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Regatta rush to help push the boat out for 175th anniversary of Makaurau

by 25 Nov 2014Regatta 20150 comments

1901 Mahurangi Regatta

Taxing Tide: Had the 1901 Mahurangi Regatta been held a week earlier, on the Saturday of that year’s Auckland Anniversary weekend, it would have enjoyed a bumper 1.34-metre midday high tide, instead of the 4‍ ‍pm low that appears to beset these craft, on Saturday 9 February. In any event, there could hardly have been less wind whereas, the week before, the regatta out of the Waitematā was sailed in fresh conditions. photographer Henry Winkelmann

It might have been better had Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson named the entire country Auckland; and Tāmaki Makaurau, Bourke.

That way, Aucklanders might have long-since rejected their town’s colonially imposed name in favour of reverting to the indigenous title of the isthmus, or preferably the latter part thereof: Makaurau—loved by many.

The freshly promoted Captain Hobson appears to have been somewhat ungrateful to his recent supporter, General Sir Richard Bourke, who as governor of New South Wales encouraged William to name Hobsons Bay, now a goodly chunk of Melbourne, after himself. Be that as it may, the practice of British naval captains of conferring geographic honours upon their admiralty superiors was long established, and Hobson gave George Eden, 1st (and last) Earl of Auckland, who was apparently not half the man Bourke was, the honour. So Auckland it is, and in just nine weekends’ time, and eight months early, the region will celebrate its 175th anniversary.

Now that Mahurangi Action is belatedly aware of Auckland Council’s plan to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the city’s founding by Hobson in September 1840, on Auckland Anniversary weekend 2015, a little earlier it would have strenuously made the case for the Mahurangi Regatta to be considered as the official curtain-raiser, for two reasons:

  1. Since 1979, when it was moved to the Saturday of Auckland Anniversary weekend, the Mahurangi Regatta has been the Auckland Anniversary Regatta’s de facto curtain-raiser, with the Friday ‘night race to Mahurangi’, although nowadays most race north on the afternoon, rather than the evening.
  2. In 1840, Mahurangi was runner-up to Tāmaki Makaurau, as the proposed capital of Aotearoa.
1901 Mahurangi Regatta

On Way to Mahurangi Win: Sailing in a fresh breeze in the 1901 Auckland Anniversary Regatta, the Ida took second place on handicap, and first place, on handicap, at the Mahurangi Regatta the following Saturday, but in very light conditions. Being held on Auckland Anniversary weekend (since 1979), of course, is no guarantee of wind, but sailing the two regattas on the same long weekend has proved to be a winning formula, and a metaphor, perhaps, for what rural and urban communities can achieve when they work together. image Auckland Weekly News

Surveyor-General Felton Mathew, in fact, recommended the Panmure Basin off the Tāmaki Estuary ahead of the Waitematā, but the seafaring lieutenant-governor understandably overruled Mathew’s lubberly preference, strangely insensitive to its navigational inaccessibility. Meanwhile, Mahurangi never became even a town, despite being surveyed as one. Sensibly, the township was established at the upper navigable limits of the river, in what might have been called Mahurangi, but instead took the predictably colonial option of yet-another British name with deplorably tenuous relevance to place: Warkworth. But things would have been very different if Hobson, by now governor and commander in chief, had had his way—Mahurangi would now be Nelson (the name was predetermined), Makaurau’s northern twin city. Understandably, the New Zealand Company’s Wakefields would have none of it, and once the harbour behind Boulder Bank was discovered, the die for their future city’s location was cast.

What Mahurangi has always been, is a favourite destination for ‘Auckland Yachtmen’, but a turning point was when it belatedly dawnedbelatedly is possibly a bit strong; it only took two regattas—until 1979—for the penny to drop on its organisers that the Mahurangi Regatta must be held on the Saturday of Auckland Anniversary weekend, and the Devonport Yacht Club was already on board, as it were, following its Friday night race to Mahurangi. The club, coincidentally, had moved its race to the Auckland Anniversary weekend Friday, the same year Mahurangi Action, as Friends of the Mahurangi, revived the Mahurangi Regatta. The resulting synergy was part of the secret of the Mahurangi Regatta’s success, which was further cemented when the society convinced the boatbuilding Robertson brothers to put up a new Mahurangi Cup for wooden boats of pre-1955 design, and the region’s owners of classic wooden boats were successfully canvassed to attend the 1988 regatta. Then, ahead of the 1990 regatta, the Mahurangi Cruising Club was formed, assuming the role of race organiser for all sailing events.

Mahurangi West Hall

Impressing Ladies: In an ideal world, Scott Homestead would have long-since boasted a nicely appointed 1800s-styled toilet ‘outhouse’ the likes of which was recently opened to complement the historic Mahurangi West Hall. Given that further regional park acquisitions are unlikely until Auckland Council emerges from its rail-tunnelling excesses, suggests the imperative should be to get better use out of existing purchases, such as by providing park visitors with toilets, handy to Scott Homestead. Low Resolution Image Mahurangi Matters Filter Mahurangi Magazine

With Auckland Anniversary weekend 2015 being declared Auckland’s 175th anniversary, it now behoves the Mahurangi Regatta to help push the boat out. An obvious difficulty is that word of the decision has only recently reached the Mahurangi, far too late to seek further financial assistance from city hall to hold a grander event than that already planned. Not that a great deal more is needed to add some nice touches, such as toilets that are a notch better that those only barely acceptable for building sites. The hire, however, of a nicely appointed trailer-toilet unit would cost another $1000 over and above that covered by current funding. All will now depend upon how generous those who support the event feel, particularly the visiting yacht and boating clubs.

There may be many more-spectacular ways in which Mahurangi Regatta could help push the 175th Auckland Anniversary boat out, but few that would make a bigger impression on the ladies.


Auckland yachtmen The inaugural edition of the Rodney and Ōtamatea Times, in a generous and glowing report on the 1901 Mahurangi Regatta, refers to its popularity with visiting city yachtmen. This was probably a typo, and only one of many, rather than evidence of excessive francophilia on the part of its Australian-born founding owner–editor, Alfred Walter Charles de la Roche.

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