In Raiatea (the Sacred Island of the Leeward archipelago of French Polynesia), coinciding with the opening ceremony and the establishment of the Regatta base for the Tahiti Pearl Regatta, the township came alive to the sounds of Aussie accents as for the first time the Sea Princess out of Sydney moored alongside the main dock.
Here I was thinking that I could practice the language of the Tahitian, how do you say 'Good ay' here? - well the answer slipped past the 1200 Aussies that descended upon the little town of Uturoa nestled to the north-eastern side of Raiatea, the local population normally have a sleepy existence on the Tahaa / Raiatea lagoon islands, disturbed today by the bustle of some 300 yachties preparing for the 10th Edition of the TPR and outnumbered the ooohs and aars and mandatory click of the recently purchased duty free DSLR of the visiting nomads from the Sea Princess.
Ia Orana (yo-ran-na) is the friendly greeting that will meet you in the streets and shops of Uturoa and most of French Polynesia.
The Tahiti Pearl Regatta had attracted yachtsmen and women from around the globe to muster in Raiatea to mark the start of the 10th Edition of this event. Archipelagoes (a Nautical training company), Tahiti Tourism (major Sponsor) and Raiatea Sailing Association have worked hard to organised this regatta and a record fleet of 54 yachts were due to line up for the first Non Point Score race starting four days of sailing. For a population of a mere 260,000 people, or 100,000 less than our capital Canberra, spread over 2.5 million sq kilometres, to have this number of yachts racing (per population capita) is the equivalent of 5200 yachts competing in, say, a Audi Sydney regatta, so it remains huge on the yachting calendar for French Polynesia and our surrounding south pacific neighbours and per capita of population is the largest in the world!. A small island group putting on a fantastic yachting event in the most gorgeous surrounds.
This year the fleet included Multi Hulls, Mono 1, Mono 2 and the might of the Oysters as they journey around the world on the Oyster World Rally. A change of arrangements for the course provided safe anchorages in Raiatea, Tahaa and Huahine. However, a strange wind was blowing for this time of year and with it brought suspicions of the Tahitian gods having a hand in the outcome of this years TPR. A wind named Maraa’ Mu was strengthening from the ENE and topping the anemometer at 30 + knots.
The regatta village was abuzz with yachtsmen anxiously awaiting the only land based briefing for the regatta and the opening ceremony which was highlighted by the seductive traditional dances and appearance of the king and queen of Raiatea.
The event to follow this evening was a nautical parade marking the opening of the regatta and it was down to business, again this year the spectator numbers were buoyed by the locals turning out to watch the dancers and parade of newly designed sailing canoes, stand up paddle boards and to support local businesses such as the dive shop and recently opened beach ware and sports store, located adjacent.
More to come - Race one kicks off with multi hulls leading the divisional starts in a powerhouse of speed as winds pick up in the TPR 2013 regatta par excellence.
by Morgan Rogers
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1:55 AM Sat 18 May 2013GMT
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