boats, 1200 crew members and 80,000 spectators into Echuca for all the action.

Driver and owner of Griffith's ski racing team The Duck, Craig Parmenter, was thrilled with his rookie team's effort in completing the course. 

Despite the name, Parmenter's boat is no rubber ducky. It is powered by a hotted-up Chevrolet 350 and has been waking up the residents of Lake Wyangan over the past month as the team practiced for the event. 

"It has been a really big learning curve for us," Parmenter said.

"I was so proud of the way the whole team was able to pull it together on the day and finish the race - plenty of experienced teams failed."

The Duck team entered the hotly contested 60-miles-per-hour class and finished in a very respectable time of 54 min 17 sec, placing them 26th out of a total of 50 competitors. 

But it was not all plain sailing, with mechanical issues in the lead-up to the race hampering preparation right up to the starting line. 

"At one stage on Saturday afternoon, after being towed back to camp by strangers, we thought we were gone," Parmenter said.

"But a huge all-night effort by the support team paid off with the boat running sweetly on Sunday morning."

Undoubtedly the most incredible effort came from first-time skier Jess Spencer, who - at the tender age of 14 - was able to hang on all the way to the line. 

Jess's parents and grandparents were all on hand to congratulate him at the finish line. 

His father, Mark, also part of the team, was on edge before the race got underway but turned ecstatic as he watched his son speed over the line. 

"I can't tell you how proud I am to be his father. He has some guts, my boy," he said.

The team, buoyed by their gallant effort in Echuca, are now busy preparing for the next race in Robinvale next month. 

The team would love to hear from any local businesses that may wish to support their efforts with sponsorship.

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