Hammond’s got drive to win
World bid demands team work
A Matamata man will be behind the wheel of two waterskiers’ efforts to win at the World Waterski Racing Championships in Wellington.
Paul Hammond has driven the two water skiers, Perry Jamieson and Natalia Flexman, to success multiple times.
Recently the two, who are based in Hamilton and Howick, won five titles between them at the New Zealand Waterski Championships. Jamieson also recently won the most prestigious New Zealand race, the 100 miler, which is an hour and a half race.
Hammond believes this year is the best opportunity for his skiers to get in the top three at the worlds because it is being held in New Zealand and both are at their physical peak. Flexman was fifth at the last world championships in Spain.
Of Jamieson, Hammond said: ‘‘Normally for people to advance to the level where he is now it takes three to five years and he has come along in the last two years. He was a just average skier who wasn’t going to go anywhere and then he decided he wanted to go the worlds.’’
That was 18 months ago. Since then, Jamieson has been training in the gym six days a week and even Cyclone Pam didn’t stop them from getting out on Tauranga Harbour to practise. ‘‘We have to train in those conditions because it’s no good just training in good weather.’’ The championships will happen whether its windy or calm.
A physically strong and mentally committed waterskier is only part of the essential team. There also needs to be a skilled driver and observer. Jamieson’s dad, Mike, originally acted as a driver before he took an observer role on the boat and Hammond took the wheel. Hammond, who drove the New Zealand skiers at the worlds in 2011, said experience was the key to good driving.
‘‘I have been doing it for 10 years.’’ He also said, like any sport, you needed to want to win. ‘‘You need to have a bit of mongrel in yah to want to win races.’’
Driving a boat, which has a 300 horse power engine that can reach speeds of 85mph (136kmh) was not like driving a race car, as you had to account for factors like currents and weather conditions. Even Nitro Circus’ Travis Pastrana struggled to get the knack of driving when the crew jumped on Hammond’s boat the morning before they performed in Hamilton. ‘‘All he wanted to do was go fast, as he does, and I told him he just needed to back off a little and go slower and then bring up your speed, and he got better.’’
Meeting Pastrana and other Nitro Crew members, and getting the VIP treatment at the show that night, was a highlight of Hammond’s time being involved in waterskiing.
Hammond said waterskiing wasn’t a very well recognised sport in New Zealand, unlike Australia, which made fundraising harder, although he had gained some Matamata business sponsors. The Redoubt Bar and Eatery ran a karma keg, where patrons paid as much as they wanted for a beer, which raised $900 for Hammonds’ New Zealand waterski racing team.
They need $16,000, to cover fuel costs for training and racing, accommodation for the 10- day event, shipping a boat from Australia and back, plus insurance and new equipment for the event in Wellington from April 11-18.
Matamata’s Paul Hammond will behind the wheel of two water skiers’ efforts to win at the World Water Ski Racing Champs. The team has had to sacrifice family and business time to train.
– Paul Hammond
Paul Hammond, ready for action.