A record fleet of 54 yachts will assemble in Uteroa, Raiatea, Tahiti for the tenth edition of the famous Tahiti Pearl Regatta and prepare for exciting racing this year with 20 plus knots predicted on the first race promising to raise the normally peaceful heart rate above maximum for this part of the world.
The dock activity pre-race was bolstered by the not only by the Sea Princess arrival steaming out of Sydney en route to Bora Bora, Fiji and Vanuatu docked in Uteroa, exposing near 2000 holidays makers to Tahiti Pearl and the regatta village, decorated with flags and palm leaves – just for them of course!
The fleet split between the four divisions will be accompanied by eight yachts from the Oyster World Rally ranging in size from 56 ft to 82 ft and crews between three and ten. The 10th Edition is shaping up to be one of the best and most exciting Peals that have been organised by Raiatea Sailing Association and Achepelegos.
Some of the smaller yachts and traditional sailing 'machines' may struggle against the Maraa' Mu, the traditional name of a strengthening trade wind that has now blown here for two days and pushing up a reasonable sea swell outside the protection of the lagoon. Of greater concern in the first race, up wind, in the smaller Speedfeet class sailing skiffs. With little reefing opportunity there may be some drama unfolding.
Given the first course takes us to Huahine in the S/E of Raiatea it will be nice to ride on an Oyster as she opens her gait on the breeze.
Weather reports predict strong winds and poor visibility for the remainder of the first race.
While the French Polynesians rely heavily on natural indicators and sight for island transits it will be important for the fleet to keep a close watch on the compass dial and course to locate the rather narrow passé at Huahine and the finish line without finding the islands protection, the coral reef that surrounds the entire island.
Challenging conditions met the fleet south of Raiatea once through the passé and while positioned on a starboard tack to Huahine. Many of the multihulls decided to make for the shelter of the island with conditions proving difficult to make way.
Three regrettable retirements from strong contenders in their respective divisions, two with broken masts and other gear damage thinned the fleet. Most were able to continue racing the following day after repair. The Maraa Mu has shown her strongest side and living up to the reputation as a wind to watch out for and if there – sail down wind.
The ocean conditions were similar this year to a very average afternoon on the East Coast of Australia in a brisk n/e sea breeze, that is to say, very manageable for the larger yachts with reduced sail and the majority of the fleet relished the conditions.
The evening plan is a traditional feast on the island of Huahine, it will be a good opportunity for the crews to relax and reflect on a tough day on the blue.
by Morgan Rogers
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5:27 PM Mon 20 May 2013GMT
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