Wai­heke beach race grows legs

Herald on Sunday - - NEWS - By Pamela Wade

It’s a sight you’ll see nowhere else: a race around a cir­cuit that’s half sandy beach, half blue sea, hard-fought with a put­ter and then a roar by more than 60 am­phibi­ous boats.

They are Sealegs, the prod­uct of Kiwi in­ge­nu­ity, in­vented and man­u­fac­tured in Auck­land.

Al­though they are ex­ported to 55 coun­tries around the world, their great­est con­cen­tra­tion is on Wai­heke Is­land, used year-round to drive from bach to beach and into the wa­ter for a spot of fish­ing.

On one day a year, though, the Sealegs ca­ma­raderie be­comes se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion in the One­tangi Beach Races. Be­ing held next Sun­day, Fe­bru­ary 11 — the date dic­tated by the tim­ing of low tide on One­tangi’s 2km of wide, sandy beach — the Sealegs race is, for many, the high­light pro­gramme.

From a line scraped across the wet sand, teams run to their boats, fire up the en­gines and trun­dle im­pa­tiently along the beach. Then they head into the wa­ter, re­tract the wheels and trans­form in­stantly into rac­ing craft, wa­ter plum­ing up be­hind them as they skim around the buoys and back to shore. Wheels down, en­gines up and they’re back into trun­dle mode again to reach the fin­ish-line first to claim the hon­ours.

It’s an event the orig­i­na­tors of this an­nual, and free, fam­ily day out could never have fore­seen back in the 1890s. of the day’s Or­gan­ised now by Wai­heke Ro­tary Club as a fundraiser for lo­cal com­mu­nity groups and char­i­ties, the prof­its this year will pur­chase such di­verse needs as dic­tio­nar­ies and de­fib­ril­la­tors.

But for the thou­sands of lo­cals and day-trip­pers who flock to One­tangi, it’s all about the clas­sic plea­sures of a day at the beach, sup­ple­mented by the fun of the races and com­pe­ti­tions.

The Sealegs race is the great­est nov­elty, but there are the classics, too: horses power along the beach, and cute, hairy ponies in minia­ture rac­ing sulkies are driven by chil­dren in slower but equally fiercely fought races. Seg­ways skim silently along;

and lov­ingly-main­tained old trac­tors give the im­pres­sion of speed as they lum­ber down the beach, driv­ers bent over to lessen wind re­sis­tance.

There are run­ning and wheel­bar­row races for the kids, and some in­tense ri­valry be­tween the is­land’s po­lice, am­bu­lance, coast­guard and fire crews in their ob­sta­cle race.

Be­tween races, spec­ta­tors can go for a dip and fuel up at the food trucks stalls or restau­rants. There are sand­cas­tle and sculp­ture com­pe­ti­tions, a Big Dig for the kids, and Fash­ion in the Field con­tests for all.

A Silent Auc­tion for $14,000 worth of do­nated goods runs through­out the day and in­cludes ac­com­mo­da­tion, restau­rant meals, wine and a fish­ing trip — not, though, in a Sealegs.

Sealegs com­pete on land and sea, in Wai­heke Is­land’s race day. one­tan­gibeachraces.co.nz Horses pro­vide more tra­di­tional con­tests at the One­tangi Beach races.

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