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Fred Williams

Written in 1982 – When one talks of the history of water ski racing in Australia the name Fred Williams is constantly mentioned. Fred’s involvement for some 31 years has contributed to him being one of the best known personalities in the world of water skiing.

Fred Williams was born at Forster and spent his early years in the building trade, where his talent with timber turned towards making water ski in his spare time. In the local bakehouse at Forster in 1947 the first pair of skis took shape made out of beechwood and utilising the unique method of suspending two bricks over each end and pouring boiling water over the tips to make them bend; complete with cut-down sandshoe for fittings resulted in the first water skis to be manufactured and sold throughout the trade houses in Australia.

Fred Williams

Born a true Aquarian, Fred’s love of the water, coupled with his unique ability of making everyone around him feel at ease through his outgoing and friendly personality, has involved him in many interests and the bonding of many life-long friendships. A leading surfer and captain of the local surf club resulted in Fred winning the Australian Junior Open Belt Championship in 1949.

Prior to this his most coveted claim to fame was winning first prize in the Taree and district Eisteddfod for boy vocalists under 13 years of age. Following the acquisition of his first boat “Joker”, Xmas 1948, together with his green rover (known as “Freddo the Frog”) as a towing vehicle, water skiing in the north was under way. It was through his contagious enthusiasm and determination that lead to the formation of the Forster Ski Club in January, 1957 at Pipers Creek. Close friend Graham Barclay, State and National slalom champion for many years remembers well the twice daily arduous twenty mile training sessions with Fred as trainer, driver, behind “Victor J” their first tournament boat on the first Fred Williams “New Comp Special” ski.

In 1959, together with life-long friend Wally Hall, Fred was co-organiser of the 1st Forster Speedboat Race, a successful event that attracted many entries from all over the State. Fred’s career into powerboat racing had begun and with co-owner Harry Alcorne, purchased his first racing boat “Betty”.

Through the ensuing years the name of Fred Williams, as owner and driver, has been linked with many famous racing boats such as, Ron-Also”, Goldfinger, Goldfinger II, Buster (in conjunction with lifetime friend Keith Singh), culminating with “Rage IV” winning the Jack Rushton Memorial Trophy for Australian Unlimited Displacement Speed Boat in 1979, and also the coveted 50 years old Stuart Doyle Gold Cup.

With the ski manufacturing business progressing rapidly, Fred with his wife, Betty, son Gary (Perc) and Debbie, moved to Sydney to set up the Ski Ace factory and the opening of a marine dealership in Burwood then Ashfield. Even with the problems and pressures associated with business, Fred’s total involvement and support increased two-fold. Not only did he prove himself as a popular show skier and competitor; team manager; official tournament driver at numerous State and Australian Championships; instigated the first lane and circuit racing at Cabarita (the introduction of speed ski racing as we know it today); N.S.W. Water Ski Association Councillor, Vice President and then President in a voluntary capacity for 15 years; but the became, a major sponsor of water ski events. In particular, the now internationally acclaimed “Bridge to Bridge”.

Over the years Fred and his family have toured the world with Australia’s leading skiers. During these trips many hours have been spent with the skiers and crews developing and designing new skis and equipment to suit their needs and increase performances. This assistance has not only been extended to Australian skiers but many overseas skiers as well. In 1964, visiting world champion Chuck Stearns was instrumental in designing the first Fred Williams “Concave” and in 1978 Europe’s leading skiers visited Australia and were quick to take advantage of the superiority of the Fred Williams Racing ski, further proven in 1979 with Australian Skiers, Bronwyn Wright and Wayne Ritchie becoming the first World Water ski Racing Champions respectively, and Robbie Woods, at the time, the only man in the World to win the U.S.A. Nationals twice.

The marine division of Fred Williams is not to be forgotten and in addition to supplying official tournament boats for championship events, major sponsorship and support was allocated to motor bike racing and speedway. In 1969, the Fred Williams Marine Speedway Team was successful in winning the N.S.W. Side Car Championship Trophy, coupled with Graham Young winning the Australian Side Car Championship on the Fred Williams sponsored bike.

The call of the North proved too strong for the Williams family and Fred returned to Belmont, Newcastle, opening a new factory at Gateshead. With the beautiful Lake Macquarie at your door-step, it was only a matter of time before Fred would be involved in yet another water sport. Sailing. These days it is not uncommon to see Fred and the staff racing their 30 ft. Diamond Class Keel Boat “Mistress Kate” around the Lake, resulting in their winning the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club line honours and club point score many times.

This hyperactive man, through good fortune and bad, has never failed to give a helping hand to all who have come in contact with him. The names are too numerous to mention but we all thank you sincerely for your dedication which has made our sport what it is today and for contributing to Australia now rating as a leading nation in the world of water skiing.

Good on you Freddo “we love you” Sandra Ferguson

Written by Sandra Ferguson

This article was reproduced from “Water Skiing in Australia”.
Courtesy of Bob Wing.
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