The 37th annual Fiji Regatta Week at Musket Cove has just drawn to a close in western Fiji, but not before a few boats and sailors from the Bay Area and West Coast seriously left their mark on the regatta. Attracting an impressive fleet of 65 boats with around 210 sailors, the famous South Pacific cruiser regatta’s numbers were down from recent years past, but arguably better than anticipated given the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Fiji has been completely COVID-contained for nearly six months, with no cases in the community since about April 20. As a result, it’s one of the few places on Earth that has managed to open its borders to international cruising yachts and been able to hold a truly international sailing regatta. No masks, no social distancing, no weirdness. Just sailing and fun in the sun. Remarkably, sailors were able to party like it was 2019. Or 1999, for that matter.
During the regatta’s first race — the Sand Bank Race — the breeze went very light and shifted to the southwest right at the start. With the fleet forced to sail upwind toward a narrow reef pass, every boat but one threw in a couple of tacks to clear the reef. Dr. Tom and Lynne Petty’s West Coast-based Wylie 60 Roxanne was the only boat that managed to lay the exit to the reef pass on one tack. As a result, they were launched. With a long, relatively narrow hull and generous sail plan, the custom Tom Wylie-designed 60-footer extended on the fleet to win by a huge margin on a course shortened by light air.
Third over the line and first cruising catamaran was Seth and Elizabeth Hynes’ San Francisco-based Outremer 51 Archer. The fast, Fiji-based racing-cat-turned-charter-boat Flat Chat narrowly pipped Archer at the line.
Two days later in the Marsden Cove Marina Around Malolo Classic race, Roxanne again showed off her impressive speed by keeping the fast, local racing multihull honest and dropping the rest of the monohulls in her seemingly undisturbed wake. The Fiji-based 8.5-meter class racing catamaran Miss Minnie took overall honors in the race. This writer was doing media for the regatta; the race’s media boat began overheating about three minutes before the starting gun. I hopped onto the big red catamaran Archer from San Francisco to race around the island with them and do drone camera work for the race.
With Baja Ha-Ha and Transpac vet Kurt Roll of San Diego also onboard, it was a friendly and enjoyable affair for sailors who all had Cali roots. Archer was the third multihull over the finish line, but first cruising multihull over the line — a solid result that left the crew in high spirits. “We got a bad start in light air and were just continually getting gassed by a Whitbread 80 maxi for the entire first leg,” Seth told us just after the race. “Once we got clear of them at Castaway Island, we set our secret weapon, the big red symmetrical spinnaker, and just ran down the course to the back of the island, passing several boats in the process. From there, we were able to hold off the two fast monohulls Pandora and Amici to the finish. All in all, an awesome day of sailing in paradise.”
Archer crew also went deep in the Port Opua Hobie Cat Challenge, a very popular and well-attended match-racing event using the resort’s fleet of Hobie 16 beach cats. Former San Diegan Kurt Roll managed to go to the three-boat final. A couple of native Kiwis took home the gold.