Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Passion continues for Anthony

Anthony O’Reilly’s friends are telling him to keep racing until he has clocked 50 consecutive Club Marine Southern 80s.

ZACH HOPE February 15, 2012 4:33am

R Symons, Adrian Heffernan and Anthony O'Reilly.

Anthony, himself, is not totally convinced; he says he has already tried to retire ‘‘about 20 times’’.

Since the age of nine and a half, in 1977, to age 44 this year, he has taken part in an incredible 35 consecutive events.

At the weekend, he placed sixth in veteran class with Gotta Go and fifth in unlimited outboard expert class with In Pursuit.

But he says his passion is just as strong now as it was for that first ever race and, while the body is older and the recovery slower, will not rule out giving the half century a nudge.

‘‘People reckon I should get to 50. At this stage, I think I might be able to, but I’ll have to think about it,’’ he says.

‘‘I might have to so I can ski (compete in the Southern 80) with my family... It’s harder now I’m getting older. But you get a bit smarter. You do things a bit differently — (laughs) You learn how to wave down.

‘‘But having said that, I’m going faster than I was five years ago. The sport itself is going faster and I probably need a bigger boat to pull me out of the water.’’

His memories are hazy of that first race in 1977, but he recalls the boat running out of fuel and sitting idle in the river. The family still placed second.

There was no looking back, but O’Reilly says he was hooked long before: ‘‘I grew up with speed. It’s in the family’’.

He has had success and down time, including a torn medial ligament 15 years ago at Mildura, but he says a love of the sport and of those who share it with him keep him coming back.

‘‘(The best thing) is all the friends you make. The good times, the good stories,’’ he says.

‘‘You go to do your best. If something doesn’t work, you don’t worry about it. It’s about enjoyment. If you get a trophy, (that’s) even better.’’

Cheering him on from the bank is a beaming Maison Dixon, his 16-year-old daughter.

‘‘I’m extremely proud,’’ she said. ‘‘He’s stuck with it for 35 years.’’

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