Bullish boatie is sure of a win

19:50, Feb 05 2014
John Wicken
TWO'S BETTER THAN ONE: John Wicken with his twin-engine de Havilland 12ft boat 'Flock of Seagulls'. He created the latest trophy for the Seagull Race Prize at the Lake Rotoiti Antique and Classic boat Show.

The race is on for honours in the traditionally loopy Seagull engine race at this weekend's 16th annual New Zealand Antique & Classic Boat show at Lake Rotoiti.

One entrant is so sure of winning he has already engraved his name on the trophy he has made specially for the event.

Christchurch engineer John Wicken will be defending the title he has won twice before, including in 2012 with a controversial twin-engine approach which he admits was not as smart an idea as it looked.

His 3.6 metre DeHavilland aluminium boat, Flock of Seagulls, is like any other boat in that it can only go so fast, no matter how many propellers are spinning off the back. He is also at a slight disadvantage in that the customary Le Mans start, which requires drivers to run down the beach and start the temperamental outboards motors, means Mr Wicken has to start two.

"It's sort of Miami Vice on a lawnmower," is how he described the event.

With extra time spent starting the two 4hp engines he won by a nose in 2012.


"By the time I got them going I was way behind and hardly had enough power to ride up and over the wake of the other boats."

The trophy was however awarded to Mr Wicken among controversy and good humour.

"The guy I beat was like, ‘you can't have two engines, you'll be disqualified', but I checked the rules and there was nothing to say I couldn't.

"I'm a conservative engineer - it was my ‘break out and go bad' moment," Mr Wicken said.

He repeated the effort last year, but by then the rules had been changed to accommodate his novel approach and multiple engines were counted in the "modified class". Despite winning line honours, the trophy went to another.

Mr Wicken has decided to make his own trophy for this year's event, just in case, but he has spent so long making it, he has had little time to prepare his boat and Seagull motors for the race.

"I've not even had time to put petrol in, so I hope they'll actually go."

Founder and co-organiser of the classic boat show Pete Rainey said this year's show has been moved forward from its traditional March slot to take advantage of a potentially long weekend due to Waitangi Day today, and a number of events in the Nelson-Marlborough region expected to draw large crowds.

"It's the same weekend as Marlborough Wine & Food Festival and the Crusaders playing the Highlanders in Motueka so it's an excellent time for North Islanders or Cantabrians to see what a varied range of action the top of the South can offer."

This time of year also brought more stable weather, which was great for visitors to St Arnaud who wanted to pack in a bit of mountain-biking, some exploration of the Nelson Lakes National Park or visits to the region's vineyards and art galleries, Mr Rainey said.

The usual array of boats including cedar kayaks, jet boats from the 1960s, clunky clinkers and veteran wooden yachts will all be present this year.

Nelson aviation enthusiast Bill Reid will do a flyover at 1pm on Saturday in his restored Avro Anson World War 2 bomber. If the weather is unsuitable he'll do it on Sunday at 1pm.

The public can view boats and talk to owners before watching races on the lake in the afternoon. Judging will take place on Saturday ahead of an evening awards ceremony at the Alpine Lodge.

All boats will be checked for noxious aquatic weeds, and oil leaks before entering the water. Dog owners are reminded to keep their pets at home, due to the close proximity of kiwi in the area.

■ NZ Antique and Classic Boat Show, Lake Rotoiti, St Arnaud, Saturday and Sunday February 8 and 9.