Edward River Race

Harvey Webster and I left Perth on Tuesday, 3 March 1981 and, with the exception of a four hour stop over in Adelaide for publicity purposes, drove nonstop to Mathoura, New South Wales to compete in the Edward River Race.

We arrived at the race start point, Picnic Point Caravan Park, on Friday and, while setting up camp, met the race organisers who were there to make preliminary preparations for the start of the race on Sunday.

Picnic Point is at the end of 11 kilometres of the most severely corrugated gravel road one could have the misfortune to drive on and due to various circumstances Harvey and I had to make the trip eight times.

We launched our boat and, with the race organisers, did a practice run of 75% of the course. During the trial a snag ripped a 100 mm hole in the 20g bottom of the specially built, lightweight boat.

Harvey and I worked till 0100hrs Saturday patching the split. With the water level higher than for any previous race and the repair job successfully completed the race organisers installed us as firm pre-race favourites.

The Edward River Race covers 65 kilometres from Picnic Point to Deniliquin. It is a log and snag strewn course along the twisting and winding Edward River, an anabranch of the Murray River. Conditions approximated those of the Blackwood Classic 250. Competitors were required to stop and exchange discs at each of the five checkpoints. Many divergences from the main stream make navigation difficult and for this reason the course was signposted. The majority of entrants used flat bottommed punts.

Conditions were good for the start after some early morning rain. In an effort to preserve our boat Harvey and I planned to ‘take it easy’ in the early part of the race and then rely on superior speed as the river opened and there were fewer snags.

Immediately the race started it became apparent that the main challenge would be from two other Mercury powered entrants. About one third of the way we were lying third and suffering problems with a high tension lead coming loose each time the motor kicked up. Time was lost on each occasion this fault had to be rectified but eventually we overhauled the leaders and opened up an unassailable lead by the last checkpoint. We finished ten minutes ahead of our nearest rivals and were going away.

The Edward River Race may finish at Deniliquin but there is another 1900 kilometres of river to explore towards the Murray.

The local competitors were confident of victory in the post-race buoy to buoy sprint derbies as they had observed that the Western Australian boat did not corner well. This was not a planned deception by Harvey and I but merely coincidental that the boat was allowed to drift wide when any observers were present. Really!

Results in the derbies were similar to the main race. The local competitors quickly adopted the aggressive manner of driving that is normal in W.A. power dinghy racing and we had to be content with third place in the final race after winning the first three.

The subsequent interviews with TV and the press provided an excellent opportunity for the promotion of the Murray River Expedition. Additionally we met the Mercury dealer from Swan Hill, Norm Jeans, who had two entries in the race. Norm later assisted members when the expedition reached Swan Hill.

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