Powerboat thrills coming to Lake Wakatipu


Some of the fastest powerboats in the world will make a big splash on Lake Wakatipu this summer. 

The New Zealand Powerboat Federation is bringing its mind-blowing Festival of Speed Tour to Queenstown for the first time on March 23 and 24. 

Among several race classes the national title for Grand Prix Hydroplanes will be decided. 

Hydroplanes, producing about 1500 horsepower, are the fastest automotive-powered boats on water, reaching speeds of about 280 kilometres an hour. 

At full blast they barely touch the water. 

The boats cost about $150,000 a pop. 

Other classes competing will be jet-sprint boats, river marathon jetboats and Formula One Tunnels. 

About 15 to 20 circuit races will be held each day on the Kelvin Grove section of Lake Wakatipu. 

The course, marked by buoys, will be 750m long – each race comprises four laps. 

Competition secretary Denise Moughan, of Auckland, hopes the free event will attract several thousand spectators. 

“It’s an amazing thing to watch – it will blow you away,” Moughan says. 

“You see cars racing but this is different because the water’s unpredictable – it’s never the same track.” 

Aside from the noise, another distinctive feature is the wash from the boats – called rooster tails – that can stretch for about 100m. 

Moughan is looking forward to bringing the event to Queenstown. 

“To make the sport grow, you’ve got to go to where people haven’t seen it before and people might get excited and interested and think, ‘I want to have a go at that’.” 

Moughan says if all goes to plan, Queenstown could be in line for an international event the year after – Lake Karapiro, near Cambridge in the North Island, staged the World Grand Prix Hydroplane Champ­ionship early this year. 

Thirty to 40 boats are expected at the first Queenstown event. 

About 200 people including drivers, support crews and paramedic divers will come to town. 

“Most of them will be here for two weeks because we’ll come down prior to the event and the weekend after there’ll be the powerboat nationals in Cromwell,” Moughan says. 

Moughan says the Queenstown event will cost $50,000-$55,000 to run. 

Last week she got $4000 from the SkyCity Queenstown Casino Trust to hire a rescue craft.