Jet ski charity ride from Australia to PNG … and back

Jet ski riders plan a return journey to Papua New Guinea to raise awareness for a charity set up in memory of an Australian victim of the 2017 London terror attacks

Written By Joshua Dowling

A group of jet ski riders has started an epic journey from Australia to Papua New Guinea – and back – to help raise awareness for a charity in support of an Australian victim of the 2017 London terror attacks.

The 14 jet ski riders from around Australia left the town of Weipa, on the western side of the Cape York Peninsula in far north Queensland, on Sunday.

They arrived at Thursday Island late on Sunday afternoon after a 300km, nine-hour journey in 15-knot south-easterly winds on water largely sheltered by the mainland.

After clearing customs, they departed Thursday Island at first light on Monday morning bound for the PNG island of Daru – south-east of mainland PNG – the nearest customs clearance point.

After a day of high winds and rough seas, 12 of the original 14 riders made the journey across the Torres Strait from Thursday Island to Daru, after departing at sunrise and arriving about 2pm on Monday.

They are today (Tuesday 23 July, 2019) due to make the 240km return journey to Australia via Thursday Island after a one-night stopover in Daru.

Taking on water

The group was culled from 14 to 12 riders after one of the jet skis unknowingly took on water during the initial leg from Weipa, and had to be towed by another jet ski back to the mainland.

The crew woke on Monday to find the jet ski half sunk – with water flooding the engine bay – while docked in the mooring overnight.

The charity, Sarz Sanctuary, was set up following the murder of 21-year-old Sara Zelenak in the London terror attacks in June 2017. She was one of eight murder victims; 48 others were seriously injured. An inquest found she had slipped while trying to flee the terrorists.

Zelenak was part of a family well-known in the ocean-riding jet ski community.

Sarz Sanctuary was established to create a support group for families of murder victims and terror attacks.

“Sara is in our heart every day and she directs us in what we’re doing. This is an event where we feel the support of her and we can give back to others,” Sara’s father, Mark Wallace, who is part of the road crew supporting the epic ride on its Australian stages, said.

Chelsea Brown

Among the riders embarking on the Torres Strait crossing is 16-year-old Chelsea Brown from Sydney, also an accomplished horse rider and the daughter of one of the participants who is making his second jet ski journey to PNG.

While not an official record, she is believed to be the youngest person to cross Torres Strait on a jet ski. Most of the other participants are veterans of the sport.

Other attempts

As bold as the journey sounds, it is not the first time there has been an attempt to reach PNG from Australia by jet ski.

Four experienced jet ski riders did the same journey in 2013, also starting in Weipa.

And, earlier this year, a fugitive with outstanding warrants was intercepted trying to flee Australia on a jet ski – bound for PNG – in a joint operation between Queensland Police and Australian Border Force, following a tip-off.

He was caught before he could leave Australian waters.

In the meantime, the rest of the jet ski charity ride is due to continue south along the Queensland coast once returning to mainland Australia, concluding in Port Douglas next week.

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