Yamaha Variety Jet Trek – Life Changing
Pinpointing just one highlight from a week-long WaveRunner odyssey between Bateman’s Bay and Coffs Harbour might be challenging for some people. However, Jason Cowley had no hesitation when the question was posed to him. After the Yamaha Marine Dealer Relationship Manager had finished blasting across 800km of open ocean with a bunch of mates, his answer was instantaneous. “Spending time with my little mate Rowan Gillam,” he replies. “What a champion kid he is.”
Jason’s response is typical of a Yamaha Variety Jet Trek family member. These big-hearted Personal Watercraft owners embark on the annual multi-day off-shore torture test to raise money for kids facing life-changing challenges. “What I discovered after taking part in my first Yamaha Variety Jet Trek back in 2017,” explains Jason, “Is that it’s not only the kids and their parents who are having lives bettered by this fundraising event; anyone who takes part returns a different person, equipped with a much-altered outlook on life. It shows you how pointless sweating the small stuff is.”
The 2023 Bateman’s Bay to Coffs Harbor Yamaha Variety Jet Trek saw 93 entrants celebrate 25 years of the event. Some participants have fronted for every year with the same enthusiasm as their first, making life-long friendships and changing lives. Over the past quarter of a century, more than $2.7m has been raised, and Jason felt honoured to be invited to this year’s event, his third since 2017. Alongside him were fellow YMA staff members Brett Muller and Nathan Crookston, sharing riding duties on a second YMA entry.
What I discovered after taking part in my first Yamaha Variety Jet Trek back in 2017, is that it’s not only the kids and their parents who are having lives bettered by this fundraising event; anyone who takes part returns a different person, equipped with a much-altered outlook on life.
While the annual Yamaha Variety Jet Trek focuses on the kids and their families, it’s hard not to be impressed by the numbers generated by the big-hearted participants. Each rider enthusiastically hands over an initial $2500 donation to be included on the entry list, and that’s just the start of the fundraising drive that all entrants actively embrace. For 2023, a whopping $341,898 was raised, and when you consider Matt Lack ($12,330), Jason Warneken ($11,225), and Warren Chapman ($9244) were the top three fundraisers, it reveals the size of the army of big-hearted donors close behind that account for the other $300,000 raised.”
“It’s a brilliant adventure,” exclaims Jason, “But don’t get me wrong; it’s also a bloody hard slog,” he adds. “From the moment you start, your legs are burning. You’re between one and two kilometres off the coast, travelling at 45-65km/h through a 1.5 to 2-metre swell. It’s like being on a motocross track, but you don’t know where the bumps and jumps are.”
Jason said that despite the toughness of the event, safety is paramount for the organisers. “All riders are split into small manageable groups with an allocated lead and sweep rider to call the shots.” And while most would think power is king, Jason reveals there is more to it than simply opening the throttle. “I was riding a supercharged Yamaha FX SVHO Limited,” he explains. “While it’s an awesome ski, finessing all that power takes some work.”
Offering one piece of advice to anyone considering tackling the Yamaha Variety Jet Trek for the first time, Jason is swift and to the point. “Check your sanity,” he laughs. “It’s tough work, but so worth it when you meet the kids benefiting from it,” he adds. “The community feel within the Jet Trek family, as well as the care, compassion and camaraderie are second to none.”
Rowan's goal is to be the fastest blind runner in the world. So bring on the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane, I say