Grahma Harris won a bridge-to-bridge in record time, Caressing the helm of a 1000HP Connelly. These days he mooches around the Hawksbury in a 800HP Al Dhaen. Yep, We had to meet this bloke…
The Captain’s crew are belting around the upper reaches of the Hawkesbury River in NSW. We’re hightailing it over glassy waters under a grey overcast sky at more than 100kmph, offending every oyster and bream fisherman in sight. Graham Harris is behind the helm of his 800HP Mercurypowered Al Dhaen console. He’s wearing a light-blue polo with short sleeves exposing some well-faded tattoos, mementos of more than a few drunken nights in his twenties.
He’s not overawed by the occasion, resting back on the helm seat while the supercharger whines and the tacho ticks over at 6000RPM. Speed is second nature to Graham. He raced motorbikes in his early years, going on to pilot ski boats. He won the Bridge to Bridge ski race in 1988, breaking the record by over a minute and a half. In fact, he won every race on the circuit that year except one. His ride was a 19ft vee-bottom Connelly called Superfortress with a number three Mercruiser leg. It pumped out almost 1000HP via a blown big block with two 1150 dominators built by Russel Jones.
Graham says a speed gun once recorded it at more than 200km/h. “I like going fast. Racing is in my bloody DNA. Racing on the water is the most exciting form of racing – and the most unpredictable.” “How did you wrestle that beast around the Hawkesbury bends?” we ask, wide-eyed. “It was an exciting boat to drive because it’s a vee-bottom, not a running plank,” Graham explains. “It would constantly fall off the chine when it was trimmed out. You had to stick it back up with some aggression. If you were gentle, it would increase the chine walk. You’d commit to corners very much like a motorbike. If you blew it, you’d end up in the scrub.” And the noise?
“The blower would scream like nothing else and your ears would ring for three days after a Bridge to Bridge, Graham recalls. “In one run at Yass, the engine hydrolocked and split a bore, coming down from 190km/h to nothing and spewing hot metal into the cabin.” Graham inadvertently binned his ride several times and he reckons you’re not a real racer until you’ve been wet a few times. We hang on to the T-top a little tighter.
His ride these days is an Al Dhaen console built in Saudi Arabia. It’s powered by twin Mercury 400Rs, the same supercharged in-line six that powered the face-melting Cootacraft Bad Boy, but two of them. Most Captain fans would tick this rig off as ‘the fastest rig ever owned’, but Graham rates it as a “good all-rounder – something to tow the kids with, something to sit out the front as a taxi, with a handy shower and toilet”. God help Graham’s kids, The Captain reckons, getting towed around with 800HP at the skipper’s mercy. Being a bit of a speed freak himself, The Captain asked Graham how the Al Dhaen performed on the water. “It’s narrow in the beam like a bullet, but trims well for a big boat,” he says. “It’s light in the steering and turns exceptionally well. It’s a very responsive boat to the helm and the motors enhance that. They’ve got the power to keep the momentum up in the corners. It’s an awesome boat – I love it!”
When The Captain’s crew caught up with Graham, we’d only had enough time for a quick squirt on the upper reaches of the Hawkesbury. So we quizzed Graham on the big-water performance.
“We took it from Sydney to Broken Bay in 1.5m seas and it loved every minute,” he says. Thirsty?
“Yeah, it drinks a bit flat-out, but then, don’t we all?” Graham muses. “She uses about 130L per motor at full noise and when trimmed nicely at 30 knots she does about 35L per motor.”
The name of the boat is “G”, a tribute to G-George, a RAAF Lancaster bomber that a mate of Graham’s grandad flew on in WWII. Of the 107,085 sorties by Lancasters dispatched over Germany, 2687 aircraft didn’t return. G-George brought everyone home alive. We trust the good vibes rub off on Graham and his Al Dhaen. And the kids!