Chasing a world title



A Queenstown pair starting in the world jetboat marathon in the United States this weekend have had their seriously-fast boat parked in Canada for the past two years.

Regan Williamson, who’s accompanied by navigator Blair Christmas, built the boat — fitted with a gas turbine helicopter engine — and shipped it to the US for the 2020 world champs, which were postponed by Covid.

Rather than try to get the boat back, he had it parked at a friend’s garage in Alberta, Canada.







With the marathon finally rescheduled this month, he and Christmas recently retrieved it, then brought it the north western US for the event.

‘‘We were a bit worried it would be rusty and maybe rodents had got in there and chewed away at it, but it was like the day we sent it,’’ Williamson says.

‘‘Probably the big one for us was remembering how to drive it.’’

The pair — the only Kiwi entry in the marathon — came third in the world jetboat marathon in the US in 2016, then second in the event in New Zealand a year later.

Speaking early this week, Williamson says they’d pre-raced the Upper and Lower Rogue River, in Oregon, and Saint Joe River in Idaho, and were about to pre-boat the Trinity River, in California, which they’re all traversing over six days of racing between this Saturday and next Sunday.

They’re totally different to NZ rivers, he says.

‘‘There’re big pressure waves, lots of rocks, you definitely want to get your lines right, so it’s going to be a good wee challenge, but we’re looking forward to it.’’

Their boat, ‘Talley’s U777’, is one of four turbines in the unlimited class — two others are being driven by the current and prior world champs.

‘‘We tested the other day and saw just under 150 miles an hour [241kmh], we’ll get into the 150s easily, I’d say.’’

As to how they’ll go, Williamson says: ‘‘We’ve definitely got a fast boat, it’s all going to be about keeping it in the water and not letting these other guys get away from us.

‘‘If we can hold them and survive the marathon, we’ve got as good a shot as anyone else — that’s what we’re here for.’’

Williamson adds they’ll also be under taking some long drives on their off-days — ‘‘one day we’ve got to cover 1000km between two rivers’’.