Regatta week

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It may not be the America’s Cup but the Nelson Regatta, alongside the inaugural Liquorland Top of the South Trailer Yacht and Sports Boat Regatta, are set to create an exciting week of racing in the Tasman Bay.

The region is proud of its long-standing nautical history, with yacht races dating back to European settlement. Nelson’s affair with the sea as a means of leisure began in 1843 when the first official yacht race was staged, setting off a chain of events which led to the establishment, in 1857, of New Zealand’s earliest yacht club, the Nelson Yacht Club.

With the accessibility of the Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson truly is a sailor’s dream location, and from January 22 to January 27 it will set the scene for a celebration of New Zealand Yachting thanks to hosts Tasman Bay Cruising Club and all their generous sponsors.

By introducing the Liquorland Top of the South Regatta for the trailer boats, Tasman Bay Cruising Club hope to give out-of-town sailors the chance to spend some time cruising around the Tasman Bay and Abel Tasman National Park, with some friendly competition thrown in, of course. Racing for the trailer boats kicks off with an invitation race on Friday night.

The inner harbour race starts and finishes at the Nelson Yacht Club on a circular course running up and down the waterfront, offering people the chance to dine at any of the five waterfront restaurants or to grab some fish and chips with the family and watch the racing take place. Racing begins at 6pm with the course consisting of three laps.

The trailer boats will then spend the rest of their regatta soaking up the sun and racing out past the boulder bank in Tasman Bay, before a prize-giving concludes their event on Sunday, January 24, at 5pm. People are welcome to come out and watch the yachting spectacle both in the harbour on Friday and during the weekend in the bay.

The Liquorland Top of the South Trailer Yacht and Sports Boat Regatta then dovetails into the annual Nelson Regatta, an event that was conceived in 2009 by a group of local sailors with ambitions of placing the region back on the national sailing map. Over the years, the format has evolved to create a competitive and social week of racing that showcases the beauty of the Tasman Bay.

The annual Wellington to Nelson race will start from Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club on the afternoon of Friday, January 22, acting as a feeder race to Nelson with most of the fleet staying on for the Nelson Keelboat Regatta.

The Wellington and Waikawa boats will arrive on Saturday and the Tasman Bay Cruising Club will be open to welcome the crews to Nelson. The marina will be busy with sailors while the club bar will be open and evening meals available, and all those interested are welcome to come down to the club and see the new boats in town.

Racing for the keelboats will begin on Sunday in Tasman Bay, creating one huge fleet as they join up with the trailer boats in the Liquorland regatta. When the trailer boats pack up on Monday, January 25, the Nelson Regatta and all participating crews will race their way to Torrent Bay where the boats will anchor over night for a beach party ashore.

Tuesday, January 26, sees a short race from Torrent Bay up to and round Tonga Island, before the fleet makes its way up through the national park, around Separation Point and into Golden Bay, coming to rest in Tarakohe Harbour.

Once berthed, the Pohara Boating Club will take over as hosts for the evening, entertaining the visiting crews with races in the club’s small Optimist dinghies.

A 10am start on Wednesday, January 27, for the return race to Nelson, closes the Nelson Regatta, followed by the much-anticipated prize-giving at the Tasman Bay Cruising Club, where the overall winners of the races will be announced. The keelboats are split into Romeo and Juliet division, the first being for bigger and faster boats, while Juliet division races at a more leisurely pace. Crews from both divisions accumulate points during the seven races, the biggest point earner taking home the trophy and the glory.

With both regattas over in six action-packed days, over 50 boats and around 300 people will have enjoyed everything that Nelson has to offer.

For more information on where you can catch a glimpse of the racing during the regatta week, visit the events website at www.nelsonregatta.co.nz.

The Tasman Bay Cruising Club is also happy to welcome any new members, whether you own a boat or just hold a passion for marine vessels. The club features three forms of membership, senior, crew and social. Crew membership allows people the chance to help man a boat and is as simple as registering on the club’s website. Skippers then have access to available crew members for racing. The social membership caters to those with an interest in boats, but who would simply like the social benefits of the club’s bar and restaurant.

For more information on joining the club, or the chance to check out what the club has to offer, visit their website at tasmanbaycc.co.nz or email [email protected]