Boating | Lake welcomes Superboats | Mark Rothfield

Extreme competitor: Darren Nicholson's 222 offshore supercat. Photo by EMB Photographics
Extreme competitor: Darren Nicholson's 222 offshore supercat. Photo by EMB Photographics

WEATHER permitting, thousands of people are expected to line the Warners Bay shoreline this weekend to watch Round 4 of the Offshore Superboat series, many to cheer on hometown favourite Darren Nicholson.

WORLD DEBUT: Ross and Andrew Willaton's R36 Maritimo 11. See it in action on Lake Macquarie.

WORLD DEBUT: Ross and Andrew Willaton's R36 Maritimo 11. See it in action on Lake Macquarie.

Competitors and spectators agreed last year that Lake Macquarie was the best venue on the racing circuit – even though, technically, it’s an inshore course.

Parks were packed, waterfront homes hosted barbecues while houseboats and cruisers rubbed gunwales in mammoth raft-ups. It’s a credit to Marmong Cove Marina’s Les Binkin who championed the event and made it a reality.

Nicholson, a proud Lake man, admired the scene through the sliver that his 222 Offshore supercat calls a windscreen. “I’ve never seen so many boats on the lake or people along the shore,” Nicholson said.

With throttle-man “Muddy” McGrath able to free the reins, Nicholson averaged over 170 kmh on the Saturday to take pole. But a broken alternator wire – the proverbial $20 part – let the multimillion-dollar vessel down on race day.

In huge news for the Australian offshore scene, Maritimo Racing’s R36 will make its world debut on Saturday, with father-and-son team Ross and Andrew Willaton believing it will have the winning edge.

To comply with SBI Superboat Class rules, the hull is four feet shorter than Maritimo 12 driven by designer Tom Barry-Cotter.

“We believe that the smaller R36 hull will have an acceleration and speed advantage in the calm waters of Lake Macquarie,” Barry-Cotter said.

Organiser Conn Saloumidis is chuffed about having Lake Macquarie on the calendar again.

“This is going to be a huge free event for the Hunter Region, offering even more racing on the most spectator-friendly course in Australia,” he said. “With the event being so close to Sydney, a huge crowd will be travelling up to spend their weekend at Lake Macquarie.

“It’s the perfect arena for fans, with a looping course that stretches from Warners Bay to Marmong Point Marina.”

In a first for the superboats, racing will start on Saturday instead of Sunday alone – the action starts at 1pm and will take around 20 minutes. Two 30-minute races will be staged on Sunday at 11am and 1pm.

The starting grid order will be random in each race, instead of having a pole position, which will place critical importance on getting a quick start and clean water.

Each lap is about six kilometres, with long straights and sweeping turns that will provide plenty of vantage points. The course area will be closed 15 minutes before each race. There’s also a chacne to see the rigs this afternoon in the pit area at Marmong Point Marina. 

When the Supercat Extreme teams last met in Coffs Harbour, late August, Barry-Cotter’s Maritimo 12 got the jump on 222 Offshore to extend his series lead to 21 points with three events to play. Nicholson, in turn, is 33 points clear of the third-placed Mega Fuels but has tinkered with his Mercury 750hp motors and is quietly confident of a bolder showing. See superboat.com.au