Johnny's Pages
    Old S.A.R. Shunter's Memories
              An off the job pursuit.

Page last updated:  15th February 2011

With the Mount  Gambier  Aquatic  Club. 1972 - 1982

Below on this page.



My first Speedboat in 1973 was a 14ft Hydroplane "So-Long" on Valley Lake.
The straight out exhaust pipe was a bit hard on the ear without a crash helmet on.

So-Long doing the usual running repairs on the red Holden motor. Valley Lake. 1974.


A Hydroplane works on the principle of two raised sponsons which allow the air between them to lift the hull up above the water as it gathers speed, till only the very edge of the sponson touches the water. The propeller is designed in such a way as to not only to push the Hydroplane forward, but also to lift the back of the hull out of the water, till, IF it is all going properly and at full speed, only the very tips of the two sponsons, and half of the propeller, is touching the water, which then means LESS drag, MORE speed. Hence the propeller half out of the water also causes a rooster tail of water thrown up into the air behind the Hydroplanes. In the early days of Hydroplane racing they were also known as three pointers, meaning they race across the water on three points, tip of two sponson edges, and the propeller. ( 3 points ).

The early Hydros were all driven with the driver sitting BEHIND the engine, but the modern Hydros are called cab-overs, where the driver sat in FRONT of the engine. My first Hydro "So Long" shown above, shows me sitting behind the motor, but "Miss Cindy" was a cab-over as I sat in front of the motor. (see photos below)

The Thunderboat photos at the bottom of this page, with these boats it is said, that there was well over 2 tons of water in the air at any one time. So you can see that during a race that is something you have to take into serious consideration, especially IF you are coming up behind another hydroplane, or, a Hydro passes or starts to cut across in front of you into a turn. The Hydroplane's rooster tail could be quite horrific for a novice driver's first time experience.

It is a tremendous feeling when you have hydroplanes racing each side of you going down the straight flat chat and they are just out in front of you with their huge rooster tails of water cascading high into the air each side of you, is an incredible sight to see and experience. But of course, one has to make sure your hydroplane does not get caught up in one of those huge walls of water, as it is like you traveling in your car at say 140kph down the road with no windscreen and someone throws a huge bucket of water at you at that speed. So I'll let you be the judge of what that would feel like. Good job we had a crash helmet on with a good strong visor.... 


Firstly, my only experiences with boating, my first boat was a 12 foot wooden ply fishing dingy with a 1hp Ajax motor (very slow) that was used only on the River Murray on our periodic fishing trips when I was with the railways at Jamestown SA. Later in 1970 when we shifted to Mount Gambier where I later traded-in the 1HP Ajax on a nice new 9½HP Evinrude motor, as the 1hp Ajax was way no match for the South East coastline and the sea on the South East coast was way, way, way rougher than the River Murray was on an absolute shocking windy day. I use to get a lot of enjoyment with this 9½HP, as after we been out fishing we'd remove all the fishing gear, tie down oars and fuel tank inside the boat and then head-out into surf riding the waves etc, very refreshing and exciting experience that was. I learnt some good lessons doing that, and fortunately no spills either.

In late 1971, year after I started at Mt Gambier on 1st June 1970 as an assistant shunter in the South Australian Railways, I heard a loud roar one weekend in the direction of the Valley lakes area. My wife and I jumped in the car and on investigating I was very surprised to see there was a speedboat race meeting being held on the Valley Lake by the Mount Gambier Aquatic Club.  One of the race boats was a V8 Hydroplane called "Villian" owner/driver was Murray Langford. I was so, so impressed with this hydroplane, that I decided I would like to race a Hydroplane myself. One hitch was that money being a scarce commodity being in the railways, I had to start out with as cheap as possible unit. Shoe string job.

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Villian  (Murray Langford)  21 November 1971.

Eventually in August 1973 I purchased my first Hydroplane speedboat called "So-Long", bought it for $200. I think the original name was "So-Long it's been good to know you" but ended up just "So-Long". Bob, the fellow I bought it from was only too happy to see it get back into the water again. This old hydro was in a bad state of repair, as it had been out in weather under an old canvas covering for a long time and the old  Holden 149ci red motor needed some work done on it as well. I bought it on the condition that Bob teach me all about these old Holden engines, as about the only thing I knew about car engines those days was, you put petrol in one end, oil in the motor, change the spark plugs and adjust the points. Apart from that my knowledge of car engines was absolutely "NIL". But with this hydro I DID get a real CRASH course into learning ALL about the principles of the workings of a worked over car engine very quickly, as I could not afford to pay a mechanic to do the work for me. I've always had that ability to just visually see something done and then I could pick most things up immediately very easy. Now in 2010 and cracking 70, that quick learning is now not quite so good.

Spent the next 4 months re-building this hydro and repainting it and getting the old red motor going, well, sort of. An interesting point about this hydro I think it was built back in the 1950's. Was told it held an Australian water speed record for 155 cubic inch (2,500cc) motors of the amazing speed back then of 61mph. I do not remember what the engine was in it at that time, but was definitely in my view not this 149ci red Holden engine that was in it. So-Long with this old 149ci six cylinder Holden red motor with some very limited success in handicap racing, and a maximum speed of some 45 to 50mph. It was really just a fun boat to learn with. Most often mixed with some complete utter frustrations, but definitely it was no speed demon, but with handicap racing, speed was not the main issue, just being able to actually race in every race was.

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BEFORE:  11 August 1973

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AFTER:  December 1973

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Valley Lake test run December 1973

So-Long's test run on Valley Lake December 1973
Filmed with silent super 8 movie camera converted onto Video.

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This 4 minute Super 8 Movie
dimensions 320 x 240

WMV Filesize 15megs

The red Holden motor was not made to rev very hard, around 4,400rpm. With hydroplanes they needed some really decent revolutions are very important to get that propeller to scream for a good speed on the top of the water. I raced "So-Long" from 1973 till 1975, and in time became a bit disillusioned with its limitations and eventually realized after being towed back to shore at least once or twice at near every race meeting, with problems either with the hull fittings, but most times with the old tired near worn out Holden motor, but it was a good hard learning curve for me of things that were to come.

By the end of the 1974-75 season it was back to the drawing board and a complete re-think of things in a BIG way. If I was to succeed at speedboat handicap racing and also possibly achieve the Club's "KLG best Aggregate for season" top trophy. During those early years with racing "So-Long" I never won a race. Oh, I did win one race at Edenhope, but I really think the lads let me win so they could give me the traditional driver dunking afterwards, so I not really count that one. My mind and ideas were rather working overtime as to what I really needed to do to achieve some sort of success in speedboat racing, without spending a whopping fortune on it of course.  First thing was "to learn to do it ALL yourself".

Purchased old Hydro "Miss Cindy"

At the end of 1974-75 season during the off season (winter) I bought the 18 foot cab-over hydroplane hull (meaning you sit up in front of engine on behind the engine) from Jack Newcoombe (the original builder of the hydro) of Goolwa on 14th July 1975, called "Miss Cindy" as I had my eye on this Hydro the year before at a Major race day at Lake Leake 10th March 1974 as I felt this hydro had some very good potential for me for what I wanted to do. Miss Cindy just needed some work on her and some more TLC put into her. The actual structure of the hull itself was in excellent sound order, the 2.0 litre Prince motor Miss Cindy had in her, though still going had seen much better days, but this Hydro was overall basically what I was looking for in a hydroplane without spending the earth and I could work on and do it all up myself (as I was a carpenter & joiner from age 14 to 18 years old) to how I wanted it, now that I had some crash course engine knowledge. One other thing also was the name Miss Cindy as we had a Pekinese dog called "Cindy" and she was a real little Miss too.

Miss Cindy at Lake Leake 10th March 1974, then owned by Jack Newcoombe of Goolwa
The fellow bending over behind Miss Cindy and the lad putting on life jacket is Jack and his son Peter Newcoombe who then drove a displacement skiff called "Linda-K".

I purchased this Hydro for $1000, and stripped everything off of the boat, re-skinned part of the top of the hull, and redid a new engine compartment, driver's compartment, new top, and added big tail section so my Hydro would be much easier to be seen by other speedboat drivers in turns during racing as all the mountains of water these Hydros would chuck up behind them during racing. I had witnessed a couple of Hydros literally get their rear section run over with prop chops in hull and also crashed into in corners because they were too flat on the rear and were quite hard to see with all the huge water spray thrown up during a race. Was like driving in a huge downpour with no windscreen wipers. Just point the boat, hand on and hope for best. Bit un-nerving at times.


When I finally finished "Miss Cindy" she looked nothing like it originally did, she had the best of everything. First test runs in Valley Lake with the original old Prince engine that came with the hydro were very disappointing indeed, even after re-sleeving that Prince engine. I then checked around all the wreckers in South Australia and eventually found what I was looking for. A Nissan 240K motor that was written off in a rollover, with only a mere 18,000kms on the Speedo in Adelaide South Australia. This was perfect as it was almost a brand new engine virtually bearly run in, and PERFECT for my now near new refitted out Hydroplane. Fitted brand new triple Webber carburetors to it, later a specially designed camshaft and lash pads, special valve springs to the engine from the USA to cope with the high revs that the engine was expected to turn out. The normal Nissan Datsun 240K  engine's valve springs were limited to 6,000 rpm, as these engines were purposely designed that way to valve bounce at 6000 rpm so as to protect the engine from being over revved in normal motoring driving conditions.  Also found that torsional oscillation of the Nissan crankshaft was highly critical between 8,000rpm to 8,200rpm, so I could safely go up to just under the 8,000 rpm mark before a crankshaft would possibly let go. This was often a major problem with high revving normal car engines. The oil sump was marinised with a lot of copper water cooling tubes, oil temperature gauge installed in the oil sump and two really good water pick-ups attached to each sponson to cool the engine and the oil in sump during the high maximum of 7,800 revolutions. It was interesting to note at this point I found very surprising, that as soon as the engine started to run into near peak revolutions, the oil temperature in the sump would absolutely skyrocket incredibly, hence the water cooling tubes needed in the oil sump and it all worked well for 5 years I knew of.

The motor ran perfectly right from the start, only hiccup was just some Webber carburetor jetting adjustments with the new triple Webbers for a short while, but once that was sorted out, it all ran beautifully. Also added a top quality big flow electric filtered fuel pump and also used the Nissan engines normal manual fuel pump as well, very handy just in case the electric fuel pump failed during a race. It actually did once at Lake Leake, and I still went on to win the race running on just the manual fuel pump but only just as the normal fuel pump just bearly kept up the fuel going flat chat, so that idea paid off.

I was rapt, so far, so good. It took me 7 months to put the Hydro together. A lot of ideas went into that hull and motor, as the main aim of all this was because our racing was mostly handicap racing and to start and finish EVERY race was most important. So this meant to have the hydro virtually so well put together, that it would be so reliable, it would be unbeatable in that respect at least, so then it was up to me as the driver to do the proper driving with the head, and not with the foot, like a lot of drivers did seem to do. 

The one thing I noticed during my early days of handicap racing, was most times it was NOT always the fastest boat that won ALL the races, it was the one that was the most reliable that raced and finished EVERY race, as every point from each race counted. The marine outboard speedboats were so very reliable, so at that time it was a big challenge for any inboard car engine in a speedboat to be as reliable as an outboard speedboat. This was my aim, the hydo had to start and go everytime and finish every race at least, also be up front into the first 3 positions.

Of course outboard engines are specially designed for using in a watery environment. The 8 races during a race day all carried points for the clubs end of year Best Aggregate Points Trophy, as this trophy was considered the TOP club trophy and was much prized and sort after. So, if I was to have a chance at that trophy, my boat had to be extremely reliable just for starters, and also to FINISH every race at the very least. This trophy was mainly won by an outboard speedboat. So a lot of care and planning went into the inboard Hydroplane and some were claiming that I was getting far too carried away with this hydroplane, but it did turn out to be egg on face, for "Miss Cindy" became so darn reliable, just turn the key on and away she went  EVERYTIME.......... never a hiccup and "Miss Cindy" can lay claim she was NEVER EVER towed back to shore during my racing career with her. I once ran out of fuel at Lake Leake during a practice run just before racing had started that day, I literally refused to be towed back to shore, so I sat on the front of the hull with my feet in the water and paddled the Hydro all the way back to shore myself, reason was this to teach me a lesson to ALWAYS make sure there is enough fuel on board all the time. I tell you that NEVER ever happened again......

"Achievements with Miss Cindy"

I spent the 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons slowly getting my act together as a driver of this now very much quicker and very reliable boat, and in the 1978 - 79 season finally was the big one for me and "Miss Cindy" and I did not put a foot wrong and that whole season it all came together as I finally gained the top Mount Gambier Aquatic Club's "Best Aggregate points trophy" for that season, after 6 hard years of getting there with a lot of blood, sweat and yes.... even near tears at times.

The  1978 season was fantastic, gained three South Australian State Championships at the North Arm in Adelaide. The 155ci class, plus two classes above me, even gained 3rd place in the Unlimited class of 6 starters, as most Hydros in the Unlimited class were V8's and could  do around the 120mph plus mark in a straight line, so I was very happy with my little 155ci class Hydroplane getting a 3rd place amongst that lot, the fast tight cornering fin was my secret. Also that year in 1979, being a railwayman, the Australian National Railways Institute nominated me for the Railway "Sportsman of the year" award which I gained also. So to me this was the icing on the cake for a great achievement after a hard long road from those old "So-Long" days. Much owed to that on-going learning period.

Taken from the ANR Institute Magazine
This Magazine ALWAYS sported a train on its front cover.

From Australian Nation Railways Institute Magazine. 
January  - February 1979.


John became interested in boating through his fishing activities, and was particularly inspired by hydroplane racing. It was not long before he purchased his own hydroplane named SO-LONG  which could attain a top speed of about 50 miles per hour. He later sold this boat and acquired another old hull, which after eight months of restoration and steamlining, ran the original "Prince" 2000 cc motor, and was capable of speeds up to 60 m.p.h. Serious problems arose in this engine, however, so John replaced it with a Datsun (Nissan) 2400 cc (146 cu inch). This is a standard car engine "hotted up and capable of 7,800rpm at speeds of 85m.p.h.
With this boat, which he named MISS CINDY John raced in the South Australian Championships in Adelaide during March 1978, winning his own class 155 c.i. as well as the 225 c.i. and the 266 c.i. classes. He was also placed second in the 300 and 400 c.i. and placed third in the unrestricted class which had boats capable of speeds up to 120 m.p.h. competing.
John's interests now rest with fostering and racing 25 h.p. racing boats. He also holds the position of Rear-Commodore in the Mount Gambier Aquatic Club.

From Australian Nation Railways Institute Magazine. 
November - December 1979.

Representatives from most affiliated metropolitan clubs and five from country areas were nominated for Sports Personality of the Year.

The winner this year was Mr John Masson of the local Aquatic Club and was nominated by the Mount Gambier Area Conmmittee. John is a shunter at the Mount and has worked previously at Jamestown and Peterborough. Taking an interest in water sports John has two speedboats which he rebuilt himself. One "Miss Cindy" a 2375cc boat, has gained 52 placings in 64 starts in competition. The other "Wings" is smaller with a new designed Wingboat hull and has won four out of the first six starts and has also topped the aggregate score for all classes of boating competition. 
With enthusiasm for the sport John has been instrumental in building the club to its present esteemed position. John is the holder of three State Titles and holds the title Past Rear-Commodore of the club.


"Miss Cindy" could attain speeds of 84mph. Just before the State Speedboat Championships I had fitted a special fin fitted to the outside of the sponson, instead of the normal inside of the sponson, as that was the accepted way it was always done in those days to all Hydroplanes. (see photo and story further down about this fin ) This turned out that allowed my Hydro to turn the corners extremely tight and nearly as good as any displacement boat. One had to be very careful though not to be literally ejected out of the Hydroplane sideways during these tight turns. The fin being outside the sponson also acted like a rudder of sorts, whereas the fin on the inside only acted to stop hydro from sliding sideways too much.  BTW, The American Rolls Royce Merlin Thunderboat hydroplane "Miss Bud" when it visited Australia at Lake Eppalock, Victoria in the 70's. This actually did give me that outside sponson fin idea which I filmed with 8mm camera while they craned her from the water onto its trailer and I then adapted that idea to Miss Cindy. WOW and what a difference that was, actually incredible, thanks to Miss Bud.

A Hydroplane could travel very fast across the water in a straight line, but when the Hydro came to turning corners this was the Hydroplane's main downfall in comparison to any displacement boats. Being flat like a plank and displacing no or very little water during full flight, hence the Hydroplane when coming into a corner would find it extremely difficult to turn corners sharply like a displacement boat, as the Hydro would just tend to slide out sideways across the water like a flat plank, or worst case scenario even bog in and overturn sideways with the hull on top of you. Saw this happen to few others. Most times on a narrow course, the Hydro would go so wide you'd even be clipping reeds or mangroves etc, (So-Long was much like that, had few anxious moments like that with her) that was quite often real hair raising stuff, but to the spectators they use to love it though.

After I achieved that "Best Aggregate Points Trophy in the 1978-79 season", other avenues were starting to happen for me and I then decided to retire "Miss Cindy" the Hydroplane to the shed, still in good order and put her up for sale. She was later sold back to her original owner for his son Peter to race at Goolwa in South Australia and that hydro raced another two years very, very successfully, as I understand it the motor literally never had any work done to it during all that time, not even an oil change I was told later. "Miss Cindy" was then sold off to another chap in Adelaide and he raced her for another season, but the motor finally dropped a valve during a race and that finally wrecked the engine completely and I have no idea what happened to "Miss Cindy" after that. Last saw her race on the Valley Lake in 1986, after than nothing....

So ended nearly 6 years of a inboard boat and motor that was well thought out and prepared very carefully when I re-built it, and as I said before the Hydro was so well carefully put together and so darn reliable, this was Cindy's strongest point, even if I may say so myself. The Hydro raced five years virtually with no spanners put to the motor, apart from just normal maintenance on my own part. For me looking back now, that was quite an achievement in itself for a novice, especially the engine as I did most of it by reading Datsun (Nissan) engine books, and Datsun (Nissan) American Magazines.

"A Change was now in the air for me".

While driving the Hydro "Miss Cindy" the club started up a small (25hp) 20Kw class of outboard racing boats, so the club agreed to run this much smaller class of racing boat, providing that 4 boats could line up for a regular start.

Only 3 could be found to be starters, so to get the 25Hp class up and running, I was approached by the other (25hp) 20kw class members to approach on their behalf a local Outboard Marine dealer in Mount Gambier, Bob Manser, as he once had and raced an old (25hp) 20kw "Comet" displacement hull still hanging up in his back shed just gathering dust. I myself could not afford to put a (25hp) 20kw outboard engine on it, so Bob Manser agreed to put an old secondhand (25hp Evenrude) 20kw outboard engine on this hull on the one condition that I must do all the driving of this tiny boat. The 25 was called "Manser's Comet"

At first I had serious reservations about doing this as the coming season turned out to be the very year I finally got the TOP aggregate points club trophy with "Miss Cindy", it seemed like learning to drive a small canoe with an 25hp outboard motor attached to it, after driving the bigger faster Hydroplane. But I was very surprised as the power to weight ratio was quite incredible. Also this meant driving the 2 boats in 2 separate classes at each and every race local meeting, Whew!.... Looking back now I certainly took on a lot and do not know how I did it..
So this meant I had to drive "Miss Cindy" and "Manser's Comet" both entirely different types of speedboats at the same venues. Boy oh boy, 8 races for inboards, and another 8 races for the (25hp) 20kw outboards, meaning 16 races at each race meeting, I use to be really buggered at the end of each race meeting. But at the end of that season "Miss Cindy" the Hydroplane I finally realised the Club's Best Aggregate points for the season and the (25hp) 20kw "Comet" came in 6th overall. I guess that was an achievement to get these 2 entirely different type of boats out of 30 boats into 1st and 6th position at the end of the racing season, looking back now that was another small achievement I suppose.  By the way the club raced 3 classes of race boats, Inboard, Outboard and 25hp classes of 8 races each at every race meeting. Handicapper's nightmare.

"25hp Comet"

At the end of that successfull 1978 - 79 season with the Inboard Hydroplane "Miss Cindy" and the Outboard (25hp) 20kw "Comet", Bob Manser said to me, "seeing you did so well with the "Comet" would you now be interested in getting a 25hp (20kw) lightweight fiberglass outboard Wing-Boat hull", as these were the top 25hp high speed hulls around at the time and Bob said he would sponsor me with the very latest brand NEW (25hp) 20kw Evinrude Outboard engine for it.

I thought this was far too good a chance to miss as it was always a concern to me if I blew the motor in Miss Cindy how could I afford another engine on just railway shunter's pay. Well I re-thought my position, as I really did love the Hydroplane racing, nothing like it and now that I had finally achieved everything I had set out to do with the Hydro, to be a TOP club driver in an Inboard hydroplane, and also State championships, there was not much left to go for, except sit back and enjoy my racing days. But I could not just sit back as I guess one does need something to always strive for.

BUT also found I very much enjoyed and was fun driving this (25hp) 20kw outboard racing hull called "Comet" in as much as to the power to weight ratio was tremendous which made the boat extremely flighty and darn challenging just to just keep it upright and not get tossed out. These Comet hulls went everywhere all over the water, except in a straight line. Driving one of these you would see sky, water, sky, water, left shoulder in water, then right shoulder in the water. These Comet hulls were like a real wild bucking horse. How I never tipped one over still amazes me to this day, everyone else did. Every other driver in 25hp racing had tipped theirs over a couple of times, some many, many times, and all gained their "Yabbie badges". And yes,,, that is one item I never manage to received in all my 10 years of racing.

So I retired "Miss Cindy" to the back shed put up for sale, and took up Bob Manser's offer of getting and driving this very small, ultra-light 25hp "Wing-boat". I called this new Wing-boat "Wings", and for good reason, it flew across the water (when water was flat). The motor, hull, and one gallon of fuel all weighed in at 118kg, which is very light for the speed it could do. I myself weighed in at 72kg at that time, so it was an all up weight of 190kg with a 25hp outboard. The only thing allowed to be changed was the propeller, everything else on motor HAD to be left standard.

"Wings" seemed an appropriate name for the Wing-boat, as this Wing-boat would near fly over the water (actually much like the Hydro did in a way so was a little easier to relate to it) as only the very rear end of the hull and the prop were in the water. Of course that is when the water had a nice good ripple on it, but a bit of a dog to handle when windy and the water was a bit on the rough side. 

At some major race meetings we would get up to 17 of these little (25hp) 20kw boats turn up, it was great fun with that gaggle of boats all bobbing and bouncing around all over the place, all trying to get to the front, it was all handicap racing (except in Championship racing) as normally the fastest boats (me) always started last in the handicap races, it was really hard, hard work with some fancy driving and mental thinking to get to the front of that hot shot lot, and not having a bingle, or getting yourself disqualified in the meantime, or, ejected out of the boat into the water.

Let me explain a bit about Club handicapping racing:-  The first race of the day was usually a scratch race of 3 laps and you were timed for each 3 laps, but the other 7 races on the day were all handicapped, so IF you won the scratch race, now in the handicap races you were last off the rank, and you had to really get your act together and make literally no mistakes to do any good to get up front and hopefully get a place or win. 

Of course my 20kw Wingboat "Wings" now being the fastest in S.A., I was the last to start. Many drivers use to get very frustrated and could not understand, nor grasp when I use to say to them, we are NOT racing each other, we are racing against the clock, as to break your time by more than 2 seconds a lap, or by 5 seconds over the 3 laps, you would be disqualified, and the time you broke the laps by, say for example, (4 seconds), you were put back a further 4 seconds in the next race, so as you can appreciate, it did take one awhile to learn the art of Handicap racing, and believe me it was an ART. Handicap racing is far, far more fun than scratch racing is, the quicker your boat went, the harder you worked. You had to use your head all the time, and not the stupid foot. That was many a speedboat driver's downfall in more ways than one.

With scratch racing the fastest boat just has to stay out in front and hope he does not do anything stupid during the race, not much of a challenge in that overall, unless another boat running alongside challenging you. Usually in most types of scratch racing, the more cash (money) puts into the boat, the more chances of winning, and when money comes into the picture, we ALL then loose sight of the enjoyment that once was just racing for the enjoyment of it. But with handicap racing, that is definitely NOT necessary so, as there is too many things that can go wrong that money cannot buy, one is serious EXPERIENCE.  I guess that is why I liked handicap racing so much more than scratch racing, as it kept us all basically on a level ground, and one had to keep up to a good race plan throughout all the races on that day. Races at State or Australian Championships and some bigger meetings of course were straight out scratch races. Fastest boat wins, that is if you did not do something stupid.


"Miss Cindy" and Bob Manser's old "Comet" were now both retired to the sheds.
Now the new partnership with the (25hp) 20kw Evinrude powered outboard Wing-boat "Wings" and my Sponsor Bob Manser was the beginning of another three continuous years of very successful racing.

"Wingboat achievements"

With this Wing-boat I continued to achieve the "Best Aggregate points Mount Gambier Aquatic Club" for next three years in a row:- 1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82.

Raised the (25hp) 20kw water speed record of 66.05 km/h to 72.60km/h on 4th May 1980 at Goolwa, then again on October 11th 1981, broke my own record and raised the water speed record to 76.83 kph, again at Goolwa and that was having a bi-stander's boat wake cross over my measured mile run. Was in line for rerun, but the water went off as I hoping to crack the 80kph but sadly that did not ever happen.

A State record (25hp) 20kw quarter mile in 19.93 seconds at the Adelaide Speedboat Club, North Arm.

Won APBA South Australian 25hp (20kw) Championship at Adelaide Speedboat Club at North Arm on 27th November 1981. 

These speeds may not seem fast, but realise as I said before that the Wing-boat "Wings" weighed in at a total of 190kg with me sitting in it and one gallon of fuel. So the power to weight ratio was quite a real handful most of the time, as this boat just skimmed across the water practically on the rear end of the hull, with just only the propeller basically in the water, a real balancing act. The (25hp) 20kw Wing-boat was extremely flighty boat, and a handful especially in any choppy or rougher water. In the whole time I raced speedboats I NEVER had a crash, OR was ever tossed out into the water, so the one thing I never received was the traditional "YABBIE BADGE", as the yabbie badge was for all driver(s) who were tossed out of their boats and dunked into the water.

During 1978-79 season was Rear Commodore, 1979-80 as Secretary and 1981-82 as Treasurer of the Mount Gambier Aquatic Club.

"Retired from racing altogether August 1982."

After 10 years of racing, the last four years of being an undefeated club driver, I then decided to retire from racing altogether in late 1982, as I had now done everything I set out to achieve. Also the railway home we lived in was later coming up for grabs and there be a lot refurbishing needed to be done so warranted a retirement from racing.

When I sold "Miss Cindy" I kept my high Impact life jacket and crash helmet as a memento of those hectic speedboat racing days. Meantime took up photography as a hobby till 1992 when I was offered a retrenchment payout from the AN Railways when the Broad Gauge track was looked like being closed down between Wolseley (S.A.) and Heywood (Vic), leaving Mount Gambier completely isolated from the national rail network. That happened in April 1995. Then went to TAFE for 2 years part time to obtain a computer support certificate, hence all that did eventually come in handy much later in life hence this website and in 2001 Microsoft Train Simulator had been released so I now though retired, had my old job in a way I'm back shunting trains around the computer screen. One thing with a simulator this is less physically demanding on the body in my now old(er) age. 

Below is included a number of photos of the Hydroplane  "Miss Cindy"
Also the 25hp (20kw) Outboard Wingboat  "Wings"


... click on the small picture to view a larger picture ...

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"Miss Cindy"  the Engine compartment and front view.
2.4 litre OHC Nissan with Triple Webbers. December 1983.

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Ready to race

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Johnny and Miss Cindy. January 1981.

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The finished product

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"Miss Cindy" and our then new 1981 VH Holden Commodore Vacationer.


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Miss Cindy and Skippy (Neville Stark) Valley Lake 1976

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"Miss Cindy"  Valley Lake. 1977

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"Mucha" and "Miss Cindy"  Valley Lake. 1977

Miss Cindy racing in Valley Lake November 1978

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"Miss Cindy" at the Valley Lake Mount Gambier 1978 coming back to shore.

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Refueling "Miss Cindy" at the Valley Lake Mount Gambier 1977.


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Taken at Lake Leake near Glencoe some 20 miles from Mount Gambier. 1978.

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Into the turning buoy at Lake Leake near Glencoe. 1978.

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Into the turning buoy  at Lake Leake near Glencoe 1979.

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THE  FIN:  I got this idea off of an American ThunderBoat "Miss Bud" that first came out from America to Australia, as I use to be absolutely amazed as to how that 3 ton Rolls Royce Merlin aircraft engined Hydroplane could corner so well. It would go around corners like it was near on rails. I happen to have my 8mm silent camera at Lake Eppalock in Victoria where "Miss Bud" was at and I filmed all her underneath when they used a crane to put her into and out of the water. When I got home later and viewing all the underside of "Miss Bud" to see what was so different and I then noticed the big fin that was on the OUTSIDE of the sponson instead of the inside, and it was rather huge compared to standard fins seen here in Oz. 
All our Hydros in Australia had a smaller fin on the INSIDE of the sponson to help prevent the Hydro from sliding sideways while going around the corners. So I took some simple measurements of that huge fin on the 8mm film screen and then built a fin in proportion to the 30 foot "Miss Bud" to my 18 foot Hydro. It was an absolute immediate success, till of course once I went to State Championships in Adelaide then everyone else next year applied it also to their boats, but none of theirs could still out-corner "Miss Cindy".

Actually after the S.A. State Championships I had a hydro racer from New Zealand way back then who wrote and asked me if I could give him some measurements of this fin on my hydro. Made some cardboard cutouts of what I did and posted it over to him, so it soon quickly got around.

Added this in 2008 from:  YouTube: 
Warlord & GP55

This is to show just what a difference that outside fin does now for a Hydro in corners.
Of course this movie is on larger scale but results the same on smaller hydros.


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Taken the North Arm at the Adelaide Speedboat Club. 1979.

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The photo above always reminded me of the hidden dangers of speedboat racing.

The Hydroplane this side passing "Miss Cindy" was driven by " John Blight" in his unlimited hydro "Tempo II". Sadly John was tragically killed three months later during an Unlimited water speed record event at Goolwa in South Australia. His hydroplane's rudder hit a shallow sand bar at around 100mph and his boat flipped and rolled over. 

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"Miss Cindy" took three state titles at Championships at North Arm,
Adelaide Speedboat Club in 1978.

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"Miss Cindy" during a Major day at North Arm, Adelaide Speedboat Club in 1979. 
Note how sharp the the hydro is turning, that is a displacement in the wash trying my inside, but no go.

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"Miss Cindy" during Major Day at North Arm,
Adelaide Speedboat Club in 1979.. hugging the inside of Mista Dollar.

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This was just after APBA S.A. State Titles. The Freeman's Motor Trophy and 3 pewter beer mugs for the 3 title classes.
Also placed 2nd in the 300 and 400 ci and placed 3rd in the unrestricted class. Miss Cindy did well that day.

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Added info
VALLEY LAKE picture below was taken
31st March 2003
This was the Mt Gambier Aquatic Club's Valley Lake racing circuit.
Note picture at right the water level was once lapping that walkway in racing days

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Your looking nearly east and look carefully over in next crater is the Leg of Mutton lake (now bone dry) then the crater of the Blue lake. Pine forests can be seen way in the distance.  The foreground area to right is a children's playground and barbecue area. Straight down below is also a barbecue area. In summer this is quite crowded, and any special events are quite often held in this area. The little water inlet was once a swimming area that had a pontoon, but is now banned from swimming account water in that inlet is not fit to swim in. This lake's water table is loosing water each year. 

Note the little island now visible (
insert picture) showing now that use to be under 10 feet of water when we were racing in this lake in 70's and 80's. The water level use to lap that boardwalk and you could watch little fish and tortoises moving around under the water, all now just dried reeds.  All this has mainly happened since drains been put in the 60's and the major dairy farms started using huge water irrigators  and also we have not had very wet winters since the late 1970's. Up to around 1990 Speedboat racing was held here regularly, but now only the odd water skiers in summer use it off and on.

Update: As at 17th March 2010 that island is now part of the shoreline now.
Picture taken from the boardwalk looking out over Valley Lake

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Hard to realise early 1980's when racing there use to be some 8 to 10 feet of water over that peninsula

MISS CINDY from off some old 8mm film footage.
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Hydros do not usually do these antics, but racing in Valley Lake it was easy to do in the sloppy water.
Valley Lake is an extinct volcano crater and with the inboard's wash hitting against the crater walls the
wakes would bounce back creating the very sloppy water, hence not specially good for hydroplanes.
But was an exciting race course to drive, there was nothing like it. Loved every minute of the racing.
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Below see the above antics in these silent 8mm movie, converted to video clips.


Click to view
Miss Cindy's first test run
in Valley Lake, Jan 1976

This 2.2 minute Super 8 Movie
dimensions 320 x 240

WMV Filesize 7.4megs

Click to view
Miss Cindy's first race
in Valley Lake, Oct 1976

This 4½ minute Super 8 Movie
dimensions 320 x 240

WMV Filesize 16.5megs

Click to view

Miss Cindy's racing
in Valley Lake, Nov 1976

This 2½ minute Super 8 Movie
dimensions 320 x 240

WMV Filesize 9megs

Click to view
Part 4

Miss Cindy's racing
in Valley Lake, Nov 1976

This 5 minute Super 8 Movie
dimensions 320 x 240

WMV Filesize 18megs

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Miss Cindy racing at
Adelaide Speedboat Club, 1977

This 3 minute Super 8 Movie
dimensions 320 x 240

WMV Filesize 10megs

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Miss Cindy racing at
Adelaide Speedboat Club, 1977

This 4½ minute Super 8 Movie
dimensions 320 x 240

WMV Filesize 16megs

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Trophies for 1978 -79 season the last year driving "Miss Cindy" at club's end of season annual dinner.
WOW!..  Cop the fungus under the nose back in those early days, I think its was called a moustache.

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Yours truly (right) holding the day's aggregate trophy in March 1977 with nephew Michael Perkins (left) holding the place cards for other races on the day. 
My offsider Mike as a youngster would come to near every race meeting, standing in the water up to his waist (at times it was very cold and windy here in Mount Gambier) holding the hydro so the prop and rudder did not get stuck in the mud, also helping to put the Hydro into and out of water.   Was important job as crew member.

In 1980 Miss Cindy was sold back to Jack Newcoombe of Gloolwa for his son Peter to race. I understand Peter raced it 2 years and Miss Cindy was sold again. Saw it here in the Mount in Valley Lake once on an only visit to Mount Gambier in 1986. Heard later it had dropped a valve and did good bit of damage to the engine. Then lost sight of what happened to Miss Cindy like she just disappeared out of sight completely. Actually thought she had finally met her demise.

13th December 2010

I had a surprise visit at home here in Mt Gambier from Dennis Boundy of Robe, the new owner with a fully restored "Miss Cindy" after 30 years since she left here. Twas a great moment for me to see her in her full glory again, all nicely rebuilt and is to spend her days now mainly in a Museum at Robe, South Australia.

(always exciting to drive)


(enjoyable fun to drive, excellent power to weight ratio)


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"Wings" at Lake Leake near Glencoe. 1981.

Wingboat, 25hp Evinrude motor and 3.7 litres (1 gallon) fuel: 118kg.
Driver: 72kg, all up total weight: 196kg.

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Rough going here at Lake Leake near Glencoe in 1981 passing David Friend from Horsham.
The rest of the field still up front to catch.

The 1981 25HP APBA  S.A. Championship race

Click to view
This 5½ minute VIDEO file
dimensions 640 x 480

WMV Filesize 52.7megs

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Just won the 25hp (20kw)  State Championships at the North Arm,
Adelaide Speedboat Club in November 1981.

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Here my racing friend David Friend in 1982 from Horsham in Victoria took a spill into the drink. This was quite common amongst a lot of 25hp drivers and at times also with the bigger boats. I was fortunate in as much this never happened to me in all of my 10 years of speedboat racing. Luck or skill, call it what you like.

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Driver "David Friend" bobbing around in the water in the Valley Lake, Mount Gambier.
This is what it looks like when in the water with your boat upside down. 
One thing with 25HP racing you were able to smile at the camera.

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Bob Manser * (left) sponsor and mechanic for the Evinrude 25Hp Wingboat "Wings".  Yours truly John Masson on right. The collection of trophies at the Aquatic Club's annual dinner for that first year's racing with "Wings" and this continued for another 2 years afterwards. I retired from racing in 1982 undefeated club champion 4 years in a row.

* Bob Manser of Manser Motors, Mt Gambier S.A. passed away 26th November 2008 aged 82 years. He was an avid supporter of Motor Cycle and Speedboat racing here in Mt Gambier
My racing career would not have been as successful, if not for Bob's input. Sadly missed.

Mount Gambier Aquatic Club's  Oldest Driver 

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Norm Rodda on Valley Lake from Warracknabeal Victoria. 1977

Old MOVIE footage from 1980 on Valley Lake Mount Gambier.

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1980 Valley Lake Boat Line-up

This 4 minute VHS VIDEO file
dimensions 640 x 380

WMV Filesize 26.2megs

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1980 Valley Lake Inboard race

This 2.51 minute VHS VIDEO file
dimensions 640 x 380

WMV Filesize 20.4megs

Click for some

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