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Sails set for Pacific endeavour

by Debra Douglas on 11 Apr 2010
Te Kumete O Te Mona Nui regatta for four Vaka. Chris Cameron © www.chriscameron.co.nz

A sight not seen for hundreds of years greeted boaties on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour on Sunday, when four traditional vaka sailed in an inner harbour regatta.

The skippers of the double-hulled, 13-tonne, 22m-long vaka were fine-tuning their vessels in readiness for a voyage across the Pacific. The fleet will sail from Auckland on Wednesday April 14th (weather permitting) to French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.

Discovery was the prime motivator when the last vaka fleets crossed the Pacific more than 1000 years ago. This year’s voyage is one of rediscovery; aimed at re-establishing cultural links through traditional voyaging and raising awareness of the key environmental issues threatening the Pacific Ocean. This includes pollution, ocean noise, habitat destruction, overfishing, acidification and de-oxidation and climate change.


At each Pacific destination a vaka will stay behind to continue training crew to use the vaka for cultural and educational purposes, encompassing enterprise, kinship, navigation and ocean conservation.

The four vaka, which took part in the Te Kumete O Te Moana Nui (The bowl of the Pacific) regatta and will undertake the ocean voyage are: Te Matua a Maui (New Zealand crew), Hine Moana (Western Samoa, Vanuatu, Tongan crew), Uto Ni Yalo (Fijian crew) and Maramaru Atua (Cook Islands crew). A fifth vaka, Faafaite, will join the voyagers at Tahiti.

Built at the Salthouse yard at Greenhithe, Auckland, the vessels carry up to16 crew and are based on a traditional Tahitian design. Modern boatbuilding techniques are combined with established craftsmanship. The hulls are constructed from E-glass and foam and lashed together with wooden beams and rope. Two of the vaka use a solar power system for an auxiliary propulsion system.


At the regatta’s opening ceremony a bowl (te kumete) was passed to the Fijian crew for safe keeping until the next regatta.

The fleet will be back in Auckland next year when seven vaka will undertake a longer Pacific voyage to Hawaii via French Polynesia. This voyage will also serve as a reminder that the Pacific Ocean is an invisible continent connecting the peoples of the Pacific and that their continent is at risk.

The regatta and Pacific voyages have been initiated and supported by Okeanos, a German philanthropic organisation committed to highlighting environmental issues affecting the world’s oceans.




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