16 Jul 2012

Boating World’s Derrick Levy was delighted to meet up with an old friend and well-known waterski racer, Helmut Winkler, in Cape Town recently.  Helmut (who is retired and living in Australia) and his French Belgian wife Andre were in South Africa for a holiday - spent several evenings with Derrick and Suzanne and friends swopping boating experiences and reminiscing about their water sport past.

Many old hands in the industry will remember the 70’s when the pair trained together for ski racing competitions – following a stringent programme of exercising in and out of the water.  Trips to Albert Falls and Midmar Dams were common-place where many hours were spent building stamina and sharpening their skills – as well as in demanding sea conditions.

Their efforts paid off and they became known as the skiers to be reckoned with world-wide - racing for the Springbok team in numerous competitions around the world. As Team Captain, Helmut led the SA team to victory at stunning venues like Lake Como in Italy, and in South Africa where several European and world records were broken.

They broke all the European speed records in the book including the 1, 10, 50 and 100km and incredibly their record for 500km non-stop racing still stands today. This took place at Albert Falls Dam under the watchful eye of the legendary Roy Saint who was then Chairman of the South African Waterski Association and was achieved in 6hours, 15minutes and 48 seconds!

Derrick and Helmut also remembered skiing for records behind pilot Buck Oostingh on the Nahoon River in East London and of course “Boereklonk” could not be forgotten. This was the boat belonging to Cape Town’s Boetie Louw behind which they won the famous annual ski race from Woodstock to Clifton Beach. Derrick says these days it is not taken as seriously as it was then- as nowadays enthusiasts arrive to take part in anything that floats – though there are still a number of good ski racers keeping the flag flying today.

Derrick and Helmet also took part in show skiing events along the Vaal River and others and set their sights on skiing “barefoot” long before this even became an official sport. (Derrick holds the coveted Number 1 – if successful each aspiring barefooter is given the next consecutive number in recognition of his or her ability to stay upright on the water for one minute while skiing on their bare feet – once this has been achieved they are officially recognised as Barefoot Skiers).

Members of water sport clubs and associations can thank pioneers like these (and many others) who fought to have their passion for ski racing, barefooting and tournament skiing recognised as the respected sports they are today.

In photo from left to right: Derrick Levy; Peter Hoffmeyer; Helmut Winkler