Auckland Anniversary Regatta

First sailed in 1840, this race is New Zealand’s oldest sporting challenge and very much the blue ribbon event.

The  2010 regatta race was the 3 race of The New Zealand Classic Challenge Yacht Series, a seven  race sailing regatta, conducted by the
Classic Yacht Association of New Zealand, under the auspices of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

History in brief:

1840: The first Auckland Regatta was held on the day the city was founded, 18 September 1840, the day that Captain Hobson’s officials raised the flag and 11 years before the first America’s Cup contest was sailed in 1851.

 That first regatta on the Waitemata Harbour was an impromptu three-race event that took place after representatives of Lieutenant Governor William Hobson rowed ashore from the barque Anna Watson and took formal possession of the site in the name of Queen Victoria.

 A report in The New Zealand Advertiser and Bay of Islands Gazette of 24 September 1840 said the official party rowed back to the Anna Watson and then: “After partaking of luncheon, a regatta took place between a five-oared gig belonging to the Surveyor-General and a six-oared gig belonging to the Anna Watson, both pulled excellent style by amateurs. This was followed by a match for a purse of five pounds between two whale-boats pulled by sailors, and by another between two large canoes paddled by natives.

 1842 There were two official Regattas, one to commemorate Irish born Hobson’s arrival in September and the second to honour St Patrick on March 17th. The date was shifted from September to 29 January. Holding a Regatta was not easy – boats were in such short supply that any vessel arriving in harbour with a long boat was pestered to sell it.

 1850 The Auckland Anniversary Regatta became recognised as the official celebration of the arrival of Captain Hobson in New Zealand. In the early years boats such as the gigs, dinghies, whaleboats and Maori canoes provided the interest. Some of the most exciting Regattas were the events for fishing boats such as the centreboard mullet boats that were converted to cruisers. Compared to the keelers, they were cheaper, easier to moor and quite suitable for holidays.

The 1853 Edition of “The Southern Cross” newspaper ,Auckland contains the equivalent of the modern NOR. (click on image for full size)

Auckland Regatta NOR 10 Jan 1853

1862  At the race the race  the Superintendent of Auckland (roughly equivalent  to an Australian State premier) Mr  John Williamson Esq. present a sterling silver cup (hallmarked 1861) to Mr Antonio Martin of the “Agnes” as winner of the 25ton to 45 ton division.  This cup is in use today. The Agnes Cup.  The  Auckland newspaper “The SouthernCross” of January 24th 1862 carries the official advertisement for the 1862 event. (The equivalent of a modern NOR) More detail is available here.

Late 1890’s – early 1900’s: Many of today’s venerable yachts competed in their maiden races on Anniversary Day – a builders’ showcase was an apt description of the Regattas.

 1900 The Regatta was cancelled due to the war in South Africa.

 1903 Power craft made their debut.

1914 The first Anniversary Regatta speed championship was held.

 1917 Handicaps, often a bone of contention, led to the appearance in the Regatta of the x class, the first single design boat.

 1919 Proving the adaptability of the Regatta was the inclusion in 1919 of a flying race, the first in the Southern Hemisphere involving a seaplane and two flying boats which took off from Kohimarama.

 1940 Entries gradually increased until the Auckland Anniversary Regatta grew to be the biggest one-day Regatta in the world. Post-war to the present day was an exciting time in the yachting world with new materials, more yachts, more classes. With New Zealand’s expert yachtsmen starting to challenge the world, the Regatta committee decided to introduce races for Olympic and International classes.

 1970 The first sailboard made its appearance early in the 1970’s when an American became tired of surfing and raised a sail.

 2006 A multiplicity of classes is catered for today from slick racing machines which can challenge the world without shame, to tiny radio controlled yachts. Among the slick racers to honour the Regatta in recent years has been the late Sir Peter Blake’s trimaran “Steinlager”.

 2007 Saw the arrival of the tugboats on the scene, an event which commandeered the attention of the media. The sight of 21 tugboats churning up the Rangitoto Channel to Narrowneck Buoy and racing back to North Head was a sight to behold. The tugboat race was to become a major feature of the Regatta from this year on.

 2010 The keelboat start-line moved into the downtown city area off Princes Wharf, a move which proved to be a popular one for both spectators and participants


The Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta has a wonderful array of beautiful and historic trophies, with a number of them dating back to the 1860’s.The trophies are beautifully showcased at the Voyager NZ Maritime Museum during the year.

Among the Trophies are:

  • The Trimmer Cup: presented by Shaw Savill & Co (a London shipping company) in 1867.
  • The Pillinger Cup: presented in 1869 to yachts between 7 and 20 tons, first won by the 8 ton yacht Lizard, owned by Benjamin Pillinger.
  • The oldest cup: The Agnes Cup, a sterling silver cup hallmarked London 1861, was first presented as an Anniversary Cup in 1862 by John Williamson, Superintendent of the Province, to Mr Antonio Martin, owner of Agnes, winner of the race for coasting vessels of between 20 and 45 tons. It was re-presented to the Committee in 2001 by Bill Redgrave and is now allocated to the winner on handicap of the A Classic Division.
  • The oldest and smallest trophy: The Lewis Tankard. This sterling silver tankard is hallmarked London 1744, and was presented by the Lewis Brothers in 1865.
  • The largest trophy: The Alby Braund Cup, donated by J.R Savory in 1938.
  • The most recent addition: The Sir Peter Blake Memorial Trophy, first awarded in 2002.

The Auckland Regatta Waitemata Harbour   2010

 Keith and his Australian crew aboard Wraith of Odin, joined a fleet of over 80 boats at the starting line of the famous  Auckland Anniversary Regatta Race, and following a fast and furious 50km race around the broad Waitemata Harbour, lifted the Division 1 trophy by the narrowest of margins.

 In a 30 knot Easterly  Wraith of Odin  won the race by just one second from the New Zealand entrant, Rainbow (a 50ft Logan designed classic racer skippered by Brad Butterworth, another famous America’s Cup sailor). Third across the line, just 15 seconds further back, was Thelma, a particularly famous 60ft gaff-rigged yacht sailed by one of New Zealand’s yachting royalty, Tony Blake, brother of the late Sir Peter Blake.

Agnes cup etched transparent canvas silver web 2

The Agnes cup

Wraith of Odin  was awarded The Agnes Cup as winner of the  Auckland Anniversary Regatta Race, “A Classic Division”. The honours were presented by the New Zealand Governor General Sir Anand Satayanand at a gala presentation for the various category winners at the Auckland Town Hall, presided over by Auckland Mayor, Mr John Banks.

 4 by image Agnes cup watermark


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