Tragic centennial yacht race begins

23 January 1951

Start of the Wellington to Lyttelton yacht race (Alexander Turnbull Library, 114/255/06-G)

Twenty yachts left Wellington for Lyttelton in a race to celebrate Canterbury’s centenary. A race in the opposite direction in 1940 had marked the capital’s centenary. It was expected that the fastest yachts would complete the journey in 1½ days, the slowest in five.

After a severe southerly storm struck the fleet on the 24th, most vessels withdrew from the race or were disqualified for using their engines. Only Tawhiri officially finished the race, arriving in Lyttelton on the 26th. The Husky and Argo were lost, along with their 10 crew members. Read more