The inside on GILFLITE

From the perspective of a customer

Story by David Bennett – long time friend and business associate

The Inside on Gilflite

As an enthusiastic skier, 40 years ago I researched water ski boats extensively and decided to purchase my first new boat:  “The Boat of the Year” – A Gilflite Spitfire.

This began a long association with David Gill and Gilflite Boats.

I know a little about water skiing, having skied for 50 years, performed in over 50 ski shows, taught blind and wheelchair bound individuals to ski (here and in the USA) and taught over 1000 people on doubles – ranging in age from 18 months to 75 years. (The 5 state barefoot titles that have been won along the way are no real claim to fame in Tasmania where competitive bare-footing is very small.)

However, having owned 4 new Gilflite boats (and put an average of 1000 hours on each one) and after spending days in the Gilflite factory,  I can tell you what they are like to own, a bit about how they are built, and I can give you some insight into the workings of the mind of David Gill.

When it comes to designing and manufacturing ski boats: The man has experience.

He initially designed and built race boats, and then raised 6 girls around the family sport of water skiing. He knows what’s needed in a high performance craft which can also function as a family ski boat.

Every Gilflite boat has been designed to satisfy the skier who wants to push the envelope. David’s experience with hulls enables him to fine tune hulls and adjust the moulds to provide the required handling and wash for the end user. I recall him showing me a new asymmetric hull where the port strake was 15 mm shorter than the starboard strake “because we found the engine dropped 100 revs on left hand turns compared to right hand turns because of the direction of the prop rotation and I wanted to correct that”.

The man is fussy.

Providing room and comfort for every member of the family is important.

I remember David moving grab rails lower on the transom after he actually put his wife in the water to measure how high up she could reach when climbing in. “Kids and small women can’t reach a grab rail if it’s too high”

He also designed a driver’s seat which adjusts to raise up as well as come forward. Unless you have a super clean screen and there’s never any glare, looking over the screen is much safer. “Wives and girlfriends often need this height adjustment to safely see over the windscreen”

Speaking of windscreen ….it’s supposed to screen the wind!

Have a drive in many boats and you feel like you have your head out the window of your car. Even on boats with big screens, your vision is often compromised by windscreen joints and mirrors which can deflect wind onto the observer.

The wind in your face might be fine on a super hot day but even then, it starts to get tiring after a time.

Whilst every boat will take a wave over the nose under extreme circumstances, Gilflite boats handle oncoming boat wash exceptionally well. Drivers and passengers do not need to be continually stressed about taking a wave over the front.

Gilflite boats have never been the cheapest.

David Gill has always been committed to producing a quality product. I have personally seen him instruct his factory workers to put in extra fibreglass here, or a strengthener there, to ensure the hulls retain their quality look and appearance , long after the purchase price has been forgotten.

These extras don’t show up on the show room floor but, like selecting better quality seat material and carpet, they ensure the boat doesn’t develop cracks or premature worn patches and retains that show room look for years.

The trend towards synthetic bearers has been resisted at Gilflite. Treated timber remains the material of choice after actual on-water testing showed timber bearers act as sound deadeners resulting in a more pleasant ride for all concerned.

David draws on the skill of a graphic artist to ensure the colours and graphics compliment the lines of the boat, ensuring the boats don’t date and still “look good” for years.

I have seen David design new boats and he never does what’s easy. There is never a flat surface on a Gilflite; instead, every surface is shaped to match the overall lines of the boat. Watching David design and then construct a custom made engine cover recently was amazing as he continually refined the mould to ensure it not only looked good but it retained as much interior room in the boat as possible. I remember years ago how, with clever design, he produced a new 19 foot boat which actually had as much interior space as the average 21ft craft.

Designing is a strength of David Gill.

The Gilflite history web pages list many of his innovations, but near the top of this list might be the ski training boom.

I have watched many boat owners (including several owners of exceptionally expensive craft in the USA) struggle with ski booms which are heavy, awkward and often require two people to install.

When a boom is needed in a Gilflite it can be retrieved in seconds from under the nose, installed by one person whilst on the water and with one click, can be temporarily folded to allow for docking on a pontoon or pier.

 Out on the water, using the Gilflite boom, a 10 year old can achieve in seconds what it takes two men 5 minutes to do on the land with some booms.

This attention to detail and ease of use means few ski boats actually work better or hold their value longer than a Gilflite. This might explain why so many owners are reluctant to part with them.

Having skied with a wide variety of ski boats, both in Australia and in the USA, when all factors are considered, I would not swap my Gilflite Shortline for any boat I have seen anywhere.

David Bennett

Gallery: Ski Antics

BELOW: New Engine Cover by GILFLITE to suit latest model 6.2 litre Mercruiser – up to 350 HP (designed and handcrafted by David Gill for my Shortline during our recent engine upgrade)

BELOW: New Shortline Build

5 GILFLITES – 5 SKIERS

Story by David Bennett

Horsehead Water Ski Club, Devonport Tasmania.

The 5 skiers are about to do a dock start on discs (round flat boards that some people call saucers). 

It’s a favourite pastime for us.

Our club would own 30 of them.

Cheap as chips to make …. 3ft circle of the cheapest ply you can find…a nail and a piece of string to mark out the circle and cut it out with a jigsaw. Word of advice … don’t paint the darn thing or you spend the rest of your life trying to stop them being slippery, cause they have no bindings. (Well, maybe paint the edges just so you can see them in the water, but leave the rest as bare timber which gives just the right amount of grip)

We would often tow 5 or 6 and have a “war” on the water to see who can knock the others off most often. 

A “kamikaze” where both of you go down (usually created by someone throwing a rugby-type tackle onto someone else is considered unworthy of any credit because it’s too easy and requires no skill!)

Our record number of discs behind the Shortline is 17.

I notice this photo (taken the year you first started building Integras ) involves 2 people wearing dry suits, so it must have been early in the season when the water is still really cold ( having started as melted snow 20 km upstream).

Here are are a couple of photos I found which you might find interesting.

One shows 5  Gilflites (the blue spitfire was originally ours and the Integra was our brand new boat at the time ) one of the first you guys (GILFLITE) made. 

The flying dock start is me at a ski show in Hobart.

Skiing is for EVERYONE!

Here’s another ski story from David Bennett (the world record guy – and not to mention a whole lot of other cool stuff that we hope to uncover).

‘The little girl skiing in this photo (above) is blind. The lady on ski’s towed by the boom is wheelchair bound’ – David taught them both how to ski.

In the words of David;

“For several years our ski club hosted days of water skiing for Camp Quality (kids with Cancer). The little blind girl (Emma) was a participant. She was about 10 at the time.
(She would be about 16 now.)
Later I was looking around on the internet to see if anyone else teaches blind people and found LOF Adaptive Skiers (lofadaptiveskiers.org) in the USA. They teach blind people and all sorts of people in wheelchairs (stroke victims, people with missing limbs etc) and I have visited the USA to volunteer on several occasions and on one trip I met Jamie Petrone (who is confined to a wheelchair because of her feet). They were setting her up for a Ski Biscuit and I suggested that the heavy bindings on jump skis should hold her feet sufficiently well to allow her to stand and actually ski.
We taught her to ski standing upright using a training boom and eventually she graduated to a long rope. Last time I was in the States she was crossing wakes and I taught her to dock start.
Jamie is an absolute star and teaches wheelchair dancing and runs an organisation which promotes “Inclusion” in artistic endeavours”. (http://www.thisabilityarts.org/index.php/jamie-petrone)

The World Record Story

Most water skiers to be towed behind a boat all at once

The World Record Story – by: David Bennett (organiser & participant) – Horsehead Water Ski Club, Devonport Tasmania.

THE WORLD RECORD STORY

Most water skiers to be towed behind a boat all at once

The World Record Story – by: David Bennett (organiser & participant) – Horsehead Water Ski Club, Devonport Tasmania.

Water skiing is a great family sport and I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved most of my life. In 1969 at the age of 12, I joined the Horsehead Water Ski Club which is located close to my hometown in Devonport Tasmania. Horsehead is the oldest ‘continuously operating’ water ski club in the country – ‘since 1958’ – and it’s where I like to spend most of my free time, in-fact my whole family is involved in the club.

So It’s safe to say, “I’ve been water skiing for a long time. I’ve taught just on a thousand people to water ski” … so I’m starting to get the hang of it.

In 1983 someone gave me a photo of the world record of 53 skiers behind one boat.

In 1988 a group of us ski club members were skiing at Strahan when this big fast ferry came past us. We all immediately wondered whether we could use that boat to set a world record. We took photos of the back of the boat so we could work out how to attach a boom, but we couldn’t get assistance from the boat designers in Perth WA and the idea went on hold. (Strahan is a small fishing village on the wild west coast of Tassie).

In 2006 I was at Strahan again and met Guy Grining, one of the owners of World Heritage Cruises and shared my dream with him. (I’d also been speaking to a couple of pilots who flew the float planes but they wouldn’t have a bar of it, nor would the helicopter guy)!

I asked: “So if I bring a bucket full of people down here, you’ll tow them with your boat?” The answer was “Yes”. He gave me his business card which I kept in my wallet for years (I still have the beat up old card).

Our ski club took up the challenge and we formed a small committee which started to gather expertise, enthusiasm (and eventually some sponsorship). Skiers joined us from all over Tasmania. One even flew home from the UK.

Our initial budget was $5000.

The committee eventually ended up spending over $100,000 in cash (excluding all the time and materials which were donated).

The record stood at 100 for 23 years and withstood 5 attempts from all round the world.

Tasmania’s attempts were as follows:

#1 Jan 2008 121 skiers started and the laminated timber boom broke. A new boom was constructed overnight from gas pipeline

#2 Jan 2008 121 skiers started in very rough water and the new gas pipeline boom broke.

#3 Jan 2009 121 skiers (with a new aluminium boom on floats) – rope problems prevented a start.

#4 Jan 2009 121 skiers. Broken tow rope lead to boom failure.

#5 Jan 2010 121 skiers. $70,000 boom. 85 crossed the finish line.

#6 Jan 2010 121 skiers. 99 finished (1 short of the record).

#7 March 2010 121 skiers. 95 finished.

#8 March 2010 121 skiers. 114 A new world record!

#9 Jan 2012 154 skiers. New props fitted. 108 finished.

#10 Jan 2012 154 skiers. 145 crossed the finish line.

Those who crossed the finish line included me, my wife and my 3 kids. It was a great feeling to finally achieve my dream (with my family in tow)!

The news went all around the world from Time Square in New York to the news in Arabia, across to Germany, it was published in magazines in France and made the headlines in Japan. We graced the covers of magazines and newspapers around the world and people called us from all over the Globe.

Having achieved Gold, Silver and Bronze (the 3 biggest pulls in history), the Tasmanian team has retired.

Satisfied with the world record accomplishment, I now spend my weekends at the club with my Gilflite Shortline 190. Still the best hull I’ve had the pleasure to own and ski behind.

David Bennett

STAMPEDE

The new Stampede build in David Gill’s workshop – article by Ted Madden – photo’s by Rob Wilmott – Designed by Col Winton

Stampede’s our new Cup hope

By Ted Madden

A huge new hydroplane is taking shape in boat builder Dave Gill’s Croydon workshop.

It has a dual mission – to hold the Griffiths Cup for Victoria, and to represent Australia on the big-time power boat circuit in the United States.

Her name will be Stampede. She’s the successor to the famous Glenmaggie Monster, which won the Griffith Cup two years in succession, for Stan Jones and Bob Saniga.

When Aggressor beat Stampede, narrowly but decisively in both heats of the 1971 Commodore’s Cup, Stan Jones knew that the ageing Glenmaggie Monster could not hope to beat Aggressor.

Not only was the hull nearing the end of its useful life: it was too short to take the full thrust of the V-12 Rolls Royce Merlin aircraft engine.

He commissioned a smaller, tunnel-hull type for use with a conventional motor.

Called Turning Point. She didn’t produce the revolutionary results hoped for.

So, at the beginning of this season, the word went out that Stampede was finished, and Stan Jones had given the game away. Just before Christmas, I learned the best-kept secret in the sport.

Far from giving the game away. Jones had been planning and building a new hydroplane – a hull which, based on the years of trial and error with the old Stampede – could take the full thrust of a Rolls-Royce Merlin.

The new boat – designed by Colin Winton, who built the old Stampede – is a huge 28 footer, nearly 12 ft in the beam, of what has become known as Pickle Fork design. It bears a family resemblance to three smaller hydroplanes, John Lewis’ Vulture, Ray Adams’ Miss Coldstream and the West Australian, Big Benzol, that have come from the Dave Gill’s workshop.

The starting point for this design is the big American hydroplane, Myr’s Special.

Unsinkable

The hull is crammed with 200 one-gallon plastic cordial bottles, making the huge machine unsinkable. When I saw her, the Rolls Royce Merlin had been installed, and the deck was about to go on.

The motor is positioned amidships; but unlike the old Stampede, which had a two-man cockpit up forward, the cockpit is behind the motor.

The new Stampede is a one-man boat.

Jones expects the big hydroplane to be ready for her first trials in a fortnight. This will give him two weeks to get the bugs out before the Griffiths Cup. But he expects no trouble with the motor – a going concern, with which he and his pit crew are thoroughly familiar.

He’s confident that the detailed care and engineering know-how that had gone into the construction of the new boat will mean that little will have to be done by the way of pre-race adjustments.

ARTICLE: Madden, T., 1972, ‘Stampede’s our new Cup hope,’ Sporting Globe, Dec., 30, p., 14

Photo Gallery Below: photo’s courtesy Vulture web site by B Lewis – ( photos by Rob Wilmot)

Stampede 1973 Griffith Cup
STAMPEDE — Stan Jones and Robert Saniga
Owned jointly by Stan Jones and Bob Saniga, this 23 foot hydroplane was one of the first Australian race boats to successfully run a World War II ex-aircraft engine, in this case a massive V12. Rolls Royce Merlin engine from a Lancaster bomber. While Stan and Bob attend to the driving, aircraft engine genius. Clem Anderson looks after the fantastically complex 16 litre, 2000 h.p. power plant that has taken Stan Jones to 154.3 m.p.h. — an Australasian record. Co-winners of the 1970 and 1971 Griffith Cup, Stan and Bob will be trying hard to make this their third in a row. Both drive with skill and determination. Both are dyed-in-f he-wool hydroplane enthusiasts and together they make one of Australia’s greatest hydroplane driving teams.

Custom Boat Trailers

Check out this sporty looking customised boat trailer for Marks Spitfire Mk II, custom colour: Holden Sting Red – ordered through GILFLITE – made by Easytow Boat Trailers.

Specs: Tandem Easytow Trailer

  • Standard Equipment includes (paint or gal):
  • 15″ Alloy Wheels
  • Fulton F2E Winch
  • Galvanised Axles, Springs & Hubs
  • Clear Lens LED LIghts
  • Round Guards
  • 8″ Side Winding Swing Up Jockey Wheel
  • Mechanical Disc Brakes
  • Rear Trolley Wheels

  • Extras
  • Paint over gal (non slip on guards std inclusion on paint over gal trailers)
  • Custom paint colour – Holden Sting Red/Redhot code: 687F/F143
  • Non slip diamond matting tread on steps
  • Carpet backing on guards
  • Guide Poles