A mixed collection of racers tried to topple the mighty Solo at the Yarrawonga meeting, but no one came even close: Story and pics by Gordon Sinclair

THE BIG Merlin-powered hydro Solo driven by Stan Jones in its second race since returning from its unsuccessful US tour, romped home at the annual New Year’s Day carnival at Yarrawonga. However, the outboard tunnel boats, running far the first time since Big Fox (Brian Gibbs and Sid Goldfinch) invaded this “Holy of holies”, certainly worried the inboards.

The announcer was one who at first decried the little tunnel boats, Dragin Lady (Reg Sorensen) and Bert Hines’ Strangler IV. But after the first scratch race for outboards, won by Dragin Lady (Out to avenge his defeat at Griffith) in a faster time than any of the inboards that had run, including all the unlimited displacement and the 5-Litre boys, it was a different story.

The big field caused the race to be run over two heats, with the fastest 10 boats going into the final. The first heat saw a field of six, come out to do battle over the four laps of the long course.
Against the hot displacement boats, Ark Furn (Barry Chaplin), Kaos (Peter Smith), Mariah (Joe Cooper), Tiger (Ben Prajbisz), the hydro Super-Roo (Bert Brauman), Reg Sorensen and his Evinrude Strangler-powered Goat tunnel boat Dragin Lady came out to give challenge.

From the drop of the flag Dragin Lady was right up there with them. Ark Furn on the inside hit the buoy first, with Tiger behind him. But right alongside Ark Furn was the tight-cornering Dragin Lady. Once round the corner it was Dragin Lady all the way. The further the race went, the further the tunnel went ahead.

Behind the flying eggbeater the hollow logs were leaping about everywhere, up in the air and screwing around. On shore there was a strange quiet, apart from a crowd of SOC’s members and Victorian ORCV members who were loud in their appreciation. The Stephens-hulled Tiger seemed bent on destroying itself as on two laps it flew dangerously high. Bert Brauman fed the power into the big supercharged hydro to come through the pack and take up second place. Third was Ark Furn, which seemed to be handling the water better than the Gippsland flyer, Tiger. As Dragin Lady came ashore the crowd showed their appreciation of the outboard’s performance against the inboards.

The second heat saw Solo come Out, keen to avenge her defeat on Boxing Day by Shadrack (Archie Robertson), the former Las Ramsay flier Cheeta. The field for the second heat read as follows; Solo (Stan Jones), Shadrack (Archie Robertson), Rebel (Geoff Lewis) Scorpio (John Dent), Tantrum (John Allen), Vulture (John Lewis) sporting a tri-tailed wing, and the other ‘Contemptible” Strangler IV (Bert Hines).

Solo accelerated away from the pack at the drop of the flag, leaving them floundering in his rooster tail. While the big white-hulled hydro opened up a lead on the rest of the field, Vulture came through to take up second spot. Strangler and Shadrack were disputing third place for all the four laps, but the better-turning tunnel took out third slot in this heat. Throughout the whole heat the big Merlin in Solo never really seemed to get above an idle, but still had a handy lead over the rest of them. Solo and Vulture and no worries and they flashed across the line with the little tunnel boat in third slot.

The field of ten boats for the final was Solo, Rebel, Vulture, Kaos, Tantrum, Tiger, Super-Roo, Shadrack and Dragin Lady and Strangler IV.
But the story was the same in the final; the blistering acceleration of the big Merlin rocketed Solo out to a handy lead. The Gippsland flyer, Tiger, going a helluva lot better than in the first heat, was into second place. Round the first turn the cheeky little Dragin Lady slid through into third place. Behind the first three a lot of floundering hydros and runabouts were trying to overtake the eggbeater.

Shadrach, winner on Boxing Day, was a long way back in the field, while the two other hydros Vulture and Rebel, driven by the Lewis brothers John and Geoff, were showing him the way. While Sorensen was holding a solid third place and riding easy. Strangler by comparison was making heavy work of it, behind Vulture.

But there was no catching Solo; the motor hardly seemed to go above an idle at any stage. Jones was throwing the hydro through the corners like it was a little runabout, and giving the big crowd on the picturesque foreshores a white backdrop of rooster tail every time he came through the Mulwala bridge turn. Tiger tried to gain on Solo on every corner, hoping the big hull would slide wide enough to let him come through. But the big hull had too much speed and acceleration for him.

On the second last lap Dragin Lady had closed right up on Tiger and tried to slip underneath him on the bottom. But in doing so Sorensen nearly came undone; the hull hit a big hole and flew into the air. Luckily it landed safely and Sorensen set off again, still holding down third place.
Solo came down for his last lap and really poured the power on through the bottom corner, slipping out so wide he sent a couple of photographers scattering as he flew by the swimming pool.

Vulture, lying in fourth place, nearly overdid it on the last lap and turn, going right up on his sponson, but he came down right-way up and carried on to take out the chequered flag. The sporting crowd at Yarrawonga gave almost as big anapplause to Sorensen (who’d done what he came to Yarrawonga to do, beat Hines).

The two other main races on New Year’s Day by comparison were a little dull, mainly due to the lack of boats on the water. The entries received made officials split both the BP Trophy and the Frog Trophy into two heats, with the fastest ten boats going into the final. But unfortunately this wasn’t the case in both events, as most drivers seemed eager to save their boats for the big one. But those who came out put up their best performance.

Run over four laps of the small course, the BP Unlimited Displacement looked to be sewn up by Keith Nankervis’ Scorpio driven by John Dent. Scorpio led for 3’/ laps from the hard-flying little 300 cu in Chevvy-powered Shadrach (Archie Robertson), as he chased the bigger 351 Cu in Ouggan-injected Ford.

But after taking the yellow flag, Scorpio seemed to half-spin on the corner and the close-following Shadrach hosed him down. But Dent was refusing to give up, although Scorpio was way down on power. On the last cornier Apollo (R. Reid) slipped by to take over second slot and poor Scorpio, after leading until two buoys back, had to be content with third place.

The Frog Trophy 5-Litre saw two heats with some farcical racing in one. The first heat saw the two Lewis brothers racing together. On the first turn Hiawatha (H. Hausotte) spun but this had little impact on the final result. Vulture assumed the lead with his brother’s colorfully, painted hydro running second. John Lewis apparently wanted to make it a family affair as he backed off and waited for his brother to come alongside. But his plan fell astray, as he let Rebel get ahead and then tried to out accelerate him to the finish line, but just failed. The runabout Hiawatha finished third in the first heat.

In the second heat it was all displacement boats and Osprey (Neil Northfield) finished up winning from Apollo (R. Reid) and the high-flying Tantrum (John “Rockhopper” Allen).

The final field looked interesting enough and although tightly-bunched into the first buoy it was soon Vulture who ran out an early leader. But his lead was all to no avail, as on the first turn he’d hit the buoy, earning a disqualification. ‘This meant that the second runner Rebel moved up into first place. Behind the two hydros the hollow logs were battling it out with Ospray doing the better of the pack, followed by the well-known Ski boat, driven by the old rockhopper himself John Allen.

The big Merlin rumbles on; Solo didn't need to get above an idle to keep the hounds at bay.

The big Merlin rumbles on; Solo didn’t need to get above an idle to keep the hounds at bay.

John Lewis' Vulture, sporting a new tri-fin tail.

John Lewis’ Vulture, sporting a new tri-fin tail.

Shadrach, formerly Cheeta, couldn't repeat her Boxing Day performance when she toppled the mighty hydro.

Shadrach, formerly Cheeta, couldn’t repeat her Boxing Day performance when she toppled the mighty hydro.

Rug Sorensen proved the quickercornering outboards can beat a lot of the big inboards, to the extent of finishing third in the big race.

Rug Sorensen proved the quickercornering outboards can beat a lot of the big inboards, to the extent of finishing third in the big race.

Massed start; nearest the camera is record-holding M&O Marine.

Massed start; nearest the camera is record-holding M&O Marine.

Story and pics by Gordon Sinclair - Modern Boating Magazine - Febuary 1975