By KELLY EXELBY
When David McConnell told his family he'd found a sport he could get his teeth into, they didn't count on the Waikato grandfather leaving his gnashers on the ocean floor.
McConnell lost his dentures overboard early in yesterday's second round of the national Thundercat championship at Mount Maunganui, although his on-water performance was far from toothless.
The Taupiri farmer turned on a superb display of racing in tricky conditions to finish second, beaten by his 28-year-old son Brent who, with crewman Stacey Aitken, has now won both rounds of the national series.
It's hard to tell from the beach that the man leaping his Toyo Tyres thundercat at speeds of up to 85kmh is a 65-year-old grandfather. Roughly double the age of most thundercat competitors - "Diesel" McConnell is among the best at the extreme sport.
Brent McConnell said his father, who has been racing for seven years, was shocked when he hit a wave, forcing his false teeth to fly out of his mouth and to the ocean floor.
"He raced gummy for the rest of the day and reckoned it was going to be a pretty expensive day when you add up the cost of racing and chuck in another $3000 for a new set of teeth."
Thundercat racing has been king in the McConnell family for a decade. Brent has been involved for 10 years and bought his father a second-hand boat seven years ago.
"He's been right into motorcross and V8 racing and this was another toy for him to try. He's no novice now though - if he can beat me he will, although if I see someone giving him a rough-up out the back I'll look out for him," Brent McConnell said.
Yesterday was McConnell senior's best result in the sport, although his son last year won gold at Perth's Gravity Games, watched by 50,000 spectators.
Brent McConnell battled early yesterday but picked it up when it counted, blitzing all three Southern Swells feature races to romp home with the title.
A dumping shore break made racing difficult, with three boats "popping" and several tipping, although there was more dented pride than serious injury.
McConnell said yesterday's result would give his father incentive to get out and win a round of the national series.
"I think he'll end up doing another three or four years now - he's beaten everyone else and I think he's pretty keen to knock me off."