Thu, Mar 9, 2023 7:00 AM

Rotoiti Powerboat Club celebrating centenary at local regatta


Staff reporter

If you like fast boats and loud noise, then Lake Rotoiti is the place to be this weekend.

The Rotoiti Powerboat Club 100-year regatta, to be held on Saturday March 11 and Sunday March 12, showcasing and celebrating 100 years of powerboating, organisers promise an action-packed line-up from some of the country’s best performers.

Back in the day, rowing was the vital method of transport for families living at the lake.

Whether it be hunting, fishing, duck shooting, impromptu races to the head of the lake - or unofficial whiskey running - families would often congregate and Rotoiti became the annual meeting place for Top of the South residents.

New Years Day at the lake was a true get together for many.

The first ‘Rotoiti Cup’ was made by Jock Ingram and presented to the syndicate.

Forming in 1923, the Rotoiti Powerboat Club held its first race at the lake in 1926. The marathon run to the top of the lake and back, took the winner five hours to complete.

In the early days, many outboards were small 4HP motors, but in 1949 things stepped up a notch when one competitor by the name of Jim Wrenn bought in a game-changing 14HP Evinrude.

Gordon and Bob Heatherbell set about building the first of a new generation of runabouts, and in 1952 they created ‘Mistral’ complete with a 25HP Johnson.

The race was on, so to speak, with competitors installing bigger, larger and faster motors to get the job done.

Described as ‘an event for people that love loud noises’ President of the Rotoiti Powerboat Club, Chris Du Feu says there will be plenty to celebrate at the centennial event.

The beautiful ‘Miss Rotoiti’ NEN Crackerbox was raced by Verg Adam and subsequently sunk during the race. She was resurfaced ten years later, fitted with a heavier bottom and lived to race another day! The Mercury V8 was as good as the day she sank. Photo: Supplied.

A festival of the celebration of 100 years of racing, there is an opportunity to witness the fastest plane of its kind with a lunchtime WW2 Yak 3 flyover, a classic boat display, the opportunity to ride in a two-seater F1 powerboat, along with very special limited edition 100-year anniversary t-shirts available for purchase.

The club will also be raffling two special Limited Edition Grey/Gold versions at the event.

A total of 54 races will be held over the two days and Chris promises outstanding entries across the classes, who will all be contesting club championships.

“Lake Rotoiti is undoubtedly the best spot in the country to race, and it is right on our back doorstep.

"It is awesome viewing for the spectators, and we are very fortunate to be able to hold the event there."

The club will play host to the final of the Hydro Thunder GP Hydroplane series, the NZ Formula 1 series final, Matt Morrison Memorial Trophy as well as the Junior series.

A line-up of classes from youth to veterans include the Grand Prix final, Grand National South Island Championships, ProCom, Formula 3, Pro Stock 90, Mod VP, H2000, Formula V and Clubmans.

Locals including Wayne Wells will be contesting the Grand National South Island Championship title, Lee Merrion and Jason Stewart will be pushing hard for the Railway Cup, William Stilwell and Callum Burns will be competing in the Junior Challenge.

Callum’s brother, Tate Burns will also be running in the Duffy Cup for the Clubman class.

Chris will be facing off with long-time competitor, Julian Stilwell for the NZ Formula 1 title. Julian and Chris are currently sitting in first and second place for the championship.

“The club would like to acknowledge the great support we receive for the event from both Nelson Tasman and Marlborough regions.

"I want to thank all the volunteers and safety staff who help to make it possible. We would also like to acknowledge the relationship we have with our sponsors.

"We can’t thank Steve Eggers from Lift N Shift enough. He is a major sponsor and is bloody amazing. The event is a full community collaboration.

"The Kea club provide hot food and drinks, with all of their proceeds being the schools main fundraiser event. We work alongside DOC, local Iwi, Tasman District Council and the Harbour Master to coordinate the event and the Richmond Football Club help to sort the gate sales. We are looking forward to celebrating 100 years of racing with the public on the day.”

A lot of hard work goes into organising the annual show with planning beginning soon after each national final.

No dogs or drones are allowed in the National Park and organisers ask the public to please respect the rules.

Racing kicks off at 10am on both days.

Tickets are $15 per person and under 12’s are free.

“We invite everyone to come and make a day of it! If you don't feel like packing a picnic, support local and grab something to eat from the Kea Club food stall that is run by the Rotoiti School.”

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