Henley-on-Thames is the only boat race in the world held only when the river is dry, canceled when full of water. Every year on August 21 in Alice Springs, a large town in the center of the northern territory, a boat race is held on the Todd River. The boat race with a history of 59 years is called Henley on Todd, often described with words like “weird”, “unusual”. It is the only boat race in the world held on a shallow river, and is canceled when there is water in the river. The first time the race was canceled was in 1993 due to the floods, the second was in 2020 by Covid-19.
The racing boats have no bottoms, allowing “rowers” to reach down and run on the hot sand. In fact, these are just metal frames, made in the shape of yachts, or kayaks … Although they are fake boats, they are eye-catching decorated by people, even many are not different from “real products”.
Henley on Todd attracted hundreds of participants, running along the dry riverbed, among thousands cheering. The last event of the day is called the “Battle of Ships” – three cars decorated in the shape of a boat. Three teams on these vehicles will battle each other with water bombs and tornadoes. Tickets to the event are 17 USD for an adult, and nearly 38 USD if you go with the whole family. Proceeds from the event go to local charities and humanitarian projects. Over the years, this bizarre boat race has contributed $ 1 million to philanthropy.
This bizarre race started as a joke in 1962. At that time, an employee of the local Department of Meteorology and Hydrology suggested that there should be a boat race on the Todd River, based on the famous boating event. Henley Royal Regatta on the River Thames in England. Afterwards, everyone excitedly joined the rowing club in Alice Springs, then conceptualized the contest and made it a reality.
Alice Springs is located right next to the MacDonnell Range and a large sand desert. Therefore, this place is as arid as any near desert settlements of the country. Despite its seclusion, the town is a thriving community with a population of more than 25,000. This is quite a large number for such a remote town.
In theory, the town has a river called Todd, but dries up all year round. Rarely, the river has water. But once the river flows, it usually sweeps away everything. It only takes 15 minutes for the river to turn from dry to overflowing water, flooding parts of town. However, this only happens after heavy rains in the north – which also occurs rarely. Normally, the river is bare, making it an ideal place for homeless people to come to live with temporary tents. These are also the first people affected when the river is full of water.
Airlines like Qantas offer direct flights to Alice Springs from most major cities. Alternatively, you can catch Virgin Australia flights from Adelaide and Darwin.
The town is located between Darwin and Adelaide, and there are highways connecting the three destinations. So, visitors can choose to drive a long way to this place, while taking advantage of the sights of Australia on a 16-hour trip. The highway has lots of gas stations for you to refuel, other small towns as well as motels.
The event is scheduled to reopen on August 21, 2021.