Ballarat has a new world champion, with Sam Perry part of the winning Australian team at the World Waterski Racing Championships which were held across the weekend at Gosford.
Perry acted as the observer for Emma Barnes. Along with driver Jacob Hinterholzl from Bacchus Marsh, they led the international field across the line, picking up the most points across the four races to be anointed as world champions.
It has been a labour of love for the trio, and Barnes in particular has stuck to a rigorous training regime, having travelled from her home in Echuca to train in Geelong, Melbourne or on Lake Burrumbeet every week.
The trio are long-time family friends, with Perry saying he had known his teammates most of his life.
"I've been waterskiing and racing since I was nine years old, and we all just met through racing together, all our families are very close," he said.
"My dad used to observe for Emma when she went to world's in France in 2019, then I got a chance to get in the boat this time."
Perry has plenty to do in his role as observer with a lot of strings to his role.
"My role is to communicate with the skier," he said. "She will give me hand signals while we're skiing, I relay it to the driver.
"I have to relay the driver regarding boats behind us, how far away they are, the conditions, if the skier is looking uncomfortable for some reason, we might need to slow down a bit, perhaps the skier is looking too comfortable and we need to go faster, the skier will always give the signal to see what they want to be doing.
"I'm also keeping a stop watch on the time, our race goes for 45 minutes, plus one lap, so it's all based on times, we normally have a plan before we start, say we get to 10 minutes to go, we'll push, there's a lot involved."
He said the idea of his team being world champion was still to sink in.
"Now we've got a world title, I still haven't come to grips with it yet," he said. "It's been a different experience that's for sure, I never thought I could get that far in the racing.
"This is the pinnacle of the sport. As we are a motorised sport, it's not really what you would call an Olympic-style sport, it is very unique what we do, having the mechanical (aspect) and then the athlete to ski as well."
He said it would be up to Barnes as to whether the team stayed together.
"With the way the rules are, now that Emma has won an F2 world title, she needs to step up to F1," he said.
"The class is F2 is restricted to a 21-foot boat with a 300 horse power outboard motor, where an F1 can be an inboard motor, 21-foot and as much horse power as you want.
"I'm keen to stay on with Emma, but a lot will depend on whether she wants to go again, also there's the expense of having to find a new boat and obviously the way things are at the moment, nothing comes cheap.
"What boat you buy depends on where you're going as well. Over here racing is a lot faster than in Europe, they tend to race in canals whereas we tend to race faster."
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