HE’S finally done it.
Five times Bridge to Bridge runner-up Paul Vella put years of close calls behind him to finally claim the race he’d been dreaming of winning since he was a kid.
The Wisemans Ferry racer has been competing in the race for more than two decades, and on a number of occasions suffered terrible luck not to win.
But on Sunday the luck was on his side for a change and he took full advantage in his boat, Impatient, to hold off All Black by two minutes in what was the roughest race in memory.
“This is the 23rd Bridge to Bridge I’ve done and I’ve never seen it like that before,” Vella said.
“The water was a metre high and I had to rely on the chopper to tell me where to go.”
The rough waters made Hyperactive’s race record of 29.47 very safe as Vella crossed the line in 39.17.
The big news early in the race was the engine failure to favourite Maritimo, which lost one of its engines just 11 minutes into the event.
It spurred Vella on despite admitting he almost quit after the canard on the front of his boat snapped off.
“I was nearly going to pull out but the rudder and steering felt alright so I just soldiered on,” Vella said.
“I had to try and find the line. I felt it lifting off the water and had to look at the rev counter, I couldn’t take it over 6000.
“It was hard not to push harder and I was just playing with the throttle the whole way.”
The 47-year-old couldn’t wipe the smile off his face as the crowd met him after the race, but despite the breakthrough win he wasn’t saying whether or not he’d be back to defend his title in 2015.
“It feels unreal. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to get the win,” Vella said.
“Every year I say I’m not going to do it again, but then April comes along and I think ‘I better get the boat ready and have another go’.”