Musket Cove Fiji Regatta Week, held September 15-19 on Malolo Island in the Mamanuca archipelago, welcomed 96 boats and 400 people for three regattas. Some 64 teams raced in the Hobie Cat event, another 30 yachties paddled in the standup paddleboard challenge, 30 sailors competed in the Fun Run, and more than 40 eco-aware cruisers helped with a beach cleanup.
The five days and nights continued an event that has been going for 38 years. Yachties from around the world flock to this event in the turquoise lagoon west of Viti Levu. Some Kiwi yachts are regulars here on their Pacific Circuit, and a growing number of American and international yachts participate too, before heading westward.
“It started out as a warm-up for the Fiji-Vanuatu regatta, has grown every year, and by now it’s one of the biggest events in the South Pacific,” says Will Moffat, owner of Musket Cove Island Resort and Marina. “It’s all about the fun, really, and everybody’s welcome.”
When this year’s first regatta started on day two at 10 a.m., only a light breeze rippled the sea. We watched flabbergasted as the participating boats simply revved up their engines and motored over the starting line.
How was that possible? Well, it turned out that it was Beach Comber Pirate’s Day, and the rules for this regatta state that “there are no rules for pirates.” The skipper of the Stealth 14GT lightweight catamaran Wow lowered his 50-hp outboards and managed to win the race, reaching 11 knots at times.
Fortunately, the weather gods played along on the third day and sent a stiff, southeasterly breeze for the main event: the Round Malolo Classic. With full sails up, the 24 participating boats bashed into 15 to 20 knots of southeasterly trade winds. At first, the biggest cats rushed ahead, chased by huge monohulls and a fleet of cruising yachts. But then, three little, local racing multihulls charged through the field, leaving the bigger yachts in their wake. Burt, a 33-foot Reynolds cat, won the 15-nautical-mile race in one hour, 26 minutes, followed by Kaia, a Seacart 26, and 8.5 metres box cat, Miss Minnie. The first cruising catamaran over the finish line was 60-foot Marcato, and the first monohull was Fenice, a 62-foot Beneteau.
On day five, the participants in the 6-nautical-mile Sandbar Race merely drifted over the starting line with flapping sails. All crews rushed on deck to hoist their light-wind sails as quickly as possible, and went chasing the cat’s paws on the otherwise calm seas.
As the race went on in slow motion, we had plenty of time to admire the aesthetics: The boats looked like pretty butterflies with all the canvas they could carry. Colorful spinnakers, gennakers and other light-wind sails reflected on the sea under a deep-blue sky.
Big, heavy boats had no chance in these conditions, and for a while Burt, the winner of the Round Malolo Race, and Wow, the winner of the Pirate race, were neck and neck. Wow won in one hour, 17 minutes, with Burt in the second place.
If you’re heading toward the South Pacific in 2023, stopover in Musket Cove in September. The entry fee for regatta week includes an opening and closing dinner, and free drinks. Prizes range from free haul-outs at sponsoring marinas to gift baskets. https://www.musketcovefiji.com/yacht-club-marina/sailing-regatta
Birgit and Christian have been cruising on their Sparkman & Stephens design Pitufa for 11 years. See their blog www.pitufa.at or follow Pitufa on Facebook.