• Loddon Herald

Putting skis on lake

Seeing a photo in Popular Mechanics of a boat towing a bob sled behind a boat with a person standing up, seemed like a lot of fun to us. Wrecking an old door, we soon manufactured a makeshift sled, however, without the curved up nose. Try as we may, the poor old outboard motor just never had the power to do much more than create a small wave, let alone us being able to stand up on it, possibly having three people in the boat would not have helped, so our early attempts at some sort of aqua planning failed.

BOORT Ski Club foundation member Murray Lanyon shared his recollections of the beginnings of water-skiing and the club at its 60th anniversary dinner.

From his introduction to the sport seeing a photograph in Popular Mechanics magazine to the early days at Lake Leag-hur and developing facilities in Boort, Murray’s snapshot of 60 years was also a tribute to the club’s founders.

Murray shares a few stories from the early days in this edited extract of his address to the anniversary dinner:

There were many challenges to be overcome in the move to Boort, a boat slipway was needed, the foreshore to be cleaned up to provide a suitable area, for skiers and their families to congregate, stumps on the lake bed that could possibly damage both boat propellers, and skiers, needed to be removed, plus many other probable concerns that hadn’t been envisaged yet.

As there were only three speed boats in the region - Les Saunders, Warwick Greaves, and Robert Lanyon’s Skiff - skiing was conducted on the Big Lake at your own risk, a row of painted posts were driven into the lake bed to differentiate reasonably safe water to the north, and the dangerous tree stump zone to the South. A makeshift slipway made of wooden planks was constructed to the west of the gun club to facilitate the launching of boats,

Robert Lanyon, president of the Lake Boort Development and Tourist Promotion Committee, contacted the Victorian Tourist Development Authority, asking if there were grants available to help with the construction, and installation of a double slipway at a suitable location on the Little Lakes Foreshore in Nolen’s Park, and if funds were also possible to help generally clean up the foreshore in the area.

Contact was also made with the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, plus the Lands Department, outlining the proposed idea, and that if the project was proceeded with, that the Lake would need to be kept at a high level through the warmer months of the year to sustain its use, this was generally agreed to.

Correspondence, plus personal approaches, were made to the councillors of the Gordon Shire, and Allan Johnson, the shire engineer, to inform them of the proposals that were being put in place, and to seek their approval to proceed, which was greeted with encouragement and enthusiasm.

(When) funds had arrived from the Victorian Tourist Development Authority to build the double slipway, a professional concreting company was engaged to complete the works, with help being available through the progress association, and other organisations, the slipway would be operational before the 1961 summer season, this would give boat owners easy access to the lake.

In November 1961 the Boort Progress Association convened a meeting of interested people to form a ski club, a vote was taken with those present, and it was unanimously agreed that a club was to be formed.

Robert was elected president with vice-president Peter Weaver, secretary Bruce Meadows and treasurer Oliver Wright

As early summer is always a busy time in communities such as Boort, with the grain harvest in full swing, and the last paddocks of baled hay to be carted, there is not a lot of time to spend on other projects, however the Boort Ski Club executive and committee were eager, as a newly formed club, to contribute towards the Australia Day Carnival coming up towards the end of January.

Robert who was very keen on boat racing, suggested that this could certainly provide some interesting action for the crowd, and maybe some exhibition skiing would be a good contribution from the club.

The executive and committee agreed, with Robert who had contacts through Lloyd Willian, was left in charge of the racing.

As it turned out the day was a total success, Lloyd Willian, had several boats arrive from Bendigo, as well as his own Hoots Mon, the first fuel-injected Chevy V8 in a boat, Lenny Chew’s incredible Neroli and the famous two from Balranald, Rocko and True Blue, other boats also fronted from Yarrawonga, as well as other Victorian Speed Boat Club Members.

The racing was spectacular, and all competitors agreed that the lake was a very suitable venue, with good spectator viewing area, and perhaps should be included in Victorian Speed Boats annual racing circuit.

In between the boat races, skiing displays were presented to the public, Rosemary Margan was the celebrity skier, of TV fame, and as an added attraction the Balranald crew had arrived with a gyro-copter mounted on floats, which they flew, towed behind one of their boats. The progress association were extremely pleased with the activities as presented on the Lake, as there had been little activity on the lake in previous years.

Work was commenced on the building of the jetty, and fuel installation, Robert was in charge of this project, with help from many of the members, a key person involved was, Russel Hicks, a plumber by trade, and a founding member of the Castlemaine Hot Rod Club, who arrived frequently in his magnificent hot rod, The Scarlet Pimpernel, his expertise in the installation of the fuel tank, connections, and bowser was invaluable.

This project was completed prior to the 1962–63 summer season, complete with lighting to illuminate the slipway at night, a meter box with power points available, a large fire extinguisher and first aid kit located near the bowser.

The club again participated in the Australia Day Carnival held with a local competition event, a temporary slalom course being erected on the northern side adjacent to the viewing area along the lake foreshore, trick skiing, plus other novelty displays such as barefooting, three-person pyramids and other ideas which didn’t always work.

During 1963, the club had become a member of the Mid-Murray Ski Zone, helping to promote a regional championship, and interaction between Member Clubs.

There had been talk between members, the original membership being 28 with three boats, which had grown now to 54 members with nine boats, that considering the coming earthworks to be carried out on the southern Lake’s bank, that we should also move soil to a position beside the slipway as a pad for a future clubhouse, that would be an enviable location for all to enjoy. Plans for the site were drawn up, with appropriate level suggested by the shire engineer Allan Johnson.

Four years later and Boort was hosting the Victorian Ski Club Championships ... we needed key personal to attend to any problems that may arise, these tasks were allotted to various members.

The ski club house was set up for championships, with the judging deck on the roof, the same as used for the regional Championships, Luckily, we never had the same OH&S standards then, as we have today.

The championships went off with hardly a hitch, with competitors, and VWSC officials pleased with the amenities, and professionalism of the committee, and club members.

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