Sapphire ready to shine

Photo Steve Huntley. Photo by steve Huntley.

Sapphire and its crew are hoping to be one of the gems of the Southern 80 this year with their eyes set on a Superclass win.

Sapphire’s observer Brian Griffin has been competing in the Southern 80 for three decades and said the crew was in good shape heading into this year’s race, with strong showings so far this season.

“It should be good, we’re looking forward to the weekend,” Griffin said.

“We won the Barry Carne last weekend at Wagga, so that’s good for us going into this as a team,” Griffin said.

“Robinvale and Mildura were pretty successful for us, we were only 10 or 12 seconds behind Superman at Mildura and 20 seconds behind at Robinvale, we are pretty keen to get one on top of them.

“Everyone’s goal is to win it. My goal is to make sure the two boys can get down as quickly as they can and as safely as they can.”

The Sapphire will head into this year’s race as one of the favourites to take out the Superclass crown.

Having won the race previously with another crew, Griffin said he was hoping to do the same with the Sapphire this year.

“I jumped in The Mistress for two Southern 80s and got a first and a second, fingers crossed we can get one in the Sapphire,” he said.

Sapphire’s crew has a wealth of experience, with Griffin himself set to compete in his 30th Southern 80 this weekend, having taken part as both a skier and an observer.

“I skied 14 or 15 Southern 80s from the age of 12 all the way through to unlimited back in the day,” he said.

“As a team, Lachy Nix, Tim Pickford and I have put the last three years into it. I’ve known Aiden Cuff since he was eight years old, so I’ve watched him ski all the way through as a young kid.

“There is plenty of experience in the boat and the two boys on the back are fit and they have plenty of years of skiing under them, so it’s pretty good.”

As one of the local boats, Griffin said the home-course advantage would certainly have an impact.

“It’s huge here, especially in the tighter stuff, just knowing the corners. We’re looking forward to being on the home track,” he said.

“Ourselves and The Mistress would probably know this course the best out of anyone in the sport. You can’t look too far from The Mistress here, they always seem to come out with a good time.”

With this year’s even being held later than usual, Griffin said it should mean teams were in good form.

“I’m looking forward to doing a Southern 80 later in the season, a lot of the skiers are in form and all the big races are out of the way so they are coming in pretty fit and ready to go,” he said.

He added that while conditions would be different than usual, he didn’t think it would have too big of an impact.

“I think the engines will like the cooler air more. But for us, it’s just racing. We race in May and June anyway.

“With a low river you are a lot more cautious, you have to stick to the middle of the river. But it’s come up, it’s looking good. The river is looking a lot better than it was a week ago.”

While Griffin and his crew will be hoping to claim the Superclass title, Griffin said he was looking forward to watching some other people close to him compete.

“We’ve got young Jed Pickford in under-10s, we’re towing him on Saturday morning and we are really looking forward to that, he is a really good up-and-coming young skier. He is just as much fun as the big boys for us.

“My stepson Xavier Mallick is skiing behind Thundernuts as well with the Dominguez family, so we are looking forward to that.”

Griffin said the Southern 80 was a special event and he thanked the key players and organisers for making sure this year’s race could go ahead.

“It’s always a special race, the Southern 80. I have heaps of memories of family and friends involved,” he said.

“I want to thank the water sports club and everyone involved for sticking by it and making it happen again. It’s been a big part of my life and it is always good to race here at home.”