Nothing got in the way of Raglan’s ninth annual recycled raft race last Saturday — neither bridge construction at Kopua Domain nor even a nationwide tsunami warning in the wake of the tragic 9.0 magnitude quake in Japan.
For quite a while there it looked like the hugely entertaining annual race, part of the Whaingaroa Community and Environment Day, wouldn’t go ahead to the disappointment of big crowds lining the beach and footbridge.
But with 19 rafts registered on the day, says Xtreme Waste co-ordinator Lindsey Turner, there was no holding back the colourfully dressed crews and their weird and wonderful assortment of craft even though they were officially advised not to race. In the end, with any impact on the west coast expected to be minimal at worst, the good keen paddlers simply refused to listen.
“They pretty much said no (to cancelling the event),” Lindsey told the Chronicle. “It’s a little bit iconic, really,” she explained.
Even so things were a little different this year, she says, because of the lesser space to the north of the Kopua footbridge, where a big crane now sits inside a large construction compound for the replacement bridge.
As a result, all the rafts were “parked” and judged on the adjacent soccer fields before being whisked down to the remaining bit of beach for the start of the mid-afternoon race.
However in the end it all “worked quite well,” says Lindsey. Competitors still had enough space to line up along the beach and paddle out under the bridge once the starting hooter sounded. As a concession to the construction work, though, the finish was moved to the uncongested section of beach south of the footbridge.
Out on the water it was “Raglan Bill”, aka Jamie Edwards, who rowed his way to victory in Plastic Fantastic — a cleverly designed vessel made from the framework of an old canoe but wrapped and waterproofed in the kind of plastic wrap discarded from packing pellets.
He was about due for a win, reckons Lindsey, having entered rafts “in various shapes and forms” for years. He was also last year’s runner-up with his Waka Puhara creation.
Close behind, wearing outlandish garb and long colourful tinsel wigs, were father-and-son team Sean and Leo Oliver, paddleboard-style, on Stand Up Recycle which won last year’s race. And in third place were schoolgirls Pania Stanway-Thorpe, Reeve Harry-Wright, Terri Toxward-Nicolson and Kimi Solomon-Banks on Mizapa.
The Pirates from Waitetuna School headed home fourth with a dozen or so kids and a couple of adults crammed aboard their barrelled-up outrigger canoe.
Other results:
– Best raft, Waitetuna Eels — Angus MacDonald (raft builder aged 14), Keith MacDonald (10), Seumus MacDonald (adult) and Arden Andre (13).
– Runner-up, Raglan Area School’s Hash Brown — built by teacher Glen Rangitonga and five boys as part of a woodwork project.
– Best dressed, Kinaboy Tutus — all-boy crew wearing pink tutus: Rudy Regnier, Muroki Githinji-Pearsall, Puarere Kenehuru, Cabe Hartstone-Kereopa.
– Best paddles and best junior entry (under 12), Le Sinka — crewed by Amelia Penfold, Ella McLeod Edwards, Jo and Corina Tweedie.
– Least likely to float (but they did and finished 11th), Ruba-dub-tub — five kids in a tub.
– Most interesting design, Solowaker — Gun Lai, hand-shaved and crafted from fibreglass.
– Best message and flag, Waitetuna Waka — Andrew, Madeleine, Ronan Thompson and Lola.
– Most impressive finish, Clean Sweep (sunk on the finish line) — Philip and Emily Meek, Jo Meek, Damon and Maddie Alexander, Simon Thomson and Honey Armstrong.
– Most improved racers and most numbers of people on one raft, The Pirates — Waitetuna School.