Mild weather, barmy activities at festival

Competitors race away at the start of the Golden Mile at the Queenstown Winter Festival on...
Competitors race away at the start of the Golden Mile at the Queenstown Winter Festival on Saturday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Thrills, spills, mid-winter swims, splashes, dashes, sprints, hilarity and organised chaos have been par for the course over the past two days, during the Queenstown Winter Festival.

Perfect weather conditions, with relatively mild temperatures, ensured thousands of people took in the festival action over the weekend, beginning on Saturday at Coronet Peak when mountain bike riders took to the snow.

After a mass start from the top of the Meadows Chairlift, chaos ensued as bikers raced down the mountain. Queenstown's Harriet Latchem took top honours in the women's category, Qunitin McCrostie won the men's title and Matt Lawton the junior section.

Meanwhile, in the CBD, some of the resort's fittest - and best dressed - athletes did two hot laps around the business area in the Golden Mile race.

One of the youngest entrants hit the deck in the mass start and lost a shoe, but was picked up by some of his fellow competitors and encouraged to continue, cheered on by the crowd.

Jordan de Spong won the men's section in a blistering 4min 41sec and Gemma Morgans won the women's category in 5min 49sec.

It was followed by the annual street parade, this year attracting 36 community and corporate floats. The '70s theme was evident in the majority of entries.

Queenstown Primary School won the community award and Real Journeys took top honours in the business category.

In other festival action on Saturday, the Maniototo rugby team beat the Wakatipu Wanderers 88-3 at the Queenstown Rec Ground, while the Southern Stampede ice hockey team beat the Dunedin Thunder 4-3, captain Bert Haines scoring the winning goal in overtime.

Another fine day greeted participants and onlookers at the popular Day on the Bay yesterday, beginning with jet sprints and ending with fast and physical laps of a course on Queenstown Bay during the Undy 500.

Six entries were received for the 2014 Birdman competition, including Clutha-Southland National candidate Todd Barclay, who launched his election campaign by leaping from a jetty on Queenstown Bay into Lake Wakatipu, but it was Niam Chronican's Shotover Jet entry, a crowd favourite, which was crowned the overall winner.

Back at Queenstown Bay the hardiest of souls stripped to their bare essentials to partake in the Splash and Dash and Undy 500.

Competitors complete an obstacle course, requiring them to hurdle hay bales and dive under barriers racing to the finish line, however, Splash and Dash entrants first had to swim out into Lake Wakatipu and around a buoy before, with chattering teeth and unco-operative limbs, they raced to the end.

For Queenstown's Daz Schwalger history repeated itself in the Undy 500, as he ''face planted'' about 2m from the finish line after coming from behind in the final.

Mr Schwalger got off to a flying start in his heat and looked to have victory sewn up, before his lightning pace caused him to get the speed wobbles and he fell on the gravel and was overtaken.

With two bloodied knees, Mr Schwalger lined up for the final, intending to ''sit back in the pocket'' and put his foot down on the home straight.

Unfortunately, he had not learned his lesson and again hit the gravel, resulting in a disappointing finish and a visit to the St John crew for attention.

Festival director Lisa Buckingham was ''very happy'' with the opening weekend of the 40th annual festival.

''It's fantastic to see so many happy people out there enjoying it,'' she said.


Noon: '70s Disco Workout, Earnslaw Park
7.30pm: Queenstown 2040: Where Will The Snow Be?, Queenstown Memorial Centre

Queenstown Winter WOD, Earnslaw Park
7pm: Comedy Night, Queenstown Memorial Centre.

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