Queenstown’s lake front was a scene of carnival and carnage as near-nude men and women fell over one another, rafts lost their crew and a giant orange birdman flung himself into a freezing lake.
Cheers erupted from the huge crowd watching “Day on the Bay” action at the Queenstown Winter Festival on Saturday. Competitors braved chilly temperatures and cold water to compete in events, which included racing through an obstacle course in underwear, a raft race, jet sprints and a “birdman” jump off a platform in costume.
Despite the appearance of light-hearted fun, the competition was fierce in all events.
Southern student Georgia Holt, 20, of Winton, pushed past other other half naked women to cross the Undy 500 finish line first.
“There are a few cuts and bruises. I was frigging nervous. The water was the most challenging because it was so cold. Other than that, the course was good.”
She entered the event “for the prize money” which she said would probably be spent on the town later in the evening.
The raft racing was just as dramatic with last-placegetters Dart River Adventures losing most of their crew overboard in the initial flurry off the start line.
Dart River Adventures business manager Harald Ulriksen said their raft, which they built on Friday night, was only designed for two people so overloading contributed to their loss.
“We enjoy the cold water so that’s why we went for a bit of a swim. Dart River is nice and cold. We are used to the rivers not lakes…The raft was designed for two people and we used a very slippery service just to make it a little bit harder for ourselves and we certainly did that. We put on a bit of a show for the people of Queenstown.”
Raft race winners Go Orange was made up of rafting and kayaking guides from Queenstown and Darryn Hawes said a good team spirit gave them the advantage, not their professions.
Their six-barrel raft was “solid as” and the front cones on the front helped break the water and gave them an edge.
“[The cones] gave us speed.”
Earlier in the day, action was on the mountain with the Macpac Mountain Bikes on Snow event.
Spokeswoman Simone Flight said the event was held under stunning sunny blue skies at the Remarkables Ski Area.
“Forty seven women and 18 women lined up to compete on the packed-snow covered course. The deceivingly rolling course saw competitors pick up serious speed on the packed snow by the time they reached the home straight.”
Natalie Jakobs and Kathy Morris, both from Queenstown, came first equal in the women’s category and Amy Freedman, of Queenstown and Melissa Newell, of Wanaka, placed third.
In the men’s event, Queenstown Mountain Bike Club president and stalwart of the mountain biking community Jimmy Carling took first place. David Perez Nomi, of Queenstown, came second and Tim Hall, of Queenstown, came third.