This year’s Southern 80 winners say it’s the highlight of their careers.
Sapphire F1 took line honors with a time of 30 minutes and 9 seconds to beat second-placed Superman by almost 50 seconds.
The Superclass team was led by Echuca-based driver Tim Pickford and spotter Brian Griffin, with Lachlan Nix and Aiden Cuff behind on the skis.
Mr Pickford said there were many difficult sections to navigate on the 80 kilometers of the Murray River between the Torrumbarry weir and the Victoria Park boat launch.
“The first half of the race was quite calculated, but after that it was a bit loose.
Mr Nix was one of the skiers behind Sapphire F1 and said the team worked hard to claim victory.
“We’re excited to be back on the water and doing what we love,” he said.
“We are not just friends on the water, but we are friends off the water and to win… We worked hard to win and pumped ourselves.”
His co-skier Aiden Cuff has been skiing for 21 years and has always dreamed of winning the Southern 80.
“But you never think it will happen to you,” he said.
The team’s 30:09.24 victory capped a safe weekend for the three-day event, which has been marred by deaths and injuries on the water in previous years.
Echuca Police Commander, Acting Inspector David Bowler, said police were pleased with spectator behavior this year, but acknowledged there were fewer people to deal with as the number of spectators was down.
Usually the Southern 80 is held in February at the end of the summer but was postponed to May this year due to a shortage of rescue workers to handle the event as they were linked to the response to the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Victoria Police had a booze bus in Echuca and Rochester to test drunk drivers on Sunday.
New South Wales Police said no incidents were recorded and Ambulance Victoria said two skiers were taken to Echuca Hospital in stable condition after crashing on Saturday.
A spokesperson for Ambulance Victoria said a woman in her 30s fell from her skis and suffered upper body pain, while a man in his 30s fell from his skis and injured himself on my leg.
Kathryn McKenzie, head of Echuca Moama Tourism, said the staging area in Victoria Park had been improved following work on the new Dhungala Bridge over the Murray River.
“The atmosphere was just amazing at the finish line,” Ms. McKenzie said.
“The new bridge gave us the new asphalt areas, it gave us the tough paths and the bridge is this new structure that really spans Echuca and Moama.”
Daniel Kean runs the Wake ski shop in Echuca and said the town expects fewer crowds this year because the race is in May, not February.
“We mainly just do grips, ski ropes, boots and some bindings and repairs for someone. On a normal weekend there was no difference. We might sell a little more equipment to the camper, but not to the skiers because they are more organized,” he said.
Rajan Sendhu runs the Pevensey Motor Lodge in Echuca and his 20 rooms were booked.
“It takes additional staff, because normally, if it’s 60% [full], so we only need three or four housekeepers for the 20 rooms. We have to add a little more,” he said.