Yachting: Oldest sporting event sets sail

By Mike Rose

Yachties enjoy the action and weather during last year's regatta. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Yachties enjoy the action and weather during last year's regatta. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Next weekend's Anniversary Day Regatta looks likely to continue the proud legacy of the past 171 years.

Organisers of the Oceanbridge regatta are promising to bring the Waitemata Harbour alive in a spectacle on and above the water.

Vessels as diverse as tiny P Class dinghies, grunty Ports of Auckland tugboats and classic yachts such as the graceful Jessie Logan (built in 1878) will all be taking part.

So, too, will hundreds of keelers, trailer sailers and centreboarders from clubs that line Auckland's shores.

The regatta is celebrating its 171st anniversary and is generally acknowledged as the oldest sporting event in New Zealand. Not only will it mark Auckland's founding, it will also be the first regatta to be held since the formation of the new super city.

Organisers are promising dramatic aerial displays from the Red Checkers and Warbirds, plenty of land-based activities and more action than ever on the harbour.

"There will be elegant classic yachts and launches, rowdy tugboats racing up the harbour, some of the fastest boats in the Southern Hemisphere blasting down the harbour, radio-controlled masterpieces and dragon boats and waka ama canoes," says Eric Mahoney, chairman of the regatta organising committee and also a keen classic sailor.

"We have a spectacular day ahead of us. There will be sailors of every age from more than 50 clubs competing for cash prizes and beautiful silver trophies that recall our maritime heritage and history - from the 19th century through to contemporary times."

Mahoney says Auckland is lucky to have such a large classic yacht and launch fleet racing. "Thanks to the support and energy of people of great vision and passion - and the trusts they formed to preserve our history - we have enjoyed a decade-long revival in restoring these beautiful boats to their original glory using traditional arts and crafts."

Among the classics that will be racing are Thelma (the largest of the famous Logans), the legendary Ranger, Prize, Waitangi, Wairiki, Rainbow Little Jim and Jesse Logan.

Several classic yachts from Australia are also expected to compete in a Challenge Series. Last year, this challenge saw a fierce rivalry between Australia's Wraith of Odin and the local yacht Thelma.

Those wanting to get a close-up of the classic fleet can do so at dusk, on Sunday, January 30, when they will be lit up at their base in Viaduct Harbour.

Another highlight of the regatta is certain to be the tugboat and workboat race. This will again feature vintage boats and the powerhouse tugboats used by Ports of Auckland.

These powerful vessels will begin the regatta by staging a parade from the entrance to Viaduct Harbour to their start line off North Head. The parade is due to begin at 9am and the race at 10am.

Also at 10am, Auckland's dragon boat fleet will begin racing from the western (Halsey St) side of the Viaduct to in front of O'Hagens Bar on the eastern side.

The sailing fleet makes their contribution to activities from 10.55am. First away are super-quick multihulls with the other divisions starting their races at five-minute intervals.

The glamour Division One Keelers class is due to go at 11.25am. The Modern Classics, A Division Classics and B Division Classics will follow.

The "Harbour Blast", featuring what Mahoney describes as "some of the fastest boats on the harbour", depart in front of Orakei Wharf at midday.

At the same time, the more sedate waka ama canoes will head off from in front of Westhaven, for Orakei and North Head before paddling back west, under the harbour bridge, and finishing where they started, off the Westhaven Tower.

The radio-controlled yachts and centreboard classes begin around 10am. The former's Electron class will be off the NZ Marine pontoon off Westhaven Drive while the International One Metre and Nautic 12 fleets will be at Wattle Farm, Manurewa.

The centreboards will sail from Narrowneck Beach (9.45am); Kohimarama Yacht Club, Northcote-Birkenhead Yacht Club and Takapuna Boating Club (11am); and Tamaki Yacht Club (12.30pm).

The first yachts are expected to finish off Princes Wharf from about 12.30pm.

Mahoney says the Royal New Zealand Navy frigate HMNZS Wellington will be the flagship and play host to the Governor-General and VIP guests.

He says the downtown start line, off Princes Wharf, has been designed to ensure spectators have a great view of the yachts as they race to the start.

Key regatta events

What: Oceanbridge Anniversary Day Regatta

Where: Waitemata Harbour

When: Monday, January 31

Start times: (All from Princess Wharf unless otherwise indicated)

Tugboat Parade: 9am

Tugboat race: 10am (off North Head)

Keel boats: From 10.55am

Division One keelers: 11.30am

Classic boats: 11.35 & 11.45am

Waka Ama: Noon (Westhaven)

Harbour Blast: Noon (Orakei Wharf)

First boats finishing off Princes Wharf: 12.30pm

More information

- NZ Herald

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