Henley-on-Todd Regatta, Alice Springs 2010

The regatta gets underway.

Forget all the hype about the Federal Election, there was something far more important and exciting happening today in Australia– the Henley-on-Todd Regatta!  Today marked the 49th consecutive year for this annual event held in Alice Springs.  The Henley-on-Todd is unique among boating regattas in that it is held on the dry, sandy bed of the Todd River.  Indeed, when the river flows, as happened one year, the regatta is cancelled.   After all our rain this year, organisers were nervous in the lead-up to this weekend, especially with rain forecast.  They needn’t have worried – the weather was perfect and the regatta venue suitably sandy and dry.

The event commenced with a parade of participating ‘boats’ through the Todd Mall, a lovely walkway lined with outdoor cafes and Aboriginal art-shops, and shaded by a succession of majestic River Red Gums.  A huge crowd lined the mall in anticipation of the parade.  In true Alice style, the parade was a little late to start, so while we waited we all stood around taking pictures of each other.

The setting and some of the crowd in Todd Mall

Look out!

A slightly smaller craft

Serious competitors

Here come the pirates

The parade was worth the wait.  It was colourful, noisy and entertaining – a perfect prelude to the day’s activities.

From Todd Mall it was a short walk to the Todd River, the venue for the regatta.  A large, well behaved crowd lined the banks and thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle.  It seems the crowd was roughly half visitors and half locals.

The “boat races” consisted of teams carrying rough approximations of boats, running across a sandy course, around large drums (or should I say buoys), for a return dash to the finish.  Of course, “groups of people holding weird contraptions and running flat out close on each others’ heels” is a perfect recipe for crashes – and they were frequent and spectacular.  Fortunately, the sandy course prevented any injuries other than to pride, although there were face-plants aplenty.

The first face-plant, rear runner of more distant boat.

Entertainment for kids - one about to have a swim

The beach sprint

The Bath-Tub Classic

The passenger gets a bath at the halfway mark

A well-drilled Navy team

The Vikings prepare for battle

It was great to see so many different entrants, many from community groups, some from schools, others representing businesses and even some from the armed forces.  The Royal Australian Navy was well represented as, I guess, it should be in a boating regatta.  In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that the RAN entrants had been training for the event, so well-drilled did they appear.

It was a great day.  People had fun, the weather was perfect and I thoroughly enjoyed witnessing this famous Australian event for the first time.

Click on the following links to see some videos I shot on the day.

The first few show some of the ‘Boat Racing action,  the second one showing a good team-tumble near the end:


This video shows the Team Surf Ski race, where co-ordination amongst team members is paramount.  As you can see, co-ordination was a rare commodity!

This video shows the Junior Beach Sprint:


Here is a video of the Bath-Tub Derby.  Enjoyed by all, except for the passenger who gets a bath at the half-way buoy:


I have no idea what this event would even be called:

21 August 2010