The WBA weekend away in Paynesville was a mostly friendly and relaxed affair but it turned out there were two contenders for this year’s Broken Oar Award, and the competition was on!

Paynesville is a great venue for boating, but sometimes things don’t go according to plan. The first contender, a certain Mr G Carroll, went for an untimely swim, courtesy of Kibbee, and the less said about the subsequent phone-rescue-related events the better. As he is not here to defend himself, we won’t say any more…

The scenic canals of Paynesville also provide an excellent location in which to launch a new boat. This all began innocently enough, but then became an epic tale of not one but two attempts to win the Broken Oar award, oops, I meant to say ‘to set the speed record for the WBA’.

Our second contender for the award found a boat design that claimed to be able to plane with a 3.5 hp motor. So focussed was he on setting the speed record and not giving his rivals any warning that he travelled overseas and enlisted professional help to build his boat. Just to make extra sure of success, he bought an even bigger 4hp motor.

Launch day at the Allawah boat ramp brought its own challenges. After the traditional wetting of the boat’s head with champagne – plus the traditional bucketload of advice from onlookers and a reminder to turn on the fuel – our winner puttered off tentatively, as befitted a first trip in an unfamiliar vessel. Oh dear, the boat wouldn’t go straight, its nose pointed heavenward and the new motor was not quite convinced it wanted to run. So, a valiant effort but no speed record today.

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The next calm day, another attempt was made on the speed record. This time, 70kg of forward ballast was enlisted to help balance the boat and keep its nose down. And it worked – the boat planed very nicely at around 8 knots plus in McMillan Strait. Just to demonstrate that this stellar performance was not due to wind and wave, the feat was repeated on the reverse heading. And it worked, again!

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With increasing confidence, the boat was zoomed along the strait to finally claim the speed record for WBA boats. This is the end of the good bit, should we stop here?

Unfortunately, excessive speed is fuel hungry. The speed trial came to an embarrassing halt when the fuel ran out, luckily within cooee of the town dock. The adventurers engaged their auxiliary motor – they paddled in – and the ballast walked back to Allawah for more fuel.

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Is that the end of the story? Not quite, though the continuation had to wait until the next WBA outing at Werribee. This time, our speedster resisted the urge to go fast and kept very sedately near the rest of the fleet going up-river. However, the return journey saw the same resourcing problem – an empty fuel tank - and the trip to the launching ramp was completed courtesy of a handy mini-tug. Someone commented that ‘what happens on the river stays on the river’. That’s sort of true, but actually it’s more like an oil slick that spreads everywhere.

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This year’s Broken Oar is awarded to Brian Flewell-Smith for his thorough research and exhaustive analysis of the capacity of his fuel tank. Congratulations Brian! You may like to keep the Oar handy in case you need it in the future.

[Report: Jim Stockton]