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Calling all commodores to close the regatta gap

by 9 Jan 2014Regatta 20140 comments

2008 regatta crowd, marquee framed

Perfect End to a Perfect Day: Crowd enjoying the sultry sounds of swing, following the 2008 Mahurangi Regatta. The Prohibition Big Band has played the Mahurangi Regatta Prize-Giving Dance since 2004, missing only two years when the tail end of a tropical cyclone, and lack of funding, intervened. This year, new efforts must be made to convince the dozen or so visiting clubs to cough up a little financial support for the evening. photographer Sarah Ransom

Probably more than a dozen clubs attend.

The exact number of yacht and boating clubs attending is not known by the host Mahurangi Cruising Club, but 39 of the 120 affiliated to Yachting New Zealand are listed in the Makaurau region.

With Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse opening the prize giving this year, a roll call of clubs is on the cards—common courtesy demands it. And, in an ideal world, the deputy mayor would confidently add:

And all these clubs have contributed towards the cost of the marquee and swing band playing here tonight.

The deputy mayor might further add, if appropriately briefed, that the Prohibition Big Band has played for the Mahurangi Regatta since 2004, for free—at least the musicians play for food and drink and the love of big band music, and the organisers pay costs, such as sound, lighting and transport. But even so, and with a $4000 grant from Rodney Local Board and, provided that Auckland Regional Parks provides the portable toilets needed, and arranges the St John and public liability insurance cover, there will be a shortfall of about $2000. Considering that the Mahurangi Regatta after-match function outshines anything that follows the Auckland Anniversary Regatta, the total costs of the prize-giving dance is paltry:

  • Marquee, sound, lighting, bandstand and band costs $6500
  • Portable toilets $600
  • St John and public liability insurance $1500
  • Barbecues $500

Total $9100

Go back far enough in the history of the Mahurangi Regatta, and the hospitality provided at Scotts Landing was provided by the property holder:

Mr Scott, the proprietor of the Mahurangi Hotel, deserves much credit for the very efficient manner everything was conducted in his establishment, where the greatest order and harmony prevailed, and where visitors received every attention.

Residing at Scotts Landing on that regatta day, 1 January 1863, there were three Mr Scotts: Thomas Stuart Scott, the famed shipbuilder; his son Thomas Flower Scott, shipbuilder and coastal skipper; and his other son, George Stuart Scott, shipbuilder and later farmer at Mahurangi West, and donator of the land for the school that is now Mahurangi West Hall. Although the Daily Southern Cross report fails to specify which Mr Scott, the 28 January 1860 edition of the New Zealander mentions Thomas Scott Snr, and that his establishment:

…thronged all day by a happy and well-conducted number of holiday makers who did ample justice to the good cheer—solid and fluid—provided for them.

Opahi Bay fire, 8 January 2014

Timely Reminder: When a drunken yachtsman, at a regatta after-match beach party at Sullivans Bay in the late 1970s, was ordered to put out the ‘camp fire’ he’d lit under a pōhutukawa, he chose to defy the resident regional parks ranger by loading the burning driftwood into his fibreglass tender. Last night’s destruction of indigenous flora and fauna on the Ōpahi boundary of Mahurangi Regional Park is a timely reminder of a side benefit of the civilising effect of the prize-giving dance. photographer Sarah Ransom

In any event, that New Year’s Day regatta was Thomas Scott Snr’s last. He retired to the capital, then Auckland, and died there the following year, probably aged 64, with five cutters and five schooners apiece to his credit. That his sons managed only a further three vessels after 1863 seems to indicate he was the shipbuilding driving force of Scott and Sons.

Since 1972, to the huge benefit of Aucklanders, and for posterity, Scotts Landing has been part of Makaurau’s rich network of regional parks. It is a place that can be enjoyed by the public any day of the year, and including the day of the Mahurangi Regatta. But that also means that, unlike Thomas Stuart Scott, the ‘proprietors’ of the prize-giving dance are not entitled to charge members of the public for the hospitality extended there on regatta day. But while it is entirely desirable that the Mahurangi Regatta Prize-Giving Dance is open to all comers, it is also reasonable that those enjoying the evening contribute a little towards its costs—Rodney Local Board cannot be expected to pay the lion’s share, year after year.

Because most who attend are also members of a yacht club, the practicable solution would be for visiting clubs to kick in $200 or so each. The seemingly obvious alternative of taking up a collection from the crowd is becoming increasingly problematic thanks to fewer and fewer people retaining the habit of carrying cash on their person, thanks to New Zealanders’ world-leading electronic-transaction uptake. In the not too distant future, this early adopter attribute will mean that taking up a collection will be a breeze, with contactless payments. But this year organisers have no option but to again bang the buckets, and to hand out pledge cards and posters and attempt to otherwise elicit promises to chip in, in a desperate attempt to close the gap.

EFTPOS rankings, 2011

World-Leading eSpenders: New Zealanders lead the world in reliance on electronic transactions, with about two thirds of total spending done with cash-flow and credit cards. By the 2011 figures displayed here, Germans will be particularly welcome at this year’s regatta. images Depositphotos; NewsWire

It is to be greatly hoped that visiting yacht and boating clubs will weigh in with the Mahurangi Regatta costs, because it would greatly help with the strategy to convince Auckland Council regard Auckland Anniversary weekend as a major event, from 2016 onward. As the world’s biggest one-day regatta, Auckland Anniversary Regatta is Aotearoa’s internationally significant opportunity, along with the America’s Cup, to showcase sailing, and the desirability of young New Zealanders getting every opportunity to sail. The best way to ensure that New Zealanders retain their reputation as the world’s best sailors and boatbuilders is by giving every child the opportunity to learn to sail. And for that to be possible, every child first has to have the right to learn to swim—something taken for granted until 1989 when the state welched on such responsibilities, when it plunged blindly into the turbid neoliberal waters of Tomorrow’s Schools. While that was a boon for private swim schools, it was fatal for water safety, with fewer than one in three young New Zealanders now able to swim to save themselves.

There are two things upon which the vast majority of Aucklanders can agree: That theirs is the City of Sails, and the city of regional parks. Four-to-five million, mostly Aucklanders visit the parks each year. Nowhere do these two passions come together more emphatically than at the Mahurangi Regatta, with the shoreside picnic regatta in the regional park at Sullivans Bay, the racing on the harbour, and the prize giving and dance in the regional park at Scotts Landing.

Commodores of the visiting clubs can easily demonstrate support for the Mahurangi Regatta, and for the Auckland-Anniversary-weekend-as-a-major-event master plan, by conjuring up a small contribution towards the costs.

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