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From a Dream to a World Record

In 1980 a photo of the then World Record of 30 attracted the interest of members of the Horsehead Water Ski Club (Australia’s oldest continually operating ski club)

In 1983 ski club members skied on the Gordon River alongside the first of Strahan’s fast ferries, the James Kelly. The boat was identified as suitable and plans began to be made for an attempt on the World Record. Photos were taken of the back of the boat in readiness to find a way to fit a boom. Assistance from the boat designer could not be readily obtained and the idea was put on hold.

During the following years information about record attempts was compiled along with photos of successful attempts which pushed the record to 50,53 80 and then 100. Information and photos were also collected about unsuccessful attempts in San Francisco in 1985, Perth WA, Lake Powell USA, Belgium and Seattle in 2000.

In 2003, a video of the current world record holders towing 100 skiers re-ignited interest and a World Record Organising Committee was formed by the Horsehead Water Ski Club. The Grining family from World Heritage Cruises in Strahan on Tasmania’s remote West Coast offered their cruise boat and work began in earnest.

A local retired heavy boat builder and inventor came on board to assist with the boom and ideas began to flow. Additional skiers were invited from other clubs and over 150 skiers, ranging in age from 12 to 65 years were tested and subsequently recruited for the attempt.
Handles and 6km of rope were sourced. 120 different length ropes were accurately measured, cut and spliced. Finally a date was set but 6 months out the cruise boat was sold and the major sponsor pulled out putting the whole project in doubt. Fortunately, in December 2007 a brand new $5.2 million boat was launched and other sponsors were located and the project was back on track.

A team of several 100 people transported all the materials to Strahan and the first attempt took place on Saturday Feb 2. Unfortunately rope problems caused the 60 metre long laminated timber beam separating the skiers to fail and the attempt was abandoned.

Within 3 hours completely new material (heavy duty poly gas pipeline) was sourced and transported across the state. After working into the night with 100’s of volunteers a new boom was constructed on the local football oval. The combined boom and ropes measured over 120 metres in length and were then carried 2 km through the streets of Strahan and re-assembled on the beach ready for a second attempt the next morning.

Unfortunately weather conditions were very unfavourable, leading to equipment failure and a second unsuccessful attempt.

Undeterred, skiers, volunteers and sponsors from around the state began planning for a third attempt.

Over the next 12 months advice and assistance were offered by a number businesses and individuals (including a retired rocket scientist from NASA!) Several boom designs were considered. The final design employed was a sophisticated yacht-mast-like aluminium structure. This design utilised stainless steel cable struts and was supported by foam floats. All 120 skiers underwent a second round of testing and training and a number of reserve skiers were added to the team. Ropes were doubled in length, bringing the total rope length to 12 km.

In January 2009 the team again descended on Strahan for two more attempts but a range of rope variables again created difficulties and the attempts were unsuccessful.

The group vowed to return and rebooked their accommodation for January 2010.