October 27 - November 2, 2019: Issue 426


Davistown Putt Putt Regatta and Wooden Boat Festival 2019: 20th Year Anniversary

On Sunday October 20th Michael Mannington (Community Photography and Pittwater Online News) attended the 20 Year Anniversary of the Davistown Putt Putt Regatta and Wooden Boat Festival.

The genesis of the Regatta was the social and competitive gathering of “Putt Putts”, as they are now known, by the early builders, residents and boating enthusiasts of the district. Regattas were often held at Davistown in the early 1900’s. Challenges between boat owners/builders were designed to determine who had the fastest putt-putt, or who could row the quickest. Pittwater residents were competitors in these early Central Coast Regattas, while our Offshore Community STILL holds an annual Putt Putt Regatta around or just after the Australia Day celebrations annually.

Reintroduced as an annual event via a quorum of enthusiasts in 1996/1997, the Regatta is now one of the principal events on the Gosford calendar, with many travelling from here to reconnect with their Central Coast friends. 

The event underlines one of the many connections between Pittwater and the Central Coast, which have been going on since Indigenous people paddled across Broken Bay and continued by the Europeans who first settled here.

The Davistown Putt Putt Regatta and Wooden Boat Festival is not only a great event but also an opportunity for the people to celebrate the Central Coast, Australia and the culture that is a part of our history, heritage and local character.

It was out of the respect and knowledge of the enthusiasts – otherwise known as the “Black Hands” who formed the heart of the annual event, that the charter of the Davistown Putt Putt Regatta & Wooden Boat Festival is drawn.

“To promote an annual event to showcase Putt Putt engineering and timber boat skills in a family friendly, free to the public Festival, promoting and drawing on the camaraderie among Putt Putt enthusiasts and timber boat owners generally.”

In addition, the aims of the Wooden Boat Association – 

“To promote an active interest in all matters relating to the history, development, building, restoration and preservation of Wooden Boats” has been adopted.

While the heart of the charter is to display and promote the wooden boat community, this is a family focussed day where the local community and visitors have an enjoyable day in a safe and family friendly environment.

Along with the water focussed activities there are on-shore entertainment, displays and activities to appeal to all ages.

Remarkable and brilliant models on display last weekend - made by Bob Hornby, pictured above

The Regatta has the reputation of being the largest event of its kind on the eastern seaboard.

Many putt-putt boats are still in use on Brisbane Water today. In the Davistown area over 30 of the classics can be seen on their moorings.

Putt-putt boats usually range in length from 14-18 feet and are powered by either single or twin cylinder 2 to 10 hp Blaxland/Chapman, Simplex or Clay inboard petrol driven engines all of which make the very familiar putt-putt exhaust sound. Boats today will also often be powered by small one or 2 cylinder diesel engines.

Reintroduced as an annual event via a quorum of enthusiasts in 1996/1997, the Regatta is now one of the principal events on the Gosford City calendar.

The Davistown Putt Putt Regatta & Wooden Boat Festival attracts a huge amount of quality putt putts travelling from as far as Queensland and the ACT. The 10th Anniversary event in 2007 attracted a field of over 100 Putt Putts.

In 2010, the original date chosen for the regatta had to be abandoned due to extremely heavy rain. At very short notice, the event was moved to the following weekend and attracted a large turnout of boats as well as stallholders and spectators. Estimates of spectator numbers were in the vicinity of 8,000 over the course of the day.

In 2011, the committee decided to change the format to a biannual event as the numbers on the committee had dropped to a level that made it difficult to successfully undertake the event annually. Later in the year, the committee met with the Lions Club of Green Point Avoca Inc., with whom they had had some involvement in previous years and asked the Lions Club to formally take over the running of the Davistown Putt Putt Regatta & Wooden Boat Festival Inc.

As a result of this, the Lions Club very successfully presented the Davistown Putt Putt Regatta & Wooden Boat Festival from 2012 – 2017. Over this time average crowds have been estimated by Police and Tourism authorities to be in excess of 10,000 over the course of the day, with 2015 being approximately 12,000. The weather in 2016 militated against the usual large crowds, with gale force winds keeping some people at home. Notwithstanding, crowds were estimated to be around 8,000 and those who attended enjoyed the day. The 2017 Regatta was run in fine weather and again attracted crowds in excess of 10,000.

The Lions Club of Green Point Avoca have made a decision to discontinue their management of the Regatta and a new committee of Putt Putt enthusiasts was formed to provide the continuity of this iconic Central Coast event.

Regrettably the committee had to make the heart breaking decision to cancel the 2018 event on the morning of the Regatta due to an extremely heavy rainfall in the early hours of Sunday morning which rendered the Davistown foreshore unusable. 

The 2019 Regatta was the 20th Anniversary of the event. Some of what attendees saw runs below.

Photos by Michael Mannington, Volunteer Photography