October 18, 2016

It’s that time of year again, when keen ski racers come from all around the world to compete in the annual Bridge to Bridge Water Ski Classic in the midst of the picturesque scenery of the Hawkesbury River, says Edwina Best, secretary of the Bridge to Bridge committee.

Held on the weekend of November 26-27, the Bridge to Bridge is one of the longest races in the world, running from Dangar Island near the Central Coast, under Mooney Mooney Bridge to Governor Phillip Park in Windsor, a total distance of 112km along the length of the Hawkesbury River, Edwina says.

“It’s a big international event, with competitors coming from the US, NZ and Belgium, as well as lots of local entrants,” she says.

“It’s one of the longest-running and most prestigious ski racing events.

“Of course, the Hawkesbury is such a popular spot for skiing and wakeboarding anyway, so there is a lot of interest locally. There are ski parks all along the river, from Wiseman’s Ferry to Portland, one on pretty much every bend! It’s a very well-loved sport in the area.”

Jack Harrison, 18, the current two-time world champion waterskier in the junior boys category, says that while he competes in up to 20 races per year, in various locations around the world, he enjoys the Bridge to Bridge because it’s just down the road from his home in Pitt Town.

“It’s also one of the toughest races in the calendar,” he says.

“It’s good to push yourself though and it’s an adrenalin rush. The social side of seeing everyone at the race is good fun, too.”

Having been a keen skier since he was eight and racing from the age of 10, Jack says the best thing about living in Pitt Town is the Hawkesbury River.

“In the summer I’m out on the river every weekend and a few times during the week,” he says.

The qualifiers for pole positions from Sackville to Windsor will be held on Saturday, November 25, with social races and all the categories including under 19s, under 16s and under 10s.

The main event will be run on Sunday, November 26, starting at Dangar Island to Windsor Marine Stadium in Governor Phillip Park.

“The best place for people to come is to Governor Phillip Park, where we will have lots of family entertainment, live broadcasts from Hawkesbury 97.5 radio station, exhibits, stalls, food and family fun, as well as demonstrations from other facets of water-skiing, like wakeboarding and tournament displays,” says Edwina.

“There will also be a presentation of trophies for the winning teams at 3pm.”

The Bridge to Bridge started in 1961, with just 80 competitors. Teams were a mix of the super competitive and weekend skiers, and 23 years later in 1984 the Bridge to Bridge entries record was set at 415 boats (1660 competitors).

This year the committee is expecting around 200 entrants, and Edwina says the beauty of the event is that entrants could be regular ski racers, once-a-year Bridge to Bridge competitors or a family enjoying the sport together.

 

Q&A with BRETT ARMSTRONG, observer in the winner of the 2015 Bridge to Bridge Waterski Classic. He lives on the Hawkesbury River.

What do you enjoy about competing in the B2B?
The Sydney Bridge to Bridge is one of the toughest races on the calendar. It’s the only major race of the season where we all take off together. As an observer this brings tactics and strategies into play.

Do you ski on the Hawkesbury as a hobby?
Yes, my family is fortunate enough to own a property on the river, so social skiing is a large part of our lives (when not racing).

How did it feel to win the B2B as a local?
The Bridge to Bridge was the one race I wanted to win outright. It was right up there with a world title. So to finally achieve that goal was something that I cannot put into words. To win as a local was also very special, as I have a long history on the river.

Do you compete every year?
Yes I have competed in the Bridge to Bridge since 1982, ranging from my first year in U10s right through to superclass.

Is this event good for the region?
The event is a great spectacle for the region, both economically and socially. It’s great to come down the river and have people on the banks cheering you on.

What do you like about water-skiing?
The thing I enjoy about water-skiing and ski racing is it’s something we can enjoy as a family, as well as the lifelong friends that are made and the stories told around the fire.

 

Q&A with GREG HOUSTON, the Bridge to Bridge’s most successful driver. He owns a holiday house on the Hawkesbury River.

What do you enjoy about competing in the B2B?
The B2B is regarded by most ski races in Australia and around the world, along with the Diamond Race Belgium, Catalina Island Race USA, as one of the three most iconic ski races in the world. To be a part of this great race held on the magnificent Hawkesbury River is an unbelievable experience. There is nothing better than racing along this river and pass all the spectators along the way and rounding the last corner seeing the finish line and huge crowds at the finish.

Do you ski on the Hawkesbury as a hobby?
I first was introduced to skiing on Hawkesbury at Anderson’s Ski Park at Sackville in 1960 with my parents, and have continued skiing all my life, now with my own family at our holiday house at Ebenezer.

How did it feel to win the B2B as a local?
Winning the B2B is a great honour and is only achieved by putting together a top-class team, and winning this race as a local goes without saying is a very proud moment, knowing that friends, family and supporters have the opportunity to watch your team win this race at home gives you a sense of fulfilling a great achievement in your sporting life.

Do you compete every year?
I have now been competing in the B2B since 1980.

Is this event good for the region?
Major sporting events contribute greatly to any region and the B2B is no different. It brings to our area 800 competitors, officials and support crews, along with spectators as well as all the businesses that are in attendance at any major function. It also is an iconic event that is associated with our region.

What do you like about water-skiing?
Everything! It is family-oriented, fun and you can ski anywhere there is water and a boat. You make lifelong friends both here and around the world. It is a sport that keeps families together.

Photos by Michael Kemp

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