KYABRAM: David in the driver’s seat

Making a splash: Wedge skiers Scott Collins (left) and Craig Cox a part of a long term racing partnership with driver David Atley.
Back for more: Four Kyabram friends, David Atley, Scott Collins, Craig Cox and Matt Henderson, will return to the Southern 80 with The Wedge in the hope of repeating recent succes in the 70 mile per hour class. Photo by Jess Gledhill

David Atley won’t be sitting in his bath tub, leaning left and right to emulate the winding Murray River course that represents Saturday’s Southern 80 ski race (ala Cool Runnings), but he will certainly be on edge for the annual Moama Water Sports Club event, which starts tomorrow.

Atley will be at the steering wheel of The Wedge, a19-foot-long eight-year-old speed boat he and close friends Scott Collins and Craig Cox will use as their chariot to complete the course in the three different classes they have entered for the May 14-15 spectacular.

Driving the 300-horse Mercury outboard-powered vessel is a key component of the 70 mile an hour expert class, which the team has dominated at two of the past three major ski race events.

The three Kyabram residents have been competing together for 15 years, Collins and Cox, relying on the smooth cornering and even-paced approach of their driver to maintain their balance on the single ski behind the powerful race boat.

David has always been in the driver’s seat and wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I do ski, just not quick like the other two,” he said.

About half the boats involved in the Southern 80 weekend will be outboards, Atley explaining the reduced amount of upkeep a major reason for the three Kyabramites choosing the outboard option.

“All the fastest boats are inboards, but the outboard makes for a cheaper and more reliable experience,” he said.

“With the inboards you are always fixing something.”

Atley and Collins have known each other since they were seven years old.

“He lives across the road now. When we started ski racing, it was about booking in a few weekends to get away,” Atley said.

“Now Scott has two girls and I have two girls as well.

“It has become a family sport, although none of the girls are really into going fast.”

Atley is a building inspector and Collins is owner of engineering company Cantech.

Cox has just sold his Tongala farm and has moved into earthworks.

He also has two daughters, but both are grown up.

“We book in six races a year, which is enough during summer,” Atley said.

“We did Wentworth, which was a 100km race and we won the 70 mile an hour class.”

The class is among the most popular with competitors, upward of 20 boats expected to compete this weekend.

“We have won the Wentworth event four or five times since the first one was staged in 2014,” he said.

While the event is won by the fastest boat, a GPS tracker attached to the boat measures speed and every time a driver goes beyond 70 mph the team receives a penalty.

“We excel on the corners. I don’t have to worry about these blokes falling off through the corners, so I an maintain my speed,” Atley said.

The Wedge team also won the Robinvale event, but Mildura wasn’t their weekend.

“We had a couple of mishaps, Craig broke a set of handles at the start after his rope snapped,” Atley said.

The team’s best Southern 80 result is second, which it has now completed three years in a row.

“Last time we were well and truly in line for a win, but the engine had a malfunction three bends from the end. That was a bit heartbreaking,” he said.

Along with the 70mph class The Wedge will compete in the F2 expert and expert shootout — not expecting to feature prominently against boats which track much faster than their top speed of 80 miles an hour.

Matt Henderson, Collins’ business partner from Melbourne — who usually observes — will ski with Collins in those events.

The team enjoys the one-way races and has regularly competed at Sydney’s Bridge to Bridge event.

Atley said the one-way races demanded more concentration for a longer period as it was impossible to remember all 154 bends.

“I remember the nasty ones, but not all of them. I get nervous before the event, because you are never quite sure what is going to happen,” he said.

The Wedge, mark one, was the first boat the team owned in 2007, bought from a man in Sydney whose nickname was Wedgey.

Hence the catchy title for the boat, which will have its far of support from the banks of Echuca and Moama during the weekend.