‘Amazing race could be world’s best’

Lew Bourke. Picture: supplied
Lew Bourke. Picture: supplied
Noel Harper. Picture supplied

Noel Harper. Picture supplied

ONE of the founding fathers of the Mildura 100 Ski Race believes the Sunraysia spectacle could still become the world's biggest race.

Lew Burke, one of three men to initiate the very first 100 kilometre dash on the Murray River in 1972, said the world's fastest ski race could surpass the Echuca Southern 80 and the Sydney Bridge to Bridge as the crown jewel of the Australian, and possibly world, stage.

"They cap it at 300 entries, but I think it still could be bigger than that," he said.

"It could be the biggest ski race in the world.

"I think Geoff Thomson (current Mildura Ski Club president) has hinted they may start two boats at a time, which I think could be a precursor into fitting more entries in.

"I don't think there's any doubt that it's going to be around for a long time yet."

Burke, now 75, told Sunraysia Daily it was "just amazing" to see how far the race had come in 43 years.

Burke, Damien Pike and Noel Harper oversaw the very first race, which attracted 32 boats on Australia Day in 1972, with Carioca taking the outright win.

In the years since, two races (1974 and '75) were cancelled due to floods, average boat speeds increased by almost 100km/h, and nine boats took out multiple Mildura 100 crowns.

"I went down to the Show n' Shine two years ago, and I think the trailers were worth more than what our boats were back in the day," Burke laughed.

"Ours were just ski boats with bigger motors in them, so I'm just blown away by the size and speed of the boats of today.

"In 1972, I was responsible for entries, and Damien for the prizes.

"Noel Harper, who was club captain at the time, organised the wharfing and the parking.

"We were members of the ski club, and Damien had just skied in Echuca.

"We just felt the river here had to be put to use, we certainly felt we had a better stretch to utilise.

"Most ski races before this were held in dams where there was two or three feet of waves, and then they came to Mildura and it couldn't be flatter.

"I always knew we had a great stretch of river."

Burke said he was likely to grace the banks of the Murray this weekend to see another instalment of the event he helped nurture all those years ago.