Spain has the Tomatina, Britain has cheese-rolling and Texas has rodeo. Step forward Australia, with Darwin’s annual Beer Can Regatta…
With a name like that, it’s not clear what to expect. Some cans, naturally. Probably some beer. But the regatta part? How do those first two words combine to make a ship?
And so it was one sunny afternoon – the sort where the sun’s strength scorches you like an ant beneath a cosmic magnifying glass –that I found myself on Mindil Beach, part of Australia’s gloriously named Top End.
Mindil, a sandy beach on the edge of Darwin, hosts the Beer Can Regatta each year and has done since 1974. What began as a good time for the lads with beer, cans, and wet T-shirt competitions has matured into an all-out family affair. Today you’ll find sandcastle contests, soul singers, hand-made butterflies and scented soap for sale.
Plus thong-throwing competitions, but more about those later.
Primarily, of course, you’ll find boats. And they’re essentially made from beer cans.
– “Cans must provide at least 90% of your flotation. Anything can be used to stick them together. The outer hull must be made of cans and at least two thirds of them have to be uncovered and visible.”
“Thou shalt build thy craft of cans – which must be drink cans, open, emptied and in more or less their original state. Any attempts to enter a submarine (i.e. a craft made of full cans) will result in confiscation and disposal by the Committee.”
There then follows a few safety tips and tricks about tow ropes, life jackets and obeying the rules before we reach point eight:
“Swearing, threats, stamping of feet and floods of tears will have NO effect on committee decisions…Bribes of strong drink will be accepted but will also have NO effect on decisions.”
“Thou Shalt Not Committee Adultery – Nothing really to do with the Regatta, but it gives us an air of responsibility and respect.”
“Thou Shalt Go Back And Read The First Canmandment Again.”
Which goes on to say, in true Australian fashion: “Thou shalt enter in the right spirit – to have a bloody great time.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the Darwin Beer Can Regatta (and a thong throwing video.)
Disclosure: I travelled to Darwin with assistance from Tourism NT. This in no way influenced my performance at the Beer Can Regatta. Heck, I wasn’t even allowed to enter!
Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on www.insidethetravellab.com