How Many Bottles Of Formula For A 9 Month Old The History of Water Ski Racing in Britain

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The History of Water Ski Racing in Britain


For several years prior to the war, an annual seaplane race was held from the Isthmus of Avalon to Hermosa Beach, California. It was a race and a test of endurance for both man and boat, and usually less than 20% of the field managed to finish. The rest fell out because of boat problems or because the water planer couldn’t hold up anymore. The last race before the war, on June 20, 1941, was won by Bob Brown, driven by Don Berry, with a time of 1 h 51 min.

In 1947, the Long Beach Boat and Ski Club was formed and almost immediately took over sponsorship of the race, renaming it the “Grand National Water Ski Race.” In 1949, the race became an out-and-back race, starting at the Hermosa Beach pier, with skiers racing to the isthmus, circling the turnaround boat, and returning non-stop to the pier. A skier was disqualified if he touched the boat or anyone in the boat. Ed Stanley of Orange won this first round trip in 1 hour 41 minutes.

Of course, the event is well known today as the Catalina, and just for the record, Chuck Steams first won the event at the age of 16 and went on to win it an astonishing eleven times over the next few decades.


Now it was time for the Aussies to build a piece of ski racing history, and in the 1950s the Bridge-to-Bridge water ski race was launched. The 68-mile course on NSW’s Hawkesbury River is now one of the most prestigious races in the world.


In 1966 Great Britain took up water skiing and a meeting was held at the Mandeville Hotel in London where 30 clubs were represented and the BWSF Racing Sub-Committee was formed. California legend Chuck Steams was in London at the time and he provided a copy of the California Racing Rules which formed the basis of the British Racing Rules.

Alan Taylor recalls; “We knew that three or four years earlier there was a race in Belgium, on the Scheldt, at a place called Rupelmonde. The following year some people from the Whitstable Club went to Belgium and watched the race and we invited a Belgian to the team to compete in the first official cross-channel race”.

On 29 May 1967, the Whitstable and Varne Club Water Ski Clubs organized the first cross-channel water ski race and at least 56 teams, including one from Belgium, took part in the 42-mile race from Greatstone, Kent to the trawler. marker-boat, anchored three miles from Cap Griz Nez and back.

Up to three or four people were allowed to ski in the relay on the boats. The skis were standard regular slalom skis for speeds of about 30 miles per hour, as well as pair skis, and the length of the ski line was to be between 75 feet and 100 feet. Teams were also allowed relay races with more than one skier per team.

News soon leaked that skier 47 had signed up as Mr AAJohnson was none other than the Earl of Snowdon, patron of the BWSF, who tried to hide his identity from the press. The result was a dramatic coverage of the event.

More than 20 of the 56 entrants were unable to finish the race due to the storm, which created 6-foot waves. The winners were members of the Chasewater Power Boat Club who completed the course in 3hrs 15mins. Snowdon’s team came fourth in 4 hours 10 minutes and the second skier was 14-year-old Bill Rixon. 3rd place overall was just the beginning for a man who was to become one of the legends of British waterskiing.

In 1968 the BWSF Racing Committee organized the first British Championship series, which was run at Chasewater, Greatsone, Hunstanton, Hartlepool, Penarth and the River Medway. John Boardman from the Varne club became the first champion of the series.

In 1969 the British Championship series was extended to eight races and was won by Brendan Bowles of the Penarth club. This year, the European Water Ski Championships were established and were held in the Netherlands, Belgium and Great Britain. Bill Rixon became the first European champion in water skiing.


Rixon began to make a mark in European racing in the 70s, taking no fewer than six European Championship gold medals among the many Britons. Bill said: “There may be two more European titles unaccounted for”. In 1974/5 he spent a lot of time skiing for Mostes in Italy, made a couple of visits to the much-maligned South Africa and also made it to races in California.

Other names such as David Hutchinson, Guy Gooding, David Martin, Robin Mainwaring, Cliff Featherstone, Alan Hargreaves, Tony Cox, Gary Brooks and Colin Harris were scattered throughout the 70s when British F1 skiing was as strong as ever.

Two other names were brothers Steven and Andy Coe. Steven won the British Championship in 1978 and 1979 and Andy followed suit in 1980, with Tom Lumley overseeing all three titles. Britain’s top women included Liz Hobbs, Sue de Donker and Kim Gooding.

Liz had started skiing at the age of 9 and by the age of 15 she had skied in her first competition at Medway in 1975. The following year he won every race he entered and took the first of his seven British titles. In the same year she broke the women’s British and European speed records behind a cigarette motorboat called “I like it too”.

In the 70s, some British skiers, including the Coes, had visited Australia and discovered a new way of skiing called wrapping. Terry Bennett of Sydney was the name of the wrap and he discovered the technique quite by accident while trying to relieve back strain after an accident. So combined with Fred Williams competition skis and a wealth of Aussie experience, these British skiers introduced us to how we all ski now.

Along with Ray Berriman and Alan Taylor, other early organizers of British racing included Arthur Dawe, Peter Felix, Ted Rawlings, Wally Neale and John Hoiles. John Hoiles actually became the European and World President of the IWSF and made a great contribution to the sport.

A turning point in world waterskiing came on 9th September 1979 when the first Sperry Univac sponsored World Championships were held at Whitstable, Allhallows and Welsh Harp. Briton Ray Berriman headed the organizing committee.

The event was the first to bring together the top official teams from around the world, and although Australians Wayne Ritchie and Bronwyn Wing took gold, Great Britain’s Kim Gooding finished 2nd in the women’s event, Bill Rixon 2nd in the men’s event and Steven Coe 3rd. The British team clearly confirmed that Great Britain is a force to be reckoned with at the World Water Skiing stage.


As Rixon neared the end of his unprecedented racing career, it was time for new names to take the stage and enjoy the limelight. Liz Hobbs and Steve Moore were two big names in the early 80s and both became world champions and were awarded the MBE. In fact, Liz won the World Championship in 1981 and 1984 and won the European Championship no less than four times.

But life in the 80s was not so sweet for Liz, despite her incredible success, as she fell and broke her neck in Penarth in 1984. He also broke his sternum in three places, six ribs, one of which punctured his lung. On top of that, Liz’s heart stopped.

Amazingly, Liz was skiing again the following year and in 1986 she was back on the winning streak. Later in the 80s, he was nominated for Sports Personality of the Year and won Sports Writer of the Year. After climbing onto the public stage with the help of a publicist a few years earlier, Liz hosted her own TV series ‘Hobbs Choice’ on Yorkshire Television and has since become one of the most well-known water skiers in the public eye. in the world.

Steve Moore started racing in 1980. He was a man who fell but got up, then fell again but always got up. Eventually he stopped falling and was an incredible machine on the water. By 1983 he had attempted the speed record at Windermere behind Alf Bullen’s F1 catamaran, but failed at 115mph.

Moore won at least five European titles, five British titles and the 1988 World Championships in Sydney, Australia. He also won the World Championship in 1986. It consisted of the Catalina in Australia, the Giro del Lario and the Botany Bay Classic. He won all three in the same year and became the first British skier to win Catalina outright.

Moore was followed by a young boy from London in the late 80s who skied in his first competition in 1977. His name was Darren Kirkland and at the age of 18, Kirkland first represented Great Britain at the World Cup in Spain in 1985 and is entering his eighth World Cup in 2001.

Coes, Rixon, Cliff Featherstone, Paul Llewellyn, Gary Brooks, Tony Cox and others battled for victory during the decade, the 80s put on some incredible racing in Britain. Nicky Carpenter and Lisa Coupland were also successful names in the 80s.


As the prosperous 80s faded away, racing declined due to the recession. Europe, Australia and the US saw a similar pattern, but that didn’t stop the sport from becoming even more competitive in its commitment to winning a share of the limelight.

Kirkland won his fair share and has virtually dominated British racing since the 90s. Showing the tenacity he is known for, Kirkland had won ten British titles and five European titles and had become a recognized skier worldwide. In addition, Kirkland won the Catalina in 1994, the grueling Diamond Race in Belgium, an enviable six times and Italy’s Giro del Lario twice.

But the jewel in the crown has eluded him for the past 16 years. A world title has been so close and yet so far from a man who came so close to winning it on more than one occasion. In 1995, Italy’s Stefano Gregorio took the honors in Belgium, just as Kirkland thought he had wrapped up the title. In 1997 he finished 3rd in Australia and 2nd in Spain in 1999. This year, he will once again try to win the achievement that he wants so much.

In January 1997, Kirkland was awarded the BWSF General Lascelles Trophy in recognition of his tremendous achievements in water skiing. And at the 1999 world championships, gold medalist Stephen Robertson of Australia paid public tribute to Kirkland after receiving the crown.

In the early 90s, Rachel Casson had a great performance at the 1991 World Championships in Darwin, Australia. So close to winning one round, Rachel crashed at over 100 mph and suffered horrific injuries. Determined to succeed on the world stage, Rachel became Britain’s top skier, but was plagued by Darwin’s injury over the years. Gilly Clements was also a strong contender in the 80s and 90s, representing Great Britain on several occasions.


Great Britain has been very strong in Europe over the years, winning countless titles in all categories, including the coveted Team Cup on no less than four occasions. Stunning performances from Liz Hobbs, Nicky Carpenter, Lisa Coupland, Rachel Casson and Gilli Clements from many but in the women’s category. Recently, Kim Lumley has already engraved his name on the British Championship trophy three times. Paula Newland from the Penarth club has also been up there and secured 6th place at the 1999 World Championships in Spain.

The men’s category is still dominated by Darren Kirkland in Great Britain, but the likes of Karl Brooks and Danny Evans are slowly closing in on the 34-year-old. How long will he maintain his place at the top of British racing? – only time will tell.

On the official side of things, Briton Ray Berriman, who played an important role in the first World Cup held in Great Britain in 1979, is in Las Vegas this year as the head referee for the 2001 World Cup.

It has been impossible to mention all those who have played their part in British water skiing history here. There are too many names to mention. But this article has hopefully given you a high-level overview of waterski racing and that’s it.

All in all, Great Britain continues to play a major role in world ski racing. No doubt it will continue to do so in the years to come.

Written in 2001 by Robbie Llewellyn

Credits: Aubrey Sheena, Alan Taylor, Darren Kirkland, Steve Moore (MBE), Mike Waterman, Martin Brooks, Tom Lumley, Liz Hobbs (MBE) and The Guinness Book of Water Skiing.

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