“Doing the Rendez-vous has been the most fun we’ve had on our entire trip,” said Tara Travers-Stephens on Sunday with an ear-to-ear grin. Even before jumping off from Banderas Bay in early April, she and her husband John had vowed to take part in the annual Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendez-vous (June 21-23) aboard their Redwood City-based Tatoosh 50 Endeavour. But in order to make good on that promise they had to battle abnormally unsettled wind and sea conditions on their 200-mile crossing from the Tuamotus to Tahiti, arriving only hours before the beginning of festivities Friday. “At times we had steady winds in the mid-30s, and gusts into the 40s — really!”
With many boats held up by bad weather in the Tuamotus and Marquesas, this year’s Rendez-vous was smaller than usual, but the crews — from at least 10 nations — who did attend all seemed glad they’d made the effort. Designed with the dual purpose of celebrating the arrival of the cruising fleet and showcasing French Polynesian cultural traditions, the three-day event got underway Friday afternoon on Papeete’s waterfront quay with a detailed chart briefing by event organizer Stephanie Betz of Archipelagoes, and one-on-one opportunities to gather advance cruising info from sponsoring partners who’d flown in from Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and New Caledonia. A cocktail party followed, plus the first of several high-energy music and dance performances.
On Saturday morning, there was just enough wind outside Papeete Harbor to justify the start of the annual rally/race to Moorea’s majestic Cook’s Bay, roughly 15 miles away. After more than an hour of battling light-air shifts and lulls, a new breeze of 20 knots eventually arrived, giving the fleet a fun ride to the finish line. Later, after cocktails and dinner at the waterside Aimeo Lodge, the evening’s entertainment featured an eye-popping dance show, complete with elaborate costumes, gyrating hips, and a troupe of heavily tattooed fire dancers.
On Sunday, the focus was on traditional Polynesian sports. As always, the highlight was racing in six-person outrigger canoes. Staged beneath Moorea’s towering volcanic peaks, participation always yields lasting memories. Look for more on the Rendez-vous in the August issue of Latitude 38, and at www.tahiti-moorea-sailing-rdv.com.