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Territorian beer can boat race sets sail

 

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Northern Territorians have taken to crocodile-infested waters on a fleet of boats built from empty beer tinnies to celebrate a uniquely Australian way of recycling and fundraising.

About 16,000 people gathered at Darwin's Mindil Beach on Sunday for the 43rd annual Beer Can Regatta, a day of drinking, pirating and donating to charity.

A frothy flotilla competed for bragging rights and to raise funds for the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard and SIDS & Kids NT, while spectators soaked up the sun and laughed at the mayhem.

Event spokesman Des Gellert says some of the homemade watercraft were more seaworthy than others.

More sturdy vessels are made from thousands of cans and carry as many as six crew but some flimsy aluminium creations struggle to stay afloat in the shallows and others fall apart before they even hit the water.

One of the stand out previous entries was a twin hull catamaran dubbed 'Extravacanz', made from 30,000 tinnies with twin decks, a giant croc atop and a water canon.

Maroon Melbourne Bitter tinnies were fashioned into the shape of a crab one year and there's been Viking boats, London buses, giant hammers, sharks and dragons.

It's thirsty work, with some ships taking an entire year to build, while others are slapped together the night before.

"The rule is, if your boat breaks up you've got to jump in and collect your cans," Mr Gellert told AAP.

"There are very few rules beyond that."

Sabotage was rife during the Battle of Mindil, where six crews armed with water pistols, flour bombs and eggs hunted for sunken treasure, with the first crew to return the bounty to the sand crowned the winners.

"People have become pirates and commandeer other boats to steal the treasure away," Mr Gellert said.

The event began in June 1974 and was given new purpose six months later when cyclone Tracy devastated the city, offering a morale-boosting way to collect post-storm rubbish.

Over the years it has evolved into a more sober and family friendly day, with a thong-throwing competition, tug of war and kite flying for the kids.

Outboard motors and power boats were banned in the 1980s when beer companies switched to aluminium cans which can be crushed at 28 knots, so paddles suffice now.

Many in the crowd cooled off for a rare swim after the races, with organisers confident the heavy water traffic would deter any lurking crocs.

Surf lifesavers and emergency services were on hand just in case.

© AAP

IMAGE/Thousands of Territorians gather for the iconic Beer Can Regatta through Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Sunday, July 9, 2017. (AAP Image/ Lucy Hughes Jones)