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Tuna and Rawhiti enter Tugboat race

Tuna and Rawhiti enter Tugboat race

One of the 16 water based events happening at Auckland Anniversary Regatta, is the famous Tugboat Race, firefighting display and parade, on the morning of Monday 28 January.

They certainly aren't streamlined racing machines, but when up to 20 tug- and tow- boats line up to race in the Auckland Anniversary Regatta, they really do mean business.

The boats include massive tugs that are still actively working today, such as the preserved vintage steam tug William C Daldy (built 1935 and weighing nearly 346 gross tonnes which is nearly 50,000 tonnes), and the Ports of Auckland's Operational tug, Daldy (launched in 1977).

They also include the popular and charming 'little toots' – tiny tugs purpose built to work – like the Kapai, the Kaipara, and the smallest of them all, on display but not racing, the Vulcan which is owned by McMullan & Wing Boatbuilders.

New on the startline for this year is Tuna.

Based in Kawau, Tuna, which is 32 foot in length and was launched as a working boat in 1939 for the Tokomaru Harbour Board, is partway through a major restoration.

“She had been badly neglected and I am gradually doing her up and making her nice,” says owner Jill Hetherington.

“She is rough and some ways and not rough in others. Everything I have had done, I hope has been done well.”

Jill has engaged specialists to help with difficult parts, but has undertaken a lot of the work herself. She explains that a lot of the job has involved fixing leaks below the waterline, repairing the engine, and generally making her sound and seaworthy for cruising.

“Next we will pretty her up,” she says.

Jill will be onboard for the race but will hand the wheel to Mike Thomson, whose family has long nautical heritage, including connections with the famous Lidgard brothers, the Pacific trader Tiare Taporo, and even a mutineer on the Bounty. “You will see the whites of my eyes,” she jokes.

Brent Shipman is owner of another new entrant in the fleet: Rawhiti (also known as Revenge) will enter for the first time. The boat was launched in the 1960s in Whangarei, and was purchased by Brent's company, Total Marine, last year, and remains as an operational working boat.

Brent says the event is an opportunity to get the boats that usually work behind the scenes – and which are usually uncelebrated – together in one place. “It's not so much about the race for us,” he says.

The oldest boat expected to start is Bondi Belle, built in the 1890s, lovingly restored by Ted Carter of Sandspit, and a regular participant in the Anniversary Day Tug Boat Race. Others include Ronaki, Pacific Way, Christine Mary, Manukau, Mahi, Olga, Felicitaire, and Te Hauraki.

“The boats are beautiful and full of character,” says Baden Pascoe, who co-ordinates the tug boat race. “We are proud of them and their history, and we enjoy seeing them racing each Anniversary Regatta, particularly in those first few seconds of the start, when they put the throttle down and create a tremendous wake.”

The tugboat fleet will assemble off Princes Wharf at 8am, and parade to the start line area off North Head in Devonport. Racing starts at 9am and the course takes the fleet past Narrow Neck Buoy, to Salt Works Buoy and back through the shipping lane to the finish line which is off Devonport Wharf. Once finished, they will return to the Viaduct to put on a firefighting display at approximately 10.30am, followed by a parade through the Viaduct. When the boats aren't out on the water, they will be tied up outside the Tidal Steps in front of the events centre, for public viewing.

Following the parade, the boats will be inspected by judges for presentation and polish. Four trophies will be presented at the regatta prizegiving gala event in February, including the Professional Skipper Magazine Trophy for first across the line, and another for winner on handicap time. The Parry Trophy will be given to the best presented vessel still in survey, and the Patterson Trophy for the best presented retired vessel.

The Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta was founded 173 years ago to celebrate Auckland City's birthday and on the day, tug boats will be joined by the classic yachts of yesterday, grand prix race machines, children's dinghies, Waka ama and dragon boats, coming together for a fantastic spectacle.

Anniversary Regatta is a great event to watch from on the water or from ashore and the best places to catch the action for landlubbers are the Viaduct and Prices Wharf, Bastion Point, North Head, East Coast Bays, Tamaki Drive, and Orakei Wharf. A full event program for spectators and competitors can be found at www.regatta.org.nz.

Organisations supporting the event are the Royal New Zealand Navy, Classic Hits 97.4FM, the Spirit of Adventure Trust, The Southern Trust, The Lion Foundation, and Ports of Auckland Ltd.

By Zoe Hawkins for Auckland Anniversary Regatta Inc


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