After two seconds in world jetboat marathons, Queenstowner Regan Williamson is determined to go one better in the United States this month.
The 38-year-old and his Queenstown-based navigator and mechanic Blair Christmas, 36, left for Idaho last Sunday for testing and pre-boating before the 2016 world championship marathon jetboat race starts on May 21.
Williamson finished runner-up in his unlimited class in the 2009 and 2013 worlds in New Zealand but admits his first overseas champs will be tough for a Kiwi to win.
“A lot of those North Americans have got huge budgets.”
Williamson and Christmas are fortunate, however, that they’ve been asked to race a new seven-metre KwikKraft with an 1800 horsepower helicopter turbine engine built by four-time former world champion, New Zealander Mark Cromie.
Because Williamson’s the two-time defending NZ champion, the boat’s racing as ‘NZ1’.
Williamson’s own boat also has a helicopter turbine engine but Cromie’s is calibrated for American conditions, he says: “Taking our own boat would have been like taking a knife to a gunfight.”
NZ1’s secret weapon could be that both the driver and navigator are engineers - Christmas, in fact, is a helicopter engineer by trade.
“It does mean we pick up issues quickly and we’re able to fix them quickly,” Christmas says.
Though he’s not as experienced in race boats as Williamson - joining him for his successful 2014 NZ marathon - his background is in downhill mountain bike racing so he’s used to speed.
The pair expect to reach speeds of about 240 kilometres per hour.
Christmas: “It’s emotionally and physically really stressful for the week because even a 25-minute or half-hour leg at that level of concentration is really draining.”
Williamson adds: “I change when I get into the boat - I’m very, very focused.
“There’s some choice words said, but when we get out of the boat we’re all mates again.”
Despite racing in foreign waters, he’s confident: “We’re not going over there to make up numbers.”
Covering 877km, the worlds, comprising seven days of racing, interspersed with two rest days, conclude on May 29.