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.


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


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.


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.

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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

VULTURE – Part V Searching for lost Vultures

  • VULTURE Part V – ‘Searching for lost Vultures’ – the conclusion in this series of Bindy’s story on Vulture the runabout, (article written by Bob Carter approx. 15 yrs ago – Connexion PR – previously performance Boat Editor for Power Boat Magazine )
  • VULTURE – owner/driver: John Lewis
  • VULTURE HULL – boat builder/design & modifications: David Gill (GILFLITE)

Bindy Lewis is a determined lady on a very serious mission… just like her father. Way back in 1969, Bindy’s father John Lewis was the shining new star on the Australian powerboat racing circuit.

At the wheel of the runabout Vulture and then the hydroplane of the same name, John Lewis set the inboard speedboat circuits on fire with his hard charging style of boat racing. Admired for his courage and talent, the names John Lewis and Vulture were a formidable team.

Quite apart from his dash and top performing hulls, John Lewis was frequently on the winner’s dais at speedboat meetings throughout Australia. Vulture the rear engined runabout broke through the 100 mph barrier in 1970, an achievement unheard of in those days for a 5 litre engine.

And in an era dominated by massive Rolls Royce Merlin powered hydroplanes, Vulture the hydroplane won the 1975 Griffith Cup, the pinnacle of achievement in powerboat racing. Once again a 5 litre Chev with John Lewis at the wheel prevailed against all odds.

Born in 1942 John Lewis’ racing life was relatively short, retiring from active racing after the 1976 season. Tragically John’s life was also way too short, passing away in 1988.

However, daughter Bindy Lewis is determined to rekindle the memory of her father having built a web site that is totally dedicated to the memory of her late father http://www.bindy.id.au/vulture.htm

Not content to merely post press photos, media clippings and family photos that acknowledge the achievements of John Lewis, Bindy has now turned her attention to tracking down the two boats raced by her father.

“I am searching for the first of the Vultures, the runabout” Bindy said.

“Both the runabout and hydroplane were built by David Gill. Dad raced the runabout for the first time in 1969 and the hydroplane was campaigned from 1972 to 1976.”

The runabout was a remarkable boat. Measuring just 16’ 6” long, this was one of the very first rear engined boats to really perform. The secret according to designer and builder David Gill, was to position the engine well forward, placing it directly behind the driver’s seat. It was virtually a vee drive mid mount.

“The runabout was sold to a racer in Sydney but very little is known of the boat after it left Melbourne. As far as the hydroplane we know very little about it for certain, but we do believe that someone along the way put a chain saw through it and destroyed the hull.”

“While there is a curiosity factor to know what happened to the boats, there is also a lot of interest to get the runabout back and restore it if it still happens to be around.”

“It would be a dream come true to have this boat restored to its former glory.” Any information about either boat would be greatly received by Bindy Lewis. She can be contacted …  http://www.bindy.id.au/vulture.htm

ARTICLE by BOB CARTER – Connexion PR (Previously Performance Boat Editor for Power Boat Magazine ). Below: original business logo/contact, (as per document copy)at time of writing this article – approx. 15 years ago

Possible Conclusion: The First Vulture ended up on the bottom of the Sydney Harbour and it was true; some one did put a chainsaw through Hydro Vulture.

Additional Note: from Bob Carter (at time of this post) and updated business logo / contact for Bob Carter – below …

“The Vulture runabout trail is pretty cold.   My understanding is that the boat went to Sydney and was eventually burnt.  As far as the ‘what-happened-to’ mystery files, Vulture is right up there with the great skiff Mandy”.

Best regards,


Paddock Bomb to Show-Boat

GILFLITE Laser ‘RiverRat’ -from paddock bomb to showboat! complete re-build by GILFLITE – Re-manufacturing the classics!!

Check out these before and after shots – when a picture speaks a thousand words…..

Another GILFLITE Heirloom Boat – ready for the next generation of family fun!

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VULTURE – Part IV – Lewis Sets 5 Records

John Lewis, Griffith Cup runner up, VULTURE, set five records at the kilo trials on Lake Glenmaggie last Sunday.
  • VULTURE Part IV – ‘Lewis sets 5 Records’ – By Bindy Lewis (an extracts from 1970 & ’71 publications )
  • VULTURE – owner/driver: John Lewis
  • VULTURE HULL – boat builder/design & modifications: David Gill (GILFLITE)

That’s Vulture, above, showing her turn of speed.With 90.36 mph Lewis shattered Alan Fordham’s long – standing Victorian and Australian Pan Unlimited Service Runabout record, set at the 89 mph mark in Venus.
He is also claiming the Victorian and Australian Displacement and Service Runabout records in the new 400 cubic inch class

Vulture 90.36 mph also gives Lewis, Alan Fordham’s Victorian Unlimited Displacement record, and Glyn Graham’s, Victorian Unlimited Racing Runabout record which stood at 79 mph.

John Lewis was runner-up to the Bendigo champion, Lloyd Willian, in the 1970’s Sporting Medal

(ARTICLE: Madden, T., 1970, ‘Lewis Sets 5 Records’, Sporting Globe.)

SPEEDY ….. John Lewis and his wife Joy, of Boronia, Victoria, yesterday inspected their 102 miles-per-hour speedboat Vulture before the inboard boat championships at Southport today.

The Prop Rider – ‘Championship

The Prop Rider Vol. 3 No.3 February 1971 –
With Vulture racing on the front cover

Although at the time of writing I don’t know any details, I have heard that John Lewis won a championship but was disqualified for hitting a buoy. Now maybe John hit a buoy maybe he was bumped into it or maybe even the buoy hit Vulture, either way it doesn’t matter, the final result always turns out the same… disqualified. Johnny was not going to Queensland for the Championships but after Qld, APBA Presidents pleading John decided to go at a total cost in excess of $500 for fuel, accommodation, time lost etc. Now I don’t care what the rules may be, but they need changing if what I have heard on the grapevine is correct about why Vulture was disqualified.

It would be far more correct to penalize a driver one lap for hitting any buoy, marker etc. during a race than disqualification. One lap behind is better than racing a boat to destruction, for nothing at the end of the chequered flag. Drivers its up to you, you can change rules if you vote as a group. Next time it may be YOU that gets rubbed out by an officious know nothing.

(Article: 1971, The Prop Rider, February, p. 4.)

RECORD ATTEMPT – Australian barefoot speed record

GARRY BARTON was invited down by Victoria’s Barefoot Club to make an attempt on the Australian barefoot speed record. John Lewis, owner of Vulture, Australia’s fastest runabout, readily agreed to tow Garry and immediately rebuilt his big Corvette motor to ensure a trouble-free run. Wind and water conditions were not ideal on the day but Garry and John were determined to beat the existing record of 75.35 mph. More than 5000 people lined the banks of the Barwon for the televised meeting and waited 10 minutes for the water to settle before they heard the roar of Venture’s motor flying down the river towards the surveyed stretch.

Halfway through the first run Barton bounced up to 4Oft through the air, landed on one foot, recovered and barefooted out at 76.61 mph Halfway to a new record.

John Lewis circled around Barton, waiting in the water and taking full advantage of the 5 minutes allowed between runs. Calling for more speed, Garry came down the river visibly faster than on first run. It was all or nothing, but just as Garry entered the course his 200ft rope broke in the middle at about 82 mph, and Australia was robbed of a new record. Hard luck Garry and John, but we – hope you team up again in the not too distant future. — TOM WYLD, VBC president.

(ARTICLE: Wyld, T. 1971, RECORD ATTEMPT’, WATER SKIER magazine, January.)

VULTURE – Part III – Airborne

Hang on, ’cause we’re airborne

“It was the silences, the long smooth silences which were the most scaring parts of the 80 mph speedboat ride. Because when it went quiet like that, the 17ft, clinker built racer was airborne, completely airborne”.

VULTURE Part III – ‘Airborne’– By Bindy Lewis (an extract from a 1970 publication )
VULTURE – owner/driver: John Lewis
VULTURE HULL – boat builder/design & modifications: David Gill (GILFLITE)
ARTICLE CREDIT: De Fraga, C., 1970, ‘Hang on, cause we’re airborne’, The Age, Saturday, Sept. 12, p. 66.
The fuel injected 580 bhp racer, Vulture, was only travelling at about 60 mph here (pictured) – but while owner/driver John Lewis is unconcerned, I’m having trouble with the wind trying to lift off my face visor and crash hat.

IT WAS the silences, the long smooth silences which were the most scaring parts of the 80 mph speedboat ride along Albert Park Lake past the Carousal Restaurant.
Because when it went quiet like that, the 17 ft. clinker built racer was airborne, completely airborne.

And when it came down, it usually came down at an angle because there was a strong north wind blowing. So one side would almost bury itself into the steep chop and the boat would skid before launching itself again.

Another two or three of those tall poplars would go past (along the banks of Albert Park Lake) before the boat touched down again. My view of the water and waves rushing up was blurred by the vibration shaking the visor on my crash hat, the wind trying to tear the visor off, the weight of the crash hat jerking my head at each hound.

There was no windshield on the boat because this would have increased aerodynamic drag.

Behind, the 353 cu. in. Corvette V8 motor – all fuel injection and fury – churned out its 580 bhp with straight exhausts bellowing news of the power over at least two suburbs. There was a passenger’s grab handle on the dashboard of John Lewis’ Vulture and forever it will bear my fingerprints.

At more than 80 mph, the boat thudded, thumped and crashed its way down the lake with those short, terrifying flights in between. Part of the problem was my own 147lbs. In the cockpit with Lewis. He’s used to racing alone and my weight was causing too much of a nose down attitude.

After the first long run down the lake, Lewis said, “It’s misfiring a little. That was only about 85 mph.” He’s driven it at more than 90 mph.

For last week’s ride the boat had a new propeller and this wasn’t as good as expected.

With the form moulded fibreglass seats in the cockpit the ride wasn’t too bad, certainly not as bad as it must have looked from the shore as the boat leapt and roared along.

Up around 60 mph, there was a little of the porpoising often seen in clinker speedboats at high speed. Then the hull shape of Lewis’ boat took over and the ride smoothed out for the run up to the 80’s. The boat handled in a rather similar fashion to touring car set up for racetrack work. There was either under or over-steer bends and there was always plenty of response to the helm.

Lifting off the accelerator killed speed faster that brakes on a car seem to and the boat could be slid round corners in the Albert Park Lake speedboat racing course.

The wind greatly affected the boat’s cornering since an exposed hull at those speeds created considerable lift and reduced stability. But on a straight run the boat ran so true it hadn’t felt like more than 80 mph. Just the same when I climbed out I was exhausted from holding my self in the seat.

Lewis now holds three Australian and five Victorian records with the boat apart from several championships. And all these have come in just one year’s racing.

The boat was to have made an attempt on the kilo records again at Eppalock last weekend but only reached 88.5 mph due to weather. “She should do about 96 mph flat out at 6000 rpm” said the 28-year-old who has been driving speedboats for 10 years. Vulture will be the boat to beat at thee opening of the speedboat racing season next Sunday. More than 25 speedboats are expected at Albert Park Lake for the 1 p.m. opening of the Victorian Speed boat Association’s 1970-71 racing season.

The opening should provide thrills, for it will be the first time that the course has been raced anti-clock wise. The field should be bunched on the first turn at the end of the main straight, the tightest turn of the course.
Anti-clockwise racing will be the rule in Australia for the coming season.
“Wake piece: Suits me, the boat turns left naturally,” said Lewis.

(De Fraga, C., 1970, ‘Hang on, cause we’re airborne’, The Age, Saturday, Sept. 12, p. 66.)
VULTURE holds three Australian and five Victorian records
VULTURE – airborne on Albert Park Lake (Melbourne) circa 1970