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Veteran skier chasing record-breaking time

The Syndicate team of driver Garry Rudd, observer Boyd Edwards and skiers Kevin Vahtrik and Cropper will be out to clinch the boat’s first Southern 80 and Cropper’s third.

ZACH HUBBER February 9, 2013 4:39am

The Argo team of Brandon Calder, Joe Kaal, Phil Kaal and Danny Cropper won the 1997 Southern 80.


The Syndicate can break Hellrazor’s 2010 record of 30 minutes and 32 seconds on Sunday, according to veteran skier Danny Cropper.

The Sydneysider will contest the world’s largest ski race 25 years since celebrating the first of his two victories at the Southern 80.

But a race record and victory are not the only goals on The Syndicate’s mind, with the team’s 2010 Bakers’ Blitz record of 6:34 also on the radar.

The team of driver Garry Rudd, observer Boyd Edwards and skiers Kevin Vahtrik and Cropper will be out to clinch the boat’s first Southern 80 and Cropper’s third.

It would be particularly momentous for Rudd, who suffered broken ribs and a fracture to his lower spine when The Syndicate ran up the river bank after a mechanical failure in the 2010 Southern 80.

Having contested the event over a 25-year period, Cropper said his first victory still remained a fond memory when he combined with driver Murray Price, observer Garry Price and fellow skier Craig Brown.

‘‘I hadn’t even seen the Murray up until then,’’ he said.

‘‘We won our first (Sydney) Bridge that year and the NSW series and that was the start of a great run for me.’’

After a horrible run of boats breaking down and absences at the Southern 80, Cropper had to persist until 1997 when he filled in for Damian Kaal behind Argo.

‘‘We killed it that year,’’ Cropper said.

‘‘We broke the record for the Blitz and just had an amazing run.’’

Despite being a fill-in, Cropper did not claim any of the prize money or even a free beer across the bar, he joked.

His victory alongside driver Phil Kaal, observer Jo Kaal and skier Brandon Calder is up there with his five Sydney Bridge to Bridge victories between 1988-91 and in 1994, among other feats.

A third Southern 80 at 48 years of age could be one of the final additions to an already impressive resume, starting with an impressive run in the Bakers’ Blitz.

‘‘To go under 6:30 in the Blitz would be awesome,’’ he said.

‘‘Last year we got the new boat two weeks before the race, so we basically went down to the race untested, but it’s different this year.’’

Cropper said The Syndicate had upgraded its gearbox and motor since last year and was ready to take on the best superclass had to offer.

‘‘The boat is so efficient and so fast,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re a lot more confident now than this time last year.

‘‘You can feel the big step-ups in the gears and when you hit the corners at 110mph (177km/h) to 116mph (186km/h).

‘‘That sort of pace and G-force on your body just feels amazing.’’

Cropper admitted it was a tough race, but had been training physically and mentally each day except on weekends to prepare for a third title.

‘‘Going down that course, I mean really going hard, all you’re doing is looking at what’s coming up next at each corner and it wears your mind and body out,’’ he said.

Cropper knows he is not getting any younger, but continuous gym sessions and the support of his four kids, who all love skiing, wills him to continue competing.

‘‘When I stop going to the gym, that’s when I’ll know,’’ he said.

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