Annual Hawkesbury 120 kicks off Ski Racing Australia’s ‘River Classics’ season.

Governor Phillip Park on the Hawkesbury River will come alive this weekend as the annual Hawkesbury 120 kicks off Ski Racing Australia’s ‘River Classics’ season.

The nation’s best water skiers, drivers and observers will take to the Hawkesbury with 82 crews entered across the weekend, 68 in the team challenge on Saturday hoping to earn the best possible starting position for Sunday’s expert classes, where there will be 80 boats in action.

Action: Skiers on the water during last year's Hawkesbury 120. Picture: Geoff Jones.

Action: Skiers on the water during last year's Hawkesbury 120. Picture: Geoff Jones.

Saturday’s racing will take place over the shorter course between Windsor and Sackville, while the big race a day later is from Windsor to Wiseman’s Ferry and back.

Leading the charge for the blue ribband superclass title will be race record holders and defending champions Superman, driven by the experienced Darren McGuire.

Last year the team of owner/driver McGuire, observer Brett Armstrong, and skiers Daniel Graziano and Daniel Cotton crushed the opposition to win by more than 90 seconds but McGuire is coy about his squad’s chances in 2018.

“We’ve done a couple of lead up races and took it easy, but hopefully we are right to go this weekend,” McGuire, from Dubbo, said.

“We have the same crew as last year and that we’ve had for some time. The experience is there.”

Big weekend: There will be 82 crews competing on the river across this weekend. Picture: Geoff Jones.

Big weekend: There will be 82 crews competing on the river across this weekend. Picture: Geoff Jones.

The veteran helmsman sighted the new format that will see skiers race as individuals on the Saturday to post a combined qualifying time for Sunday’s racing as one reason for caution. The other reason was the quality and depth of the field.

“We don’t have a plan for Sunday yet because of the new format – that’ll take a bit out of the boys,” McGuire said.

“Saturday’s one up racing, it’s a race within itself but it’s all good, the more racing the better.

“There’ll be lots of threats, they’ll be coming from everywhere.

“There are five boats in superclass and they are all pretty good teams. There’s probably three or four boats in (the) unlimited (class) too that could come out and win the whole thing.

“A win would be awesome. There’s nothing better than to start the season on a good note.”

One crew attempting to play the role of kryptonite will be TR with local owner /driver Ian Tricker at the wheel.

It will be the TR team’s first foray into the big league of superclass together but Tricker is confident local knowledge will play a factor.

“We’ll be fine stepping up to superclass,” Tricker said.

“This is my track. I spend plenty of time on this part of the river. I run down there from Windsor to Sackville at least once a week. I’ll be dialled in.”

Not surprisingly Tricker identified McGuire and Superman as the team to beat but hoped his group of newcomers could cause a few upsets.

“I don’t think anyone will hold a candle to Superman, certainly not on race day on Sunday,” Tricker said.

“It’s pretty competitive and there’s some pretty good boats. 

“We don’t really have anyone in our sights but we’ll have a red hot crack. There are a few Victorian boats that are fast, namely Pigs Arsenal and Arkham Asylum and I wouldn’t mind giving them a haircut on Saturday.

“I don’t want to be starting Sunday ahead of Superman but I wouldn’t mind being number two.”

While they will line up in the top class this weekend, Tricker revealed it almost didn’t happen.

“We weren’t going to run superclass this year but when (perennial podium finishers) Merc Force stepped away from racing for the year, we thought, why not have a go and step up now,” Tricker said.

While Tricker will be very focused on the pointy end of the field, he like many others in the family dominated and orientated sport will race across several of the 30 classes on offer at the iconic event.

“I’m looking forward to the whole weekend but I’m really looking forward to my vets run on Saturday morning,” Tricker said of his entry in the veterans over 40 race.

“I’ve spent years and years with these guys. It’s emotional because we’ve been together a long time. It’s what it’s all about.”

Key Hawkesbury 120 details:

Saturday

Race 1 - Saturday single leg  - Sackville to Windsor (proposed start time 9.00am)

Race 2 – Team Challenge leg 1 - Windsor to Sackville turn around. Skier 1

Race 3 – Team Challenge leg 2 - Sackville to Windsor, Boats will return in the same order as leg 1. Skier 2

Sunday

Race 1 - Expert 1 leg 1 - Windsor to Wisemans Ferry turn around race (proposed start time 9.00am)

Race 2 - Expert 2 leg 2 - Wisemans Ferry to Windsor – turned around using fastest to slowest from leg 1.