photography: John Mercer
DIARY DATE: THE CENTREBOARD CUP; SATURDAY 29 NOVEMBER The intricate stretch of coastline between the Auckland Harbour Bridge and Meola Reef is dotted with cute little beaches and a couple of estuaries that’ve played host to many seaborne adventures. Festooned with ancient boat sheds and drooping pohutukawas this tidal part of the harbour is home to a large number of local sailors, and a couple of famous foreign yachties too these days. You can still find the original Richmond Cruising Club shed nestled between Cox’s Bay and Herne Bay. The 100-year-old clubhouse is plugged into a tiny square of sand known locally as Sloanes Beach. There’s a sign that says Marine Parade Reserve at the top of the stairs but no one calls it that. Last year this venue was the scene of the inaugural Centreboard Cup, an event to celebrate the boatshed’s centenary and to encourage local centreboarders out of the woodwork. Led by the mullet boats of the Ponsonby Cruising Club, many of which are moored off Herne Bay or up a couple of the local creeks, the day proved to be a great success. Martin Robertson’s Orion II narrowly beat last year’s Lipton Cup winner Tamatea. Seven mullet boats were joined by a host of other craft both modern and traditional. Those ashore were entertained by live music and a close-up view of the start-finish line, while kids gambolled and played games in the shallows. Whether you’re making spray while hanging from a trapeze or contemplating the infinite as you gunkhole about the mangroves, the appendage that’s essential for these activities is the centreboard. For those brave sailors who take to the sea without a ballast keel there is now a festival to celebrate this lunatic fringe, that esoteric bunch who cut a long slot through the strongest part of the boat and insert a moving part. There are two classes in this year’s edition of the race on Saturday, 29 November: Centreboarders under 18’ and those 18’ and over. Mullet boats enter at the Ponsonby Cruising Club with all other craft registering ashore on the day, before the start of the first race at noon. Curiously this area is poorly served for boat ramps but sailors are encouraged to launch at Birkenhead (unless there's a strong breeze from the south), which is a short sail across the harbour, or Westhaven, on the other side of the bridge. Those with smaller boats can simply carry them down the stairs and launch at Sloane’s Beach! The short course sees the big boats take in two laps of Watchman Island, while the smaller boats complete one lap. The regatta has an emphasis on traditional craft but all are welcome!
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PONSONBY NEWS+ November 2014