Powerboat festival promises to thrill

March's powerboat Festival of Speed event in Lake Wakatipu's Frankton Arm could be "petrol-head heaven" for motorsport enthusiasts from all over the southern region, the New Zealand Powerboat Federation reckons.

Competition secretary Denise Moughan, who was in Queenstown yesterday sorting behind the scenes details for the massive gathering of powerboats, said the course, just off the Kelvin Heights Peninsula at Kelvin Grove, offered spectators vantage points unheard of in other locations.

"Having the powerboat track in the Frankton Arm, which is surrounded by vantage points from so many angles is going to be amazing," she said. "People will be able to watch from the Kelvin Heights walking track, but also from Frankton and spots on Queenstown Hill, so we're really excited and hope that people from all over the southern region will get to Queenstown to enjoy watching the fastest boats on water you'll see anywhere."

The televised event will be free to attend even for those watching from close by, and promises spectators the chance to witness all the risks involved in any high horse-power event.

"Part of the joy of any motorsport is the thrills and the spills, and there's always the chance of spectacular crashes happening," Moughan said.

However high the risk of a crash, the harm that could come to powerboat drivers had been seriously mitigated, through the use of safety cells that break away from disintegrating boats, in which drivers are piped oxygen through breathing apparatus.

Safety divers, who could be dropped at a crash scene within seconds of a mishap would also be on hand, and no drivers had been seriously injured at any of the events, Moughan said.

If the March 23 and 24 event went well, Queenstown could be considered to host a world championship event in 2014.

"We'd love a round to be held here, because its such a high-profile location, and one of the main points is that even though Queenstown is relatively small, you have an international airport, and that's very important for not only getting drivers and their teams here, but also media and spectators from all over the world," Moughan said.

Commercial jetboats and cruising craft would not be restricted from normal operations, and spectator craft would be allowed within 100 meters of the course.

The powerboat pit area would be opened up to the public at certain times, for those wanting a closer look at the boats, Moughan said.

The Southland Times