Amanda had her heart set on seeing Henley on Todd, a days regatta of fun and hilarity, but all for a good cause to raise money to end Trachoma in Australia, through the Fred Hollows Foundation. In its history the regatta has only been cancelled a few times when the river is actually flowing! The Todd river runs through the heart of Alice Springs but for most of the time the river runs approximately one metre below the sands surface. If you dig down with your hands you don’t have to go far before it gets damp.
The commentators occupied an aptly named paddleboat to one end called the Pistill Dawn, and appropriate signage along the embankment indicated No Fishing and Swimming was prohibited due to shark infested waters.
The kids spotted a slippery pole at one end of the arena and dashed up with friends to battle it out above the freezing water.
The boat races are therefore all across sand rather than water and a plethora of events takes place as the day unfolds. From one person Kayak races to 8 person “Maxi” events, each event progressed with barely time to catch a breath. The boat races were interspersed with sand shovelling contests, a bit gruelling in the hot midday sun, then a surf rescue event where “lifesavers” paddle a surf ski (trolley on rails) through the sand to rescue someone the other end, when two people back on shore wind them back to safety. There were sand ski events, a bit like a three-legged race but 4 people on two skis marching up a course around the marker and back. Of course the turn was the challenge and many a team bundled over at this point. Whilst most of the races involved carrying the shell of a boat in one form or another the Oxford Tubs event looked much harder as two men teams paddled their boats along rails in the sand. There was also the boogie board tow event, sprints, lolly scrambles for the kids, the tug of war, a crowd favourite the budgie smuggler race and the Tour de Todd, where participants race one another inside giant hamster wheels. Oscar tried the latter and drew a collective gasp from the audience when his all fours approach back-fired and he was catapulted into the air landing on his back. Fighting back tears he jumped in and completed the course.
The lolly scramble was better for the kids, with each of them collecting a hatful from the arena floor. Hannah even entered the sprints, but missed her age-group heat and ended up competing against kids much older and bigger than her.
Amongst all the goings on three teams of Pirates, Navy, and a band of Vikings clad in fur tunics and horned helmets maintained a healthy rivalry in events, sabotaging one another’s teams when the opportunity arose. The Vikings mingled with the crowd wreaking havoc there too.
The day culminated with the famous Boat Battle Spectacular, where 4WD boats belonging to the three teams entered the arena for a massive water and flour bomb battle. As the boats sped around the arena, firework bombs discharged debris into the crowd and filled the arena with thick, coloured smoke. The Vikings accidentally set their boat alight and had to spend a few minutes hosing it down.
A fun day, and all for a very worthy cause.