Powerboat Racing

Defending champ goes for a three-peat at Karapiro Grand Prix Hydroplane race


Last updated 15:16, February 11 2017

Jack Lupton’s biggest competitors are his brother and his father.

“I have been in a race car and stuff like that and they are boring. Same lap after same lap.”

Instead you’ll find Jack Lupton on the water — well, hovering just above it.

The defending champ of Karapiro’s Grand Prix Hydroplane race says with boats, every turn is different, every wake is different.

Jack Lupton will be defending the AE Baker Cup at the Hydro Thunder event on Lake Karapiro on Sunday. Lupton has won the event the past two years in his Canadian-built GP57

“They say 300 kilometres per hour on the water is like 500 on the land.”

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There’s a lot to think about at those speeds. The slightest breeze needs to be accounted for.

“If you don’t pick it up, you are in trouble. You want to be up the right way.”

It takes his boat 36.5 seconds to do a 2km loop. There are four loops in a race, so it’s all over pretty fast.

“The boats are just sitting there on a touch of air.”

The 21-year-old dairy farmer from Taranaki has won the AE Baker Cup for the past two years and is hoping for a three-peat.

“We will have to wait and see. Everyone likes winning, so it’s never going to be easy.”

Lupton has just been for a warm-up on the lake on Saturday when he pulls himself out of the boat.

He’s tall — over 1.8m — and would not be out of place on a rugby field as a prop.

He’s wearing a full racing suit, the sun is beating down and the temperature in the boat’s small cockpit has risen.

You can see the sweat dripping as he removes his helmet. And he wasn’t even going all that fast — maybe 150kmh.

And fast is what these boats do.

The propeller and rudder are the only bits in the water when it gets up to speed.

It sits up on stand-like things called sponsons.

“It’s like low-level flying,” Lupton says, deadpan.

When the boats jet around, they can create a 300-foot-high wake, called a rooster tail.

And they’re loud.

Children watching the antics on Saturday stuck fingers in their ears as the boats whizzed past.

The cockpits hold one person, and the bigger classes of boats have to be lifted into the water by crane.

For the smaller classes, there’s a steady stream of tractors launching boats off trailers.

Hydroplaning is a Lupton family thing.

On Sunday, he will be up against brother Ken and father Warwick.

“It’s going to be a bit of a fight. It does make it competitive and a lot of fun. When it comes to preparation in the boatshed, there is a bit of back and forward.”

And Lupton thinks the duo will put up some stiff competition — especially his brother.

“He’s fast. He has just lost 50kg. He used to be a big unit.”

That could give him the edge.

“I’m telling his wife to sort it out. I need to drop off a chocolate cake or something.

“I hate being beaten by my brother. I hate it.

“I can handle being beaten by the old man. It’s not too bad. But my brother, I can’t let him win.”

The racing disagreements get left on the water, apart from the odd argument on the farm.

But he has a plan to nab the title again.

“We always try and take them to the pub the night before and stitch them up with a couple of tequila shots.”

Lupton has been racing since he was 16, and he’s addicted.

But like most addictions, it doesn’t come cheap, especially in the top classes, where he races.

His current boat is a Canadian-made GP57 that cost about $100,000. The 1200-horsepower engine was another $25,000.

Lupton’s loop around the lake on Saturday helped him and his crew fine-tune the boat for Sunday’s race, and it allowed him to get mentally ready.

It also gave him some time to think about ways he can convince the family to go to the pub on Saturday night for some tequila.

– Stuff

Originally published at www.stuff.co.nz.

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