Queenstowner Tom Kelly will be hoping it’ll be third time lucky when he competes in his first overseas-based world jetboat marathon starting Saturday in the United States.

The 37-year-old, who’s been racing for about 10 years, entered the worlds in New Zealand in 2017 but didn’t make the start-line due to piston motor issues, then last October, when the worlds started on Queenstown’s Kawarau River, he began well but pulled pin on the last two days due to engine damage.

Kelly, who was also the Wakatipu Premiers rugby side’s assistant coach for the past three years, had a turbine helicopter engine last year and competed in the unlimited class.

This year, however, he’s dropping to A class.

One of seven Kiwis competing in the US, but the only local, he spent the summer building a new boat.

He ran out of time, however, so instead bought a boat in the US — a Bratt Jet with a 468 small-block engine.

He says it’ll get to 210kmh and should be pretty competitive — ‘‘we’ll be looking to be up the front’’.

Kelly says the rivers for the six-day marathon will be pretty similar to NZ’s West Coast, and maybe like the Kawarau — ‘‘a lot of deep water, not so much shingly, but quite tight’’.

‘‘It’s probably not as difficult as here, but at the same time you’re still getting along at a decent speed so you’ve still got to treat it with a bit of respect.’’

He heads off today for a week of warming up with new navigator Ethan Smith, who’s replacing his regular one, Matt Grant, who was unavailable, and other local crew Joe Kelly, Michael Mckeown and Steven Jackson.

The marathon will be based on several Oregon rivers but also includes one in California.

Kelly’s a little familiar with the area as he supported local driver Regan Williamson and his navigator Blair Christmas when they competed in
worlds in that vicinity in 2022.

He says jet boating’s quite a challenging sport, ‘‘and I guess anything that is challenging is rewarding’’.

‘‘There’s no other feeling like coming off the water after doing 30 minutes — 30 minutes of not thinking about anything else.’’

His US campaign’s costing about $30,000, including $10,000 for fuel, along with the substantial cost of buying a boat.

He’s thinking of leaving it behind after the marathon as he’s also eyeing up next year’s world marathon in Canada.

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