Disabled racer takes on big guns
When New Plymouth man Dean Probyn broke his neck as a passenger in a head-on car crash 19 years ago, driving a boat at more than 160 kilometres an hour probably seemed like an unlikely scenario.
But 39-year-old Probyn, who competed in the Masport Cup hydroplane racing meet at Lake Karapiro over the weekend, is used to defying the odds.
He is an incomplete tetraplegic, which means he has movement in his right arm and leg but very little in his left arm and none in his left leg.
Probyn has represented New Zealand in wheelchair shot putt, javelin and discus and was world ranked in all three events in his heyday. Since then he has represented the country in wheelchair lawn bowls.
He said he had learned how to tackle a challenge. "You want to do something, get out and do it," he said.
It had always been his dream to race flat-bottom boats after sitting on river banks watching his father do it years ago.
The race meeting at Karapiro at the weekend was only his second time racing the powerful boats and he said it was "an unbelievable feeling".
"When I'm out there I'm not in a wheelchair – it's great.
"I don't get any special treatment on the water. I'm just another boat."
Probyn's best result over the weekend was a fourth place but he said his cornering was improving and he was more confident keeping his foot down.
He will travel to Manawatu next week to take on a "tight little river course" and although he is aiming for top spot he said "it's just an honour to be out there with the guys".
Graeme Weller's G-Force team won the hydroplane E C Griffith Cup yesterday, with Warwick Lupton's new Annihilator coming second.
Lupton's radically designed boat, which featured in Saturday's Times, spun out in the final but still had the speed to push the eventual winner.
The hydroplane Masport series now moves to Nelson before the final meeting at Mangere Bridge at Easter.