Still chasing that gem of a race

February 09, 2018

Sapphire during the Barrie Beehag. Photo by Luke Hemer.

IT’S been a rough couple of years for Sapphire.

Sapphire has won every big river race there is to win — except the Southern 80.

And in the past two years, that hasn’t changed.

Though it was for different reasons.

In 2016, issues with the boats steering caused the boat not to finish.

Last year started off far better for the boat, coming second in the Bakers Blitz, meaning the boat was in a prime position for an assault on the overall honours.

However, it was not meant to be as the boat was out of the race following a collision with a houseboat, resulting in a skier being hospitalised.

But the team isn’t looking to be a hard luck story.

It is looking to win the race.

The team still has some solid form on the Murray.

On two different occasions, the team took out the unlimited inboard class.

In the main event, the record time for Tim Pickford’s crew is 31.20 produced in its previous boat.

This iteration however has still not finished the course.

In fact, the Melbourne-based team has not had a great preparation either.

The best result the boat has produced this season was fourth in the Hawkesbury 120.

The Grafton Bridge to Bridge, the Ted Hurley and the Bridge to Bridge did not see Sapphire compete.

The final chance for the boat came in the Barrie Beehag.

Sapphire had some great form in this event, claiming the outright win in the event in 2015 and 2016.

Unfortunately, the boat was unable to finish the event.

Now, it turns its attention back to the Southern 80 and the elusive overall win.

Pickford told the Riv last year that technical problems had plagued the boat for an extended period of time.

‘‘The boat has been known to have some unlucky problems in the past,’’ he said.

One thing the boat will be looking for is consistency.

And it has found this in its skiers.

Lloyd Woolman, who has now spent six years with the team, will return to the race, along with Steve Berry, the named two for last year’s Southern 80.

If last year’s form in the Bakers Blitz, as well as previous form in the Beehag has shown anything, it is that Sapphire has the boat and the team is more than capable of mixing it with the best.

Sapphire beat a number of the superclass competitors during the Blitz last year and who will return this year.

If it can keep this form and avoid another disaster, Sapphire is more than a chance at overall honours.

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