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Regatta a bit of history

Last updated 05:00 24/01/2014
John Panoho
Lauren Priestley
LOOKING BACK: John Panoho says voyaging waka are an important part of Auckland’s history.

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Auckland's waters will come alive this weekend for a regatta as old as the City of Sails itself.

A fleet of ships including waka, paddleboards, dinghies, tug boats and classic yachts will set sail on Monday for the 174th Ports of Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta.

The first event took place to mark the city's founding in 1840 and it has now become one of the world's largest one-day regattas with more than 500 vessels taking part.

Navigator Tours director John Panoho says the celebration is as much about Auckland's history as its future.

He will be launching tours on the traditional voyaging canoe Haunui as part of the event, in collaboration with Te Toki Trust and Voyager Maritime Museum.

Navigation using stars, waves and bird life instead of a compass will be shared with visitors as well as stories about Auckland's history.

"We've all lost the art of those traditional techniques. This place wasn't discovered by a floating log - they were planned journeys of exploration. We would like to be seen very much as part of Auckland's whakapapa. The only way we can do that is to be out there on the water with our upside-down sails on Anniversary Day."

Haunui has no carbon footprint because it uses an electric motor run by solar panels when necessary, Mr Panoho says.

He says this method of sailing could be easily used in modern times for fishing and navigation.

"It's a message to the world about how badly we're treating the ocean. It's a sustainability message using the waka as an example of what can be done even now throughout the Pacific."

Larry Paul says Auckland boasts more 100-year-old yachts than any other city worldwide.

He is the skipper of the Waitangi, which was built in 1894.

When the regatta first started only gaff-rigged boats with square sails like Waitangi took part, Mr Paul says.

"It's a great opportunity for Aucklanders and New Zealanders to experience a day on the water on these boats that date from so long ago. The thing that makes these boats so special is how unique they are."

Among those on boats racing this weekend will be 18-foot skiff sailor Murray England.

The first 18-foot skiff was launched in 1892 and the yachts can now reach speeds of almost 30 knots with their three crew members suspended on a wire.

The 29-year-old Ponsonby man has never been in the Auckland regatta before.

He has been sailing since primary school and competed in an international 18-foot skiff regatta in San Francisco last year.

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"I really enjoy the excitement of sailing. I'm quite excited to see all the boats out on the harbour this weekend. It should be a good time."

- East And Bays Courier

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