Hundreds of boats ready, despite tugs on Rena duty

Indications are that next weekend's Oceanbridge Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta will again be a great spectacle, especially if the summer's so far fickle weather finally comes to the party.

According to the regatta's organisers, a massive armada of vessels is set to participate in the 172nd Auckland Anniversary regatta, the annual aquatic celebration of the city's founding that was first held in 1840.

This year's fleet will obviously be a far cry from that which set sail in the first anniversary regatta all those decades ago. However, several of the vessels taking part next Monday will, like the regatta, also hail from the 19th century; still others from the early part of the 20th.


This year, many of the tug and work boats that would normally take part will be on duty further south in the Bay of Plenty where they will be trying to stop more debris from the hapless Rena from soiling the region's shorelines and seabed.

Nevertheless, regatta organisers insist there will be no lack of tugboat action for those watching from shore or on the water.

The fleet of vintage tugboats (along with some more modern versions) will kick off the regatta, departing from the Viaduct Basin at 9am. They will then motor down harbour to their start line off North Head. After completing a "race", which starts at 10am and heads up the channel to the Narrow Neck buoy and then back to the finish line off Devonport wharf, they will return to the inner harbour.

There, at about 11.30am, in the waters outside Viaduct Harbour, they will take part in what promises to be another impressive display of their firefighting skills before parading slowly through the Viaduct.

Meanwhile, hundreds of the city's yachts will set sail, in their various divisions, from off Princes Wharf. First away (at about 11.05am) will be the speedy multihulls. Highlights to follow will no doubt be the Division 1 keelers at 11.30am, the A Classic and A Modern Classic divisions at 11.35am: the B Classic and B Modern Classic divisions at 11.40am, and the tall ships and waka ama at 11.55am.

Those who like their yachting in a classic vein will again have plenty to cheer about this year. Auckland has more 100-year-old classic yachts still sailing than any other city in the world.

Most attention will probably centre on the 1905 classic Rawhiti, fresh from an extensive six-year restoration. Co-owner Greg Lee, one of those heavily involved in the long project, says almost all of the classic's intricate wood, copper and bronze had to be painstakingly reshaped in the refit.

"We knocked out 10,000 copper rivets by hand, custom-made bronze cast fittings, hand-sanded all the wood until our fingers were calloused and bleeding and ensured every detail was authentic and a work of art," he says.

Lee says the 107-year-old Logan Bros 54-footer had been well and truly butchered in the 1970s.

"To see her returned to her original beauty, under the exacting standards of classic restorer and boatbuilder Peter Brookes, is to see history reborn."

Rawhiti will be joined on the classics' start line by other meticulously restored vessels such as Thelma, Rainbow, Ranger, Gloriana, Tawera, Wairiki and Little Jim.

Keen classic yacht enthusiasts who want a closer view of this remarkable fleet will be able to do so next Sunday evening, when the yachts will be moored in the Viaduct and lit up Mediterranean-style.

Meanwhile, those wanting a little more action and adrenalin should perhaps head a little further east next Monday, to Orakei Wharf. There, at midday, what organisers are describing as "some of the fastest boats on the water" will blast off in a "vision of colour and speed".

While the power boats are blasting around the harbour, overhead there will be plenty of action, too, with both the Red Checkers and the historic Harvard Warbirds performing aerobatic displays and formation flying.

Other events of interest include radio-controlled yacht races at the NZ Marine pontoon in Westhaven and at Wattle Farm in Manurewa; and various centreboard classes sailing from Narrowneck Beach (Sea Scouts); Maraetai Sailing Club (Starling NI Championships); Wakatere Boating Club (Sunburst Nationals and Hobie 16s); Kohimarama Yacht Club, Northcote Birkenhead Yacht Club and Tamaki Yacht Club.

Organisers also promise that the whole of the downtown Viaduct area will again be "party central", with free entertainment for all the family.

Plenty to see
Sunday, January 30
Late afternoon until Monday morning: Classic yacht fleet moored Mediterranean-style in Viaduct Harbour

Monday, January 30
9am: Tugboat Parade
9.45am: Narrowneck Beach (Sea Scouts)
10am: Tugboat race off North Head
10am: Starling NI Championships, Maraetai Sailing Club; Sunburst Nationals and Hobie 16s, Wakatere Boating Club
10am: Radio-controlled yachts, NZ Marine Pontoon, Westhaven Marina; Wattle Farm, Manurewa

11am: Centreboard racing, Kohimarama Yacht Club, Northcote Birkenhead Yacht Club
11am: First start off Princes Wharf
11.05am: Multihulls
11.30am: Firefighting display off the Viaduct
11.35am: A Classic and A Modern Classic divisions
11.40am: B Classic and B Modern Classic divisions
11.55am: Tall ships and waka
Noon: Harbour Blast starts off Orakei Wharf
12.30pm: Centreboard racing, Tamaki Yacht Club
12.30pm: First boats expected back at Princes Wharf