Queenstown boat race starts at pub

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The Wakatipu Yacht Club is throwing history overboard for its most well-known annual race – because a pub’s shut down.

The long-running Donald Hay race has traditionally gone from Kingston to Queenstown Bay, following the route taken by an early explorer of the same name.

The owner of the Kingston Flyer, however, has not only shut down his train but also the associated pub, which has always hosted the pre-race gathering the night before.

As a result, the yacht club has decided that for the first time it will hold Saturday’s Donald Hay race from Glenorchy to Queenstown.

“I couldn’t have 26 boats full of people with no pub,” race organiser John Stalker says. 

Stalker says the other Kingston pub/cafe, by the main highway, is too far from moorings and closes too early for the pre-race gathering.

“We looked at the option of doing a marquee and bar at Kingston but the council is so restrictive with resource consents and things it was just going to cost a lot of money we can’t afford,” Stalker says. 

“It’s a bit of a shame we can’t do Kingston but over the last few years we’ve had a couple of races where we’ve only raced in and near Queenstown Bay.

“We thought we’d just give Glenorchy a go – I know it doesn’t follow the route taken by Donald Hay but then we don’t do it in the middle of winter either, and he took three days.”

Stalker says the club has a popular race to Glenorchy every November – “and the Glenorchy Hotel has always been quite receptive to having us there”.

Glenorchy is eight kilometres further from Queenstown than Kingston, but yachts could well be helped by a prevailing westerly or southwesterly.

“We’ve had some pretty quick races back from there – Hamish Jackson and I got back in just under three hours in his yacht in November,” Stalker says.

“Also, a lot of people haven’t sailed to Glenorchy, particularly out-of-town people,” he says, adding he’s non-committal on whether the new course will be a one-off.

“We’ll see how it goes, we might mix it up – we can do anything we like, it’s a big lake.” 

As in recent years, some 26 to 28 entries are expected, Stalker says. 

The weekend starts with an optional race to Glenorchy tomorrow from the yacht club’s Kelvin Peninsula base, starting about 9.30am.

The Donald Hay race sets off from Glenorchy at about 10am on Saturday.

The first boats at Kelvin Peninsula should take three to four hours, Stalker says.