Royal Australian Navy sailors from both South Australia and the Northern Territory reinvigorated a long-standing tradition when they converged on Alice Springs to take part in the only dry river-bed regatta in the world.
CAPTION: Leanne Caban (centre) with the captain, Stephen Smith, and crew of HMAS Courage after participating in the Battle of the Boats at the Henley on Todd Regatta in Alice Springs. Story by Leading Seaman Jonathan Rendell. Photo by Leading Seaman Shane Cameron.
Sailors from HMAS Coonawarra and musicians from Royal Australian Navy Band South Australia took part in the recent Henley on Todd Regatta and, while in town, represented Navy at a Vietnam Veterans’ Day Memorial and spent the day with students at the local Yirara College.
The Navy Community Engagement Program Coordinator for the Northern Territory, Chief Petty Officer Tony Thomas, spoke about the importance of taking Navy to the community.
“Most of what we do in the Navy is at sea and over the horizon,” Chief Petty Officer Thomas said.
“Engaging with the community, particularly away from coastal towns and cities, is an excellent way to raise awareness of Navy lifestyle and its fantastic career opportunities.”
The Henley on Todd Regatta is conducted by the Rotary clubs of Alice Springs and has been held in the dry bed of the Todd River for 60 years.
Navy has been supporting the event since 2010, and Navy’s HMAS Courage won the famous battle-boat spectacular in 2019, before a two-year cessation of the event due to COVID-19.
The spectacular is the regatta grand finale, a naval-themed battle where vessels armed with water cannons and flour bombs engage each other for the grand prize.
“Returning to Alice Springs this year allowed us to continue to strengthen our relationship with the community and also defend our title,” Chief Petty Officer Thomas said.
The drum corps from Royal Australian Navy Band South Australia kicked off the day, marching boats and competitors through the centre of town and down to the Todd River.
The engagement program sailors followed in their ‘BYO boat’, with HMAS Courage and the other battle boats in tow.
The sailors then took part in boat races and events as part of the regatta, and the band performed pop and rock covers for the crowds.
All members joined the HMAS Courage crew for the spectacular where, despite a valiant effort, the Pirates bested the Navy team.
CAPTION: HMAS Courage and the Viking boat compete for the title of champion during the Battle of the Boats at the Henley on Todd regatta, Alice Springs, NT.
Commodore of the Henley on Todd Regatta Peter Mostran said Navy’s part in the event had become a tradition.
“They absolutely add to the atmosphere with the band and the event participation, and having Navy in a dry river really puts it together,” Mr Mostran said.
He also acknowledged the strong relationship with HMAS Arunta (II), the Navy frigate named after the Arunta people.
Arunta’s crew most recently visited Alice Springs for Anzac Day this year.