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Dedicated to democratic climate-action mobilisation and the Mahurangi

Dire forecast cancels the 2023 Mahurangi Regatta

author Cimino Updated 27 January 2023

Mahurangi Coastal Trail map

Morning After Wilma Wasted Mahurangi Regatta: In 2011, the Mistrals, which weren’t obliged to sail to the Mahurangi on their own bottoms, had the harbour to themselves. So heavy had been the weather brought by ex-tropical cyclone Wilma that, come the morning of the regatta, only the handful of yachts that had sailed there a week or more earlier were in evidence. image Jenny Finlayson

Easterlies currently forecast for the four days ahead of Saturday, were always almost certainly bound to generate too great a swell at the Sullivans Bay venue for the traditional Mahurangi Regatta shoreside events to be held.

Divergent forecasts from the major forecasting models is the hallmark of unusually dynamic meteorological conditions. In the context of Mahurangi regatta-day forecasts, it is unusual for it to take until Tuesday for models to convincingly converge, but converge they did, precipitously. This convinced organisers to make the call to cancel all  the Mahurangi Regatta shoreside events forthwith and provide the hundreds of volunteers and suppliers responsible for running the regatta the maximum of standdown notice. By Thursday, the Mahurangi Regatta was cancelled in its entirety.

With the middle-of-the-day, 1.24 pm high tide, and swell, the beloved shoreside events were already looking to be unviable. But now, the various forecasts are increasingly in agreement about the probability of significant rain, and stronger winds.

Organisers had been holding out hope that the instantly hugely popular shoreside spectator event—the classic launch parade, introduced in 2017—might have a chance of proceeding, possibly with the parade course laid a good bit farther off the shoreline, and extending near the full length of the beach. The latter possible given the onshore wind and swell would render Sullivans Bay – Ōtarawao unviable as an anchorage for all but the largest of visiting vessels. Along with the sailing events, the classic launch parade is now cancelled.

Windy swell map for 202301271800, as at 202301251644

Friday Forecast Formidable: But even the lesser, 1.2-metre swell forecast for Saturday ruled out the traditional Mahurangi Regatta shoreside events, and ultimately, the regatta in its entirety. image Windy 202301251644

Without the extreme-rainfall component that is now common to all the forecasts consulted, Mahurangi Regatta sailing-event spectators, provided they’d been adequately protected from windburn, might have been in for a treat—spoiled for choice when seeking out elevated vantages to view and photograph from. On Thursday, however, the Mahurangi Cruising Club made the correct and courageous call to cancel the sailing events, thus completing the cancellation of the regatta in its entirety.

The after-match prize-giving dance at Scotts Landing was cancelled Tuesday, along with the Sullivans Bay shoreside events. This year, it had been hoped, to include more of the valiant Sullivans Bay volunteers, thanks to the workboat J Barry Ferguson, purchased by Mahurangi Action to begin trialling the Mahurangi Coastal Path. During the pre-all-weather roads, steamboat era, Scotts Landing—with its then all‑tide wharf—was the hub of the community. Even during the early marine farming days, oyster barges were able to revive something of that tradition. Belated regulation of such craft resulted in curtailment on their use for informally ferrying Mahurangi West folk to and from the dance. By Mahurangi Regatta 2024, it is planned to have the former regional-parks aluminium landing barge in marine survey as a passenger-carrying vessel. This year however, not least of all because its operative workboat survey only permits the J Barry Ferguson to carry six including skipper, regatta crew was to take priority. In the event, the forecast wind strength emphatically ruled out the regatta being the workboat’s debut.

With earlier forecasts including some rain earlier on Saturday, the Scotts Landing prize-giving dance was already dangling in the wind. If the marquee had been allowed to be erected as planned on Wednesday afternoon, dance and swing-jazz enthusiasts could have lived in hope—leaving a nail-biting few days for the shoreside-regatta-event organisers, not to mention the West City Jazz Orchestra itself.

By itself, the swell forecast for Saturday ruled out launching of sailing dinghies at Sullivans Bay. Over the years, folk owning trailered boats have chafed at not being given year-round access to Ōtarawao – Sullivans Bay, believing that a launching ramp there is the answer to the congestion and shoalness of Jamieson Bay and Ōpahi. Jewels such as Sullivans, however, are irreplaceable, and already at capacity given the only landward access is currently by private light vehicle. The post-lockdown discovery of Sullivans Bay means that the best response to peak parking—long experienced at Long Bay’s but now the norm Mahurangi’s, regional park—is the Mahurangi Coastal Path approach. Meantime, as much as the Mahurangi Regatta desires to encourage the participation of sailing dinghies, 2023, if it had been sailed at all, would clearly have favoured yachts that come into their own in half a gale—a sailors’ regatta, some would have said.

The small miracle that it would have taken for the Mahurangi Regatta to proceed failed to materialise—it will now be 2024 before the invariably beautifully easterly-sheltered Scott Homestead grounds again host the uniquely civilised Mahurangi Regatta prize giving and dance.

Time to reflect and to begin planning the best better-not-bigger Mahurangi Regatta yet.

 Sign on Mahurangi Regatta shoreside-events crew button


Mahurangi Harbour regatta morning 2023

Not 1000 but 1: Mahurangi Regatta enticed but one intrepid sailor to anchor at the Mahurangi Heads, in 2023. Normally on a regatta morning, a thousand yachts, motor and sail, would fill the bays both sides of the harbour. The three vessels evident on the exposed western shore, left, are resident, moored, craft. image Mahurangi Magazine

Mahurangi Regatta cancellation algorithm 2023 has added an important loop to the loose algorithm that has been run 46 times since Mahurangi Action revived a regatta for which only scant clues remained as to how the event should be run.

Initially, the sailing and shoreside events were considered in tandem, when the newspaper weather maps were being anxiously deciphered. It took an earlier La Niña to cause that approach to founder, when the 1989 regatta shoreside events were cancelled on account of the regional parkland at Sullivans Bay being serially, systematically rendered so sodden as to be incapable of parking more than a handful of cars. Not entirely surprisingly, instigators of the then-new Mahurangi Cup for classic wooden boats had scant sympathy for the 1000s who, even then, annually flocked to Sullivans Bay – Ōtarawao for the “good old-fashioned, leave-your-wallet-at-home picnic regatta”. The sailing went ahead as scheduled, but the decimated attendance at the rescheduled shoreside-events regatta proved that, if factors rule those shoreside events out on regatta day, their cancellation, rather than postponement, is the practicable response.

Meanwhile, back at the 2023 shoreside-events decision: For the first time, it was the strong agreement in forecasting models that the weather following  the regatta was likely to discourage the vast majority of boat owners from venturing to the Mahurangi for the regatta, because of how problematic the return voyage would likely be. In the event, on the Saturday morning, only one yacht was in evidence, bravely anchored on the eastern shore of the main body of the harbour, where invariably, in easterly conditions, hundreds would fill every available bay there.

Consequently, the new component for cancellation algorithm: When the forecasts overwhelmingly indicate that visiting yachts and boats will likely face significant challenges to being returned to their ports of origin, in the days immediately following it, the Mahurangi Regatta largely cancels itself.


Disclosure The author of this article is the secretary of both Mahurangi Action Incorporated and the Mahurangi Coastal Path Trust. The article published here, however, is that of the editorially independent, independently funded Mahurangi Magazine.

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