It is a highlight in Darwin’s calendar, but the coronavirus pandemic has cast a cloud over this year’s Beer Can Regatta.
- Darwin’s Beer Can Regatta started in 1974 as an event to clean up cans littering the city’s streets
- The event usually attracts as many as 15,000 visitors, but numbers were down this year because of coronavirus
- The race was held at the Darwin Waterfront Precinct this year. In the past it’s been held at Mindil Beach
Today, the event went ahead but with a couple of vessels made of milk cartons rather than a flotilla made of beer cans.
The regatta began in June in 1974 as an event designed to clean up empty beer cans littering the city’s streets.
It has since attracted crowds of up to 15,000, but only hundreds were present for this year’s family-friendly event.
This year, instead of boats made of beer cans manned by heavy-drinking crews, the vessels were made from iced coffee and flavoured milk cartons.
Traditionally held at Mindil Beach, the regatta moved to the much smaller waterfront precinct due to coronavirus restrictions.
Organisers said they had been considering “cancelling the event altogether” because of COVID-19.
Darwin Lions Club organiser Connell Brannelly said the event was still a lot of fun for families and he was glad it could go ahead.
“We don’t have any major beer can boats coming down, but when we decided to put this on we decided to put it on with a beach event and that’s what it’s turned out to be,” Mr Brannelly said.
“The coronavirus restrictions have been lifted somewhat here.
“When we decided to run the mini event we had to think of a new location, and we have people from all over here, which is great.”
Milk carton boat builder Ollie Miller, 6, said it was nerve wracking sending his cardboard boat into the water.
“I thought it would be a bit heavy,” he said.
But all the boats survived their maiden voyage, and Annabelle Miller, 7, said it was a fun day.
“I just went swimming in the water, towing the boat around, looking for fish. It was exciting,” Annabelle said.
In the 1970s and 1980s the boat designs became increasingly elaborate, to the point where some even had outboard motors and thousands of beer cans were used.
But aluminium cans crush at higher speeds, so the use of outboard motors was phased out.
Over time the regatta became an iconic event, attracting visitors from around the globe, including competitors and spectators from the United States.