2010 Tahiti Pearl Regatta: And the Cruisers Take It!

Round-the-world cruisers, locals, and charter sailors take to the seas for a vibrant Polynesian regatta. From our May 27, 2010, CW Reckonings

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Slovenian sailors Srecko and Olga Pust, in mid-circumnavigation aboard the Sweden Yachts 45 Ciao, overtake the local boat Bourinasse to win the round-Tahaa race on day three of the 2010 Tahiti Pearl Regatta.Tim Murphy

Srecko and Olga Pust beat the odds. Aboard the Sweden Yacht 45 Ciao and in full round-the-world cruising trim, the Slovenian couple overcame a fleet of some 50 boats to win this year's Tahiti Pearl Regatta, French Polynesia's premier sailing event.

The 7th annual Tahiti Pearl Regatta was held May 12-16 in the Society Islands' Leeward Archipelago. Blending competition, culture, and celebration, Polynesian-style, this up-and-coming regatta embodies the spirit of "friendly competition among nations" that many better-known grand-prix sailing events have all but lost. Crews from North America, Europe, and Oceania competed by day and gathered by night on the islands and motus around Raiatea, Tahaa, and Bora Bora. Under the Southern Cross, the happy mood each night was set by Polynesian food, music, and dancing.

The four days of sailing included two open-ocean passages of about 25 miles from Tahaa to Bora Bora and back, plus two courses inside the lagoon around Tahaa and Raiatea. Conditions included everything from light spinnaker runs to moderate windward beats through rolling ocean swells to 30 knots and a full horizon of deeply reefed mains-all within view of some of the world's most spectacular scenery.

Charterers joined the racing, with much of the fleet populated by Raiatea's four charter bases, including The Moorings (www.moorings.com) and Sunsail (www.sunsail.com). U.S. sailor John Cook gathered family and friends aboard the Moorings 52.5 Nariki for the regatta, making up the first half of their two-week charter in the Society Islands. "We own a Moorings 52.5 in the Caribbean with six months left on the contract and are deciding what to do next," his wife Jan said. Re-up and keep chartering around the world, or take off and go cruising on that boat? "We still have a couple more months to decide," she said with a smile.

This was the second time the Tahiti Pearl Regatta was scheduled to coincide with the transit of the World ARC Round-the-World rally. Ten of these circumnavigating boats, including three from the United States, joined the race. Having left the Caribbean on January 6, the ralliers' sojourn in Polynesia was one stop along a path that will take them through Tonga, Bali, Australia, South Africa and Brazil before returning to the West Indies next March. Roughly two dozen boats are sailing in this year's World ARC.

And it was one of these boats-the unassuming Sweden Yachts 45 Ciao, with all the fuel and water and anchor chain you'd need to circumnavigate and just a couple sailing her-that overcame a fleet of local sailors with big crews and deep local knowledge. Congratulations to Srecko and Olga Pust for their fine seamanship, writ large and writ small.

And congratulations to the organizers of the Tahiti Pearl Regatta for hosting one truly welcoming international event.