Touques, touques and more touques!

Photo Laurent Guiader

Photo Laurent Guiader

Nouméa saw its biggest Touques Regatta yet yesterday, to the tune of some 10,000 spectators, as estimated by the city. What, you ask, are touques? Well, in New Caledonia, they appear to be handmade, engine-less  water vessels that can be made of next to anything, powered only by wind, cycling, paddling and rowing (and any other power you can find without an engine). Some 34 teams came together yesterday to race their homemade vessels for an hour at Anse Vata and the best part? The fun, the team spirit, the laughter and the smiling crowds!

You have to see it to believe it. How can 786 empty water bottles, collected over a year’s time, and wrapped together by 8 metres of scotch tape support a team of 8 people? And not only carry a team, but carry them into 3rd place? Ingenuity, good ole muscle grease and good  humour seemed to be the not-so-secret secrets of the day.

Photo JH

Photo JH

The winning team (Sports Action – we called them the Seahorse team, because of their mascot) had never entered before and were off with a fantastic lead, thanks to their 2 sails. Hoping just not to come last, Sports Action surprised even themselves. Though the wind (and their sails) played heavily in their favour, the return with the wind against them proved an unexpected  challenge for the 12 youth racing the vessel – combined with a central rudder that was just a bit too long (and got stuck in the sand). They say they’ll work on their concept for next year …

Imagine if you can a team of no more than 12, rowing, cycling (yes a bike was mounted on the winning float), paddling, and even kicking behind (only 2 are allowed to do this per float). Imagine the vessels bumping into each other (it being very hard to steer these things …), getting stuck on each other, victim to human power (or lack thereof), wind and sun. Such a spectacle to watch!

Apparently, it’s a fantastic team-building exercise and spans ages and cultures. Of the 34 teams, the electricity company, the post office, the mayor’s office, the prison administration officials, the military, schools, sports associations, the weather reporters – well, everybody and anybody can create a team and a touque (and they did this year!). The young and the old, the Caledoniens, the “metros”, the Melanesians, everybody was involved. Given that the teams had to work together to finish (many having started months in advance to build their vessels) and confront the odds, they did – and the smiles on their faces, having completed the race were wonderful. I wonder what they’re dreaming up for next year …

Photo Laurent Guiader

Photo Laurent Guiader

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