Just as the Wellington Matariki Fireworks went off with a bang, so did the inaugural Te Ākautangi Matariki Water Sports Festival hosted by Tai Tonga 41 Outrigger Canoe Club and Evans Bay Yacht & Motor Boat Club.
With more than 450 people involved, the Evans Bay Marine Precinct in Wellington was humming over the first Matariki long weekend.
As many as 89 yachts (220 participants) and 36 Waka Ama (145 paddlers) and more than 100 volunteers were involved, which meant the bay was full of vessels of all shapes and sizes.
It was well supported by the Wellington yachting and boating clubs, but it was the New Plymouth Yacht Club who had the second-largest representation behind the host club.
While the EBYMBC Yachting Regatta ran for the full weekend, the hero day of the weekend was the Saturday, when the Ngá Mata o Te Ariki, Táwhirimátea Marathon (Waka Ama event) and Matariki Classic (3-hour all-in yacht race) took place.
The Ngá Mata o Te Ariki, Táwhirimátea Marathon saw paddlers ranging in age from under 16 through to over 75 paddling. with the females outnumbering the males on the water.
Meanwhile the Matariki Classic saw the juniors in their Optimist, O’pen Skiffs, P-Class and Starling taking on the big kids in their ILCAs, Paper Tigers, trailer yachts and keelboats (the biggest being a Ross 40). The event involved participants completing a lap course with a time limit of three hours with line and handicap honours awarded.
"It truly was a fantastic sight to see on the start line and the intrigue from members of the public passing by was palpable," Evans Bay general manager Ryan Leatham said.
A full range of yachts on the start line for the Matariki Classic. Photo Glenn Syman. Main photo: Arrowhead Creative.
The Saturday finished with shared kai for all participants and volunteers, when the racing was deconstructed, new friendships developed and old friendships re-established.
"There was a wonderful feeling that reinforced the meaning of Matariki and I’m sure many will be back again next year," Leatham said.
Next year's event will mirror the Matariki weekend, which will be on July 14-16 in 2023.