Hopai Sports Day re­turns

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - SVEN HERSELMAN

Or­gan­is­ers of a fam­ily sports day in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds are hop­ing mother na­ture plays ball this week­end af­ter be­ing washed out last year.

The 97-year-old Hopai Sports at­tracts about 1000 peo­ple to Crail Bay, in the Pelorus Sound, and has only been can­celled by the weather once in the past three decades.

The day, which dou­bles as a big fam­ily pic­nic and sports day, of­fers tra­di­tional events such as sack races and tug-o-war to boat rac­ing, wood chop­ping and the Hopai He/She Man team race.

Or­gan­iser Mike Ger­ard, who now owns the land on which the event is held, says the for­mat has barely changed in 100 years.

‘‘We still have all the tra­di­tional games, and it’s about peo­ple giv­ing it go and hav­ing fun.’’ The an­nual event reg­u­larly at­tracts about 100 boats to the bay, along with plenty more peo­ple ar­riv­ing by wa­ter taxi.

The fam­ily pic­nic is the cen­tre of the day, around which there are var­i­ous sports to take part in or watch.

While the idea is to have a bit of fun, the day can be quite com­pet­i­tive, Mike says.

‘‘In all the races the win­ners get lo­cally made pot­tery cups, which are one­off and are quite col­lectable, so there is a bit of com­pe­ti­tion around it.

‘‘The kids races al­ways have large num­bers. You don’t have to be an ex­pert, ex­cept in the axe com­pe­ti­tions, so ev­ery­one can give it a go.’’

The wood chop­ping con­test was ex­pected to at­tract some top New Zealand axe-men, Mike says.

The Hopai He Man team re­lay event will be another high­light of the day where teams of men and women com­pete in a 200 me­tre swim and 1 kilo­me­tre run­ning race.

Fif­teen-time win­ner Billy Heb­berd was ex­pected to re­turn this year, Mike says.

Money raised from the day would go to Marl­bor­ough char­i­ties.

While every­thing is ready for the day, it was just the weather Mike was con­cerned about.

‘‘With the weather be­ing un­set­tled we are pretty ner­vous. Hope­fully the fore­cast for a good day will prove to be cor­rect.’’

The event can be post­poned to Sun­day, should it rain.

En­try on the day is $5 for adults and free for chil­dren aged 12 and un­der. For more in­for­ma­tion search ‘‘Hopai Sports’’ on Face­book.

The boys’ sack race at the 2015 Hopai Sports Day in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds.

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