Henley-on-Todd Regatta
18th August 2009
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I came across this article about the annual Henley-on-Todd Regatta in Alice Springs, Australia and thought that I would share it with Henley-on-Thames residents. Read on-

A yacht race without any water, yachts that are not allowed to be seaworthy, and rules which allow the firing of weapons to block other competitors, these are just some of the characteristics which make the annual Henley-on-Todd to be held in Alice Springs, Australia, next Saturday, the strangest yachting event in the world.

In 1962, Reg Smith and his compatriots at the Alice Springs Meteorological Bureau proposed they hold an actual regatta along the lines of the famous Henley-on-Thames, a race between Cambridge and Oxford Universities. The idea was taken up by the Rotary club of Alice Springs, and 'Thames' converted to 'Todd', the name of the local river which is almost always dry. The fact that the town was 1,500 km's from the nearest large body of water was never seen as a problem.

Sailing to victory, with a little help from the legs -  .. .  

Traditionally run on the dry bed of the Todd River, the Henley-on-Todd was cancelled only in 1993 due to the uncharacteristic running of the river. But it will be business as usual at this year’s event on Saturday, 22 August, when residents and visitors alike congregate for the quirky race.

The Henley-on-Todd Regatta transforms average citizens into ruthless pirates determined to cruise their homemade vessels to victory. The only prerequisite is that their boats are in no way, shape or form seaworthy.

Teams get together in the lead up to the event to design their crafty vessels, and unwilling to rely on speed alone, the ‘shipwrights’ have been known to arm their boats with a diverse range of weapons.

Dragon boat in action -  .. .  

The teams bring everything from assorted ‘mortars’ to high pressure water cannons into play to thwart their opponents at every turn and aid their own charge towards the finish line.

Visitors to the town who don’t have time to build their own vessel can choose their event and register on the day using a provided competition boat.

However, many travellers prefer to get their own boats up and running, according to promotions and marketing manager, Merrilyn McIver.

'A lot of local and international tourists get involved, particularly the backpackers, as either participants or spectators,' she said.

The most popular event of the year for Alice Springs -  .. .  

'When it comes to making your own boat, the whole criteria is to be lightweight, to look like a boat and to remain intact for the duration of the race. Some people go all out – I’ve seen boats made out of beer cartons, flags and balloons.'

Mrs McIver, the promotions and marketing manager of the event, has been involved in the event since she moved to town 39 years ago.

'It’s just one of those fantastic events that everyone gets enthusiastic about and wants to play a part in. Once you have paid your entry at the gate all the events are free to enter, so people get in and have a go at as much as possible.'

Events include the main race for those who’ve brought along

What a tub - and it really is... -  .. .  

their own boats, the Oxford Tubs event, which sees competitors ‘paddle’ canoes along rails with sand shovels; the Boogey Board event, which sees five crew members tow a sixth either standing, kneeling or sitting on a boogey board, and the Bath Tub Derby.


About the Author

Gill and Phil C

Member since: 9th July 2012

Hi, We are Phil and Gill Chappell. We own the Best of Henley-on-Thames. We live in Henley so would love to hear your views and opinions about all things Henley.

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