DENILIQUIN: Ben’s plan to remain unbeaten

River riders: Deniliquin owner/driver Ben Evans, and wife Annie (with her thumb up in the observer’s position), will again be at the Southern 80 this weekend. Ben has been competing since he was 15.
Next generation: Maddy Evans and a friend at Lake Charm, already preparing for when they are old enough to ski competitvely. Maddy and Willow Evans’ 13-year-old sister, Charlotte, will compete next year.

Deniliquin farmer Ben Evans will suit up for his 16th Southern 80 ski race this weekend and already has plans for the next generation of his family to continue his lengthy association with the world-famous Murray River event.

Evans first pulled on the skis in the Southern 80 as a 15-year-old and will this year maintain the tradition when he skis behind his boat, The Croc, in the senior social class.

The 35-year-old father of three will be competing for only the third time as a driver, and only the second in the long course Southern 80 event itself.

He started his involvement with the race through friends from a Deniliquin caravan park who had a race boat.

The former boxer, who still plays football — with Moulamein reserves — will be involved in four events during the weekend.

He and his team, which includes wife Annie as an observer and skiiers Bronsen Weir (Mornington) and Echuca’s Jackson Walker, will compete in the 8-litre expert class.

They are unbeaten this season in that class, having won at Mildura, Wentworth and Robinvale.

The Croc will be fuelled up and hitting speeds of up to 110 miles on hour in short course events on Saturday, before the Southern 80 time trial on Saturday afternoon.

"We will average in low 90s (mph) for the Southern 80, because there are so many bends,“ he said.

“I have only run it once, but we had a few hiccups. We did it in 38 (minutes).

“We hope to do a 35 (minute) this year.”

The Croc team raced at Robinvale long weekend in March, then Mildura on Easter weekend and prior to that, in Wentworth’s 110km (55km each way) in December.

Evans said the one-way races were unique and he always looked forward to the Southern 80 and the Sydney Bridge to Bridge, which was also a one-way race.

“There is a lot more going on for a driver in the Southern 80 than the other events, with all the turns,” he said.

Reece Duggan, another well-known skier, will compete with Weir behind The Croc in the unlimited social class and The Croc is also entered in the super social event.

“The social class races are shorter ropes and shorter skis. They are a lot harder on the body,” Evans said.

The next generation of Evans were planning to be involved in this year’s event, but Evans’ 13-year-old daughter, Charlotte, will give it one more year.

Following there will be Willow and Maddy, who are six and three years old.

“The six-year-old has just got up on doubles and the three-year-old is on the ski trainer (like an inflatable pair of skis),” Evans said.

“My parents, Sharon and Russell, will be on the sidelines watching the races and looking after the kids.”

The Croc will end up completing 200km under race conditions for the weekend, which means the reliance on mechanics is enormous.

“Our mechanical work is done by Nankervis,” he said.

As for wife Annie, while she is cast in the role of observer, she also possesses a set of skills that The Croc team hope are not required.

“She is a paramedic at Swan Hill, so it is nice to know we have her on hand in the boat, if needed,” Evans said.