Marlborough Sounds, Pelorus & Kenepuru Sound Pelorus Promotions

Hopai Sports

Please note that the Hopai Sports Day 2016 has now been canceled due to the rain!
We wish everyone a save and happy holiday.

The Marlborough Sounds has many hidden treasures, one of them being the Hopai Sports. Deep within the Pelorus Sound, Marlborough, you will find Hopai. Here the annual sports day has been held since about 1920.

Download the official Hopai Sports Poster 2016 in PDF format (235kB)

And follow the Hopai Sports Event on their facebook page.

This season the Hopai Sports Day will be held on January 2 2016. Please Note: In the unlikely event of cancellation, we will publish this here on this page - as early as possible on the day!

Hopai Sports Day boat racing

It's a old fashioned family day out for everyone to enjoy. The traditional method of transport to the sports is by boat. They arrive from all around the area, even holiday makers from Wellington & Nelson, staying on in the Marlborough Sounds, just so they can attend the sports before heading back home. Charter boats run from Havelock and the Kenepuru Sound, if required.

You are now also able to drive there, setting off from either Picton or Havelock, turn off at Linkwater, follow the Kenepuru Road until you get to the Nopera Bay Golf Course, just after that, turn right up the Crail Bay Road and follow the signs. The children from the school have painted signs that are put up just before the sports. “Follow your nose” is the message.

Bring along a picnic lunch, the swim suits, deck chairs, sunshade, suntan lotion and get ready to participate or just be a spectator. Just in case the weather changes, bring along some warm clothes as well. So, if joining in the races isn't what you want to do, just come along and cheer everyone else on.

There aren't any markets, and occasionally the committee will allow a stall holder to have a stall, if it fits the criteria of the “Spirit of Hopai”.

The Hopai committee run a small shop for the essential sweets, cold drinks & ice-creams. There is also a small bar, serving beer and some wine, to quench the thirst on a hot day. A sausage sizzle caters for those who didn't bring their lunch or just give in to the aroma of freshly cooked sausages.

A small entry fee is charge and the profits from the day are given away to local charities each year. Those who have benefited over the last few years are; St John Ambulance, Westpac Rescue Helicopters, Waitaria Bay School, Clova Bay Fire Party, Marlborough Community Hospice, Picton Emergency Trust, Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter, Waitaria Bay Community Library, & Marlborough Museum.

The Waitaria Bay School, the local school over in the Kenepuru Sound, now run a stall selling coffee, tea & cakes to help raise funds for the school.

Two big events on the day are the hotly contested Hopai He Man race, which is open to women, men & teams – comprising of a swim and a long hill run, and the Tug-of-war. Teams have come back repeatedly to defend their titles from the previous year, and sometimes years. Gumboot throwing is also popular, just watch which direction the boot goes when it's thrown – you might need to run!

Children's races include the tree-legged race, egg & spoon, sack races & running races. Grandmother & grandfather races never lack for entrants, neither do the married women & mens races. The children take great delight in cheering on their mums & dads, and grandparents.

The water events with the magnificent trophies to be won, are competed for with enthusiasm and the odd bit of “bending the rules”. There's nothing quite like hearing the throaty roar as the throttle goes down, the bow comes out of the water and they are off!! Boats of all shapes, sizes, and engine power compete in their different categories. A couple of years ago, jet-ski races were introduced, due to the demand of moving with the times. The other change that has happened slowly over the years is that the dinghy races, which always had many entrants in each section, have dwindled away, as now the dinghy's aren't made for rowing and the skill of rowing & sculling is just about a lost art.

There is the Cudden Cup for the open speedboat race, G.M. Cup – open to all diesel boats, Challenge Cup – Handicap speedboat race, Gary Orchard Trophy – open to all diesel boats (handicapped) and the Ben Hoskings Memorial Cup – adults rowing race, to name just a few of the trophies.

The Sports day owes a lot of its success to the small group of volunteers who run the sports, Johnson's Barge Service who transport all the supplies in, and their barge that acts as a 'wharf' for the day, plus St John Ambulance crew & ambulance are there every year, just in case they are required. And last, but not least, the landowners of the farm where the Sports are held, the Gerard family of Hopai.

Hopai Sports Day running

The History of Hopai Sports

Hopai Bay was originally known as Kopai and is found on the Eastern Shores of Crail Bay in the Pelorus Sound, Marlborough.

An annual sports day has been held here since about 1920. Due to the early records being lost it is unsure exactly when the sports started. Old newspaper clippings, and photographs have given a reasonable guess as to when they began.

It's a family day, bring a picnic and enjoy the fun; mothers, fathers, children, aunts ∓ uncles, grandparents and friends. In the early years, it was the time when local families could catch up with each other on all the gossip, see the new babies, and participate in the events. Some of these families wouldn't see other until the following year.

As families started taking in paying guests to supplement incomes from their farms, these people came along too. Nowadays, people who have their own holiday homes, or rent, or are on boats, all come along too. Others travel from Blenheim or Nelson, some have been coming for generations. But it is still a family day for everyone to enjoy. It used to be boat access only, now you can also drive, or come by float plane, or helicopter (permission required from land owners), as well as the traditional way by boat.

Boat racing, rowing, chopping, races for children and adults; running, relay, egg and spoon, sack races, grandmother, grandfather races being some of them. There used to be nail driving competitions, and a Miss Hopai. The Hopai He-man was introduced, and now we have jet-ski races as well.

One of New Zealand's leading axeman, Geoff Hocquard was a regular competitor in the chopping, who went on to become the Double World Champion in 1969 at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. He was captain of the World Team in 1970 and again in 1974 when the World Team defended the title against the Rest of the World Team, the World Team won. His son, and grandson have also followed in his footsteps.

Many local family names have been close links with the sports; Harris, Redwood, Harvey, Godsiff, Robb, Roach, Foote, Fell, Shand, King-Turner, Black, Orchard, Haliday, Rogers, to name only a few. You will still find these names as competitors or committee, bu now we find that new-comers to the Sounds are helping run the sports too, it's a great way to get involved in the community and help keep the tradition of the Hopai Sports Day alive.


Compiled by Ann Bigley-Scott
Reference: "Kopai – Hopai" by Kristen Gerard.

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