They’re racing from tomorrow in the premier division of the ANZ Auckland-Port Denarau yacht race. The first boat to Denarau wins the President’s Cup.
It’s a trophy with quite a history.
Around 1992 over a drink or two, the odd remark was made by various New Zealand yachting personalities on how it would be great to have a real Yacht Racing Series in Fiji, similar to the famous Kenwood Cup in Hawaii.
A year or so later Don Galbraith, Jim Davern, Jack Hargraves and Dick Smith were at it again. Later on Jim Davern, entertaining Andrew Thomson on his power boat in Auckland raised the subject again.
Andrew, who had been associated with the Regent Hotels, particularly the Regent of Fiji, was familiar with what was needed. Time passed and Andrew came back on his old patch at Denarau, but running the Denarau development with what was planned with a Marina, and thought that this was the chance to have a facility to host an international yacht racing event.
It was felt that to host this properly; it needed a marina and other yachting facilities in the area.
The Musket Cove Marina was developing, Neisau Marina in Lautoka was now open and Vuda was well underway. The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron was showing interest in holding an event in Fiji.
In August of 1996, Martin Daverniza, of Tabua Investment, the developer of Denarau Island, asked Dick Smith to come and see him to discuss what they could do to develop a greater Yachting presence at Port Denarau.
Dick told him about the idea of a serious Yacht Racing Series to be held in the area, hosted or based at Port Denarau and he was very supportive. In fact, much of the funding for the President’s Cup events was provided by Martin either by way of cash or the provision of facilities.
Later in the year Dick received a call from Joe Tuamotu, then the Fiji Visitors Bureau Manager in Australia, who had been asked to see what he could do to establish a greater yachting interest in Fiji out of Australia.
As Dick was in Sydney at the time he went to see Joe to find out what he had in mind; it was simply, “how do we get more Australian yachts to visit Fiji?”.
Dick reminded him that to sail to Fiji from Australia is difficult as you need to sail to windward most of the time, a slow and uncomfortable way to travel. The old CYCA and middle harbour races from Sydney to Suva have been abandoned due to lack of interest from yachtsmen.
Dick told Joe that the RNZYS was keen to help run a serious yacht racing series in Fiji and if Fiji could do it properly it would be an ideal opportunity to have the Aussies and the Kiwis around the buoys in neutral territory. Joe thought it sounded good but needed to approach the FVB over funding etc.
Joe called a meeting in Sydney with Dick and several other yachting people in order to fully discuss the mater They all met at Joe’s office a week later and it was agreed to go for a fully flagged Yacht Racing Series in Fiji, hopefully held off Port Denarau and to the FVB to help fund and oversee the event.
On Dick’s return to Fiji he spent many hours with Bill Whiting to establish the Rules.
It was decided to go for the real event; the purpose was to help develop Fiji’s Tourism image with the international yachting community and at the Tourism Forum of 1996 the Tourism Minister, David Pickering, announced the project and appointed Dick the Chairman of the Organising Committee.
It was all on a short time later. Dick organised a meeting of yachting people at the FVB Board Room.
Eventually a Committee made up of the Royal Suva Yacht Club, Vuda Point Marina, Port Denarau Yacht Club, Musket Cove Yacht Club and Lautoka, the FVB and Fiji Yachting Association was established to develop and oversee the event.
It was agreed that a serious Yachting Series be run off Port Denarau over a period of 6 days and the Committee confirmed previous discussions with the RNZYS for them to put a team together to run the racing.
A time in July was agreed upon so as to coincide with the arrival in Fiji of the Europa Fleet of yachts racing around the World. The Committee also hoped that the yachts participating in the Royal Akarana Yacht Club race expected to go to Suva in May would be around until July.
As it happened, the RAYC had been wooed away from Suva to race to Port Denarau. They were coming later in the year than they usually did, so the dates worked out perfectly and gave a feeder race from New Zealand.
It was essential to have the series named, and it was agreed to seek permission from the President of Fiji, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara to call it the President’s Cup. FVB approached the President with the idea and he approved and the President’s Cup was born.
Now the task was to find a suitable Trophy. This turned out to be a soul searching exercise and Dick Smith eventually contacted Robi Wilcock with the idea of using a model of a “Drua” on a mount of some sort.
Between Robi and Dick they came up with a design which the Committee approved. Having it made was not that easy and Dick started the search mainly through New Zealand and Australia as the plan was to have the Drua made of metal about 300mm in length and gold or silver plated.
Several months went by and they were getting nowhere. One day while driving to Suva, Dick called in to see Albi Stuetzle at Fine Art Pewterfoundry & Engravings and told him of the dilemma to which he said “I CAN DO THAT”.
A few days later the price was agreed and the deal was done. Albi produced a trophy to a standard better than anyone had expected.
While at the Pewterfoundary the making of Bulkhead Plaques Dick discussed and Trophies for each division. Albi ended up making all the major trophies which were his standard Pewter Plate with the Bulkhead Plaque fastened in the middle and plated in Gold, Silver, Bronze for first, second and third places.
So the first President’s Cup Regatta was held at Port Denarau and was a great success, both from the racing point of view and from the worldwide publicity it generated.
Fiji tourism benefited greatly and the race became a fixture on the local and New Zealand racing calendar.
Each President’s Cup event has been bigger and more exciting than the previous one but the Auckland-Port Denarau race starting tomorrow will certainly lift the bar even higher.
Fiji Sun – JOHN ROSS