SATURDAY’S Barrie Beehag will see rival Superclass teams giving it their all to take down a surging Merc Force team, looking to add another accolade to its growing list of accomplishments.
The massive 110-boat event kicks off Saturday morning from Deep Creek Marina, with the boats speeding up to Torrumbarry before racing back down.
Heading in, the favourite has to be Merc Force, which enters the race in exceptional form.
The team’s standout 2017 wins speak for themselves; the Southern 80, Mildura 100, the rescheduled 2016 Barrie Beehag, the Grafton Bridge to Bridge and the Sydney Bridge to Bridge.
But with four rival boats in Superclass, it will have to keep pushing hard to keep the winning streak going.
And leading the charge will be Echuca’s own The Mistress. The Leo Welch-driven entry is sticking to a limited schedule this season and looking to take the win on its home track.
‘‘It’s our first race of the season, we’ve cut back a fair bit and we’re only doing the Barrie Beehag and the 80 this year,’’ Welch said.
‘‘The team has settled well, we’ve got Jamie Oliver on board as our new skier; he’s a veteran with a wealth of experience. We’re very happy with the way we’re progressing.’’
‘‘The skiers are working well together, they’re quality skiers and not new to the game at all. They’re both doing a great job, and with Zac (Leo’s son) on board as our observer we’ve got a wealth of knowledge; we’ve got a couple of years experience between us.’’
But it won’t be easy to knock off Don Gulley and his Merc Force team. The Mistress will start fifth, a much more tricky proposition than its rival starting from pole.
‘‘Merc Force is 100 per cent the team to beat,’’ Welch said.
‘‘They did good times up and back last time which shows consistency. For them to lose you’d think they’d have to make a mistake. They’re smashing records everywhere and setting new benchmarks.’’
But despite calling Merc Force an unbackable favourite, Welch said his crew was not giving up just yet.
‘‘It’s our home track and we race with pride; we’re racing to win and not for second place,’’ he said.
‘‘I say they’re unbackable favourites but they’ll know there are boats coming from behind and we’ll look to get pressure on them.
‘‘We need to do our best time down there, keep it close and move up a few positions for the return leg. Getting some pressure on them is all we can do; you can’t control what they do outside of that.’’
Sapphire, Pigs Arsenal and Strike Force round out the Superclass field, with the racing in Unlimited class just as hot with 25 entries.
Deep Creek Marina is the best place to watch the action. Racing starts from 9.30am with boats leaving one minute apart, the boats all assembling in Torrumbarry before the 30km return leg to Deep Creek.
Entry to Deep Creek Marina costs $5 with the proceeds going to Echuca Regional Health’s oncology department.