CASHED UP S80 READY TO ROAR

RIVER: HIGH. EN­TRIES: HIGH. IN­TER­EST: HIGH

The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By Fraser Walker-Pearce

SOUTHERN 80 is just a few weeks away; the Mur­ray River is full and 2019 en­tries are strong — now it’s just a count­down to Fe­bru­ary 8 and the first boats and skiers fly­ing from Tor­rum­barry to Echuca-Moama. Al­though the event’s spon­sor­ship rev­enue had taken a small hit, Moama Wa­ter Sports Club pres­i­dent Stephen Shipp said the cashed-up club had a ‘‘pretty big bank bal­ance, or cush­ion’’ to pro­tect it fi­nan­cially un­til more spon­sors come on board. He said the Southern 80 was a huge fi­nan­cial con­trib­u­tor to Echuca-Moama, with be­tween $55 and $60 mil­lion in­jected into the lo­cal econ­omy in just the past three years.

There’s ac­tu­ally a good num­ber of peo­ple who come here for the race and re­ally like it here — they’re the ones who buy a hol­i­day house and our pop­u­la­tion ac­tu­ally grows when they de­cide to put their roots down here

SOUTHERN 80 or­gan­is­ers are con­fi­dent the event will be back in the black soon, de­spite a di­min­ish­ing fund­ing sup­ply.

On the back of Cam­paspe Shire coun­cil­lors elect­ing late last year to re­duce the 80’s fund­ing stream from $25,000 a year to $15,000 by 2021, the event is look­ing else­where for fi­nan­cial back­ing.

But in the mean­time Moama Wa­ter Sports Club pres­i­dent Stephen Shipp said the cashed-up club had a ‘‘pretty big bank bal­ance, or cush­ion’’ to pro­tect it un­til more spon­sors come on board.

With just a few weeks un­til the 50th edi­tion of the big­gest ski race in the world gets un­der way on Fe­bru­ary 8, Mr Shipp said he was con­fi­dent it would go off with­out a hitch.

‘‘I don’t see it (the cuts in fund­ing) im­pact­ing us too much, it’s only go­ing to drop by $5000 a year,’’ Shipp said.

‘‘As well as that we’re try­ing to get some fund­ing from Visit Vic­to­ria. We’re rea­son­ably con­fi­dent we’ll be mak­ing money soon, but we need the State Gov­ern­ment to sup­port us, be­cause costs keep ris­ing.

‘‘I think we’ll be back in the black in the next cou­ple of years, we haven’t been for the past few but we do need that fund­ing from the state to make it hap­pen.

‘‘We’re dig­ging up some more lo­cal spon­sors I be­lieve, I don’t know where they are at the mo­ment but that’s an av­enue we’re look­ing at,’’ he said.

Shipp said the Southern 80 was a huge fi­nan­cial con­trib­u­tor to Echu­caMoama, with be­tween $55 and $60 mil­lion in­jected into the lo­cal econ­omy in the past three years.

‘‘But it doesn’t just stop there, there’s ac­tu­ally a good num­ber of peo­ple who come here for the race and re­ally like it here — they’re the ones who buy a hol­i­day house and our pop­u­la­tion ac­tu­ally grows when they de­cide to put their roots down here,’’ he said.

But a coun­cil re­port, tabled at the meet­ing where fund­ing was cut, stated there was no reli­able method of cap­tur­ing the ex­act num­ber of Southern-80-go­ers, al­though it was es­ti­mated at 50,000 at­ten­dees in pre­vi­ous years with num­bers drop­ping to 40,000 in the past two years.

Shipp said he had not no­ticed a drop in at­ten­dance, and noted en­tries for all 42 classes were sta­ble this year.

‘‘They’re sim­i­lar to last year and could even be up a bit.

‘‘It’s pretty much sim­i­lar in terms of the classes this year, the only dif­fer­ence is the ju­nior classes will have a two-year gap in­stead of three, so we don’t re­ally know what that will do to en­tries, whether it’ll push them up or down,’’ he said.

The week­end be­gins with the in­au­gu­ral hall of fame in­duc­tions, with around six of the 33 nom­i­nees ex­pected to be in­ducted.

‘‘It’s a good thing to show­case those who have been around the sport for a long time.

‘‘We will be crank­ing up the fin­ish line again this year as well, we’ll be dis­cussing very soon where ev­ery­thing is laid out around the fin­ish, with the fo­cus be­ing placed on the spec­ta­tor and get­ting fam­i­lies down there.

‘‘It’s re­ally trans­formed from be­ing a party place to a real fam­ily place now, which is great,’’ Shipp said.

Cath Grey

80 IS GO FOR 2019: Moama Wa­ter Sports Club pres­i­dent Stephen Shipp with the tro­phy for the big day (left) and mem­bers of the club’s com­mit­tee down near the fin­ish line for the speed­boat spec­tac­u­lar. Photo:

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