Gritty Sailors Unfazed by Choppy Seas at 184th Anniversary Regatta

High winds, at times gusting 25 knots or more, weren’t enough to dissuade hundreds of hardy dinghy sailors who took to the water.

Rough conditions for the 184th Oceanbridge Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta this month sent many of the keelboat entrants packing. But the high winds, at times gusting 25 knots or more, weren’t enough to dissuade the hundreds of hardy dinghy sailors who took to the water to race at locations across the city.

One of the biggest fleets taking part in the regatta, which is New Zealand’s oldest sporting event, comprised of 177 Optimist and Starling sailors. The sailors of the regatta’s smallest boats braved the elements to contest the final day of their three-day Auckland Championships hosted by the Royal Akarana Yacht Squadron. The miniature vessels battled heavy seas and strong winds, surrounded by a fleet of enthusiastic supporters and safety boats, with almost equal parts bailing and sailing witnessed throughout the day’s racing.
Centreboard racing also took place at the Murray’s Bay Sailing Club, Lake Pupuke, Northcote Birkenhead Yacht Club, Manly Sailing Club, Takapuna Boating Club, and the Tamaki Yacht Club.
At Westhaven, the first event of the day was the tugboat race, which sees both vintage and modern working tugboats steam down the harbour to Orakei and back again to finish. This year was the first in the regatta’s history where an electric tugboat has taken part in the race, with Ports of Auckland’s Sparky giving the gas-guzzlers a run for their money.
Sparky seemed very confident and even completed the second half of the course backwards, crossing the line to claim a respectable 6th place on the line in a fleet of 11. But it was a day for the classics, with the Mayflower taking 1st place on both line and handicap.
Following the tugboat race, a competitive fleet of 11 classic launches raced the same course down the harbour and back, much to the delight of the onlookers back on shore.
My Girl powered away from the fleet on the start line, flying gracefully through the choppy seas, but her pace was not enough to claim the win once her handicap was applied. That honour was taken by Ant Smit’s Waikaro. A 32ft wooden launch designed and built by Roy Parris in 1978 in his shed in Westmere, which started life as a working boat for a Great Barrier Island family.
In the Viaduct, huge crowds of spectators gathered from early in the morning to watch the fiercely contested Dragon Boat racing. 360 paddlers raced in teams of 10 or 20, while a drummer on board each boat kept the timing.
The Standard 20-person boat winners were the Jaffettes in the Women’s Grand Final, and the BOP Flyers in the Mixed Grand Final. In the 10-person boats, teams of breast cancer survivors went head to head, along with women’s and mixed teams. The Breast Cancer Survivors Final was won by the Waikato Treasure Chests, the women’s final by Women of Steel, and the mixed by Flyers Turuki.
The Prizegiving ceremony will take place at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron on Tuesday 20 February, where the regatta’s trophies will be awarded, along with the prize money. All participants will also go in the draw to win one of $15,000 worth of spot prizes on the night.
The Oceanbridge Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta was made possible with the support of Oceanbridge Shipping, Auckland Council, Hawaiian Airlines, Lawsons Dry Hills Wines, Rothbury Insurance, Spirit of Adventure Trust, and Ellerslie Jewellers. Many other sponsors generously provided prizes, while the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Royal New Zealand Navy, Coastguard, Harbourmaster, and Maritime Police all provided invaluable support on the day.


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