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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

The Canoe Races

The Canoe Races.

The Southern Cross thus describes the canoe races:—"The tenth and eleventh matches proved to be the most attractive and prominent of the day. These were the native races and were intended to have been contested the first by canoes manned by twelve Maori only; the second by canoes containing an unlimited crew. Such, however, was the eager excitement of the native competitors, and so anxious were they to exhibit their prowess, that it was found impossible to carry out such a plan. They were, therefore, all permitted to come to the scratch at once, and a page 33 more animated scene it would be difficult to conceive, much less to depict. It was at once wild and imposing, presenting a picture of native energy and enterprise both laudable and ludicrous. Seven canoes having taken up their stations, off they bounded amidst the smoke of the signal gun and the shouts of their chiefs, tearing the water with their paddles, labouring with might and main to attain the goal. There were no sluggards in these long snake-like vessels, the fuglemen, who by extravagant gestures and vociferous tones animate the pullers, having probably fully as arduous and as exhausting duties to perform as those whose part it is to propel the rushing boat. These painted, feather-decked, half-naked gondoliers, giving free and unfettered vent to their desires, exhibiting animal passion in all their might and majesty of manly exertion, were indeed objects of no ordinary consideration, and it is little wonder that they should have contributed so largely to the successful issue of our Auckland Regatta. The course they had to follow was the same as that which had been traversed by the whaleboats, but the distance was performed in 25 minutes by the victorious canoe, or in 12 minutes less than the whining whaleboat. The prize was awarded not to the canoe which came in first, but to that under the direction of Kawau's son Reuiti, it being the only one that had rounded the buoy, tor the most of the competitors were prone to 'the ways that are dark, and the tricks that are vain.' A subsequent race was won by a canoe called the Mokewitiwiti, guided by the chief Arapui. There were four canoes started, and so closely was this magnificent race contested that the competitors might have been covered with blanket, through its entire course."

The same journal in its editorial on the tenth anniversary says:—"With this morning's dawn we hail the return of the day on which 'the shadow of the land' was conceded to the Sovereign of the Isles." From that day out the anniversary of the colony (the 29th January) has been commemorated by a regatta.