Oyster Palma Regatta race day one

As crews busied around in final prep for the first day’s racing in the Oyster Regatta Palma 2014, some were already out in the bay testing conditions and feeding back good news. What seemed only a light breeze in the Real Club Nautico de Palma dock was already blowing between 13 and 17 knots outside. Race Officer, Oyster CEO, David Tydeman in his start-of-day fleet call proposed two races if the NE gradient breeze held. More than just hold, it built, peaking around 18knots, giving good racing morning and afternoon to the eager 26 Oysters spanning 45 to 100ft (14-33m), split between three classes, each with its own staggered two starts.

At the top of the fleet in Class 1 there was, as David Tydeman describes it: “A good battle between Reina (Oyster 825/01) and Karibu (885/02) swapping first places. The wild card was Oyster 82 Starry Night of the Caribbean, sailed very well, and just pipping Karibu into second place in the first race by 10 seconds.”

Class 2 was very close also between Guardian Angel and Lady Mariposa, the hot shot 625s /03 and /05 with their fully battened mains and carbon rigs making a bigger difference here in Palma’s flat tactical waters than in the bigger Caribbean seas of the Antigua regatta  where Vamos and other 625s were swapping places among them. Vamos held on well again today, pulling a third in Race One behind Guardian Angel first, Lady Mariposa second, that pair then going on to finish in the same order just two seconds apart in Race Two. In Class 3 the tactical choice of going ‘white sails’ rather than ‘colour’ gave some interesting results, particularly for Judy and Max Morrison aboard Oyster 575 Silver Lining who called well with ‘white’ for both races, placing second in both in their first ever regatta.

The morning’s race was a simple ten mile triangle with Class 3 the first across the line with its blend of novice and not so frequent to regular battlers chivvying around the course, Race One mostly colour sails, Race Two the converse, with generally a deal of learning that led to smoother deck work and sail handling in the afternoon and consequent virtual top and bottom half swap. Rory and Susie MacGrath of Oyster 53 Spindrift enjoyed the fruits of their newly found racing resolve pulling first in Race One, while in Race Two it was the oldest boat in the fleet, Oyster 45 Yo Ho Ho of Sark’s turn giving new owners Neil and Sue Speed victory on their very first day of sailing their new charge… yes, you read that right, their first day of sailing, and they’d never raced before either. Poignantly, they have experienced, big-boat hands Nick and Lou Sutton aboard who sailed far and wide with the previous owners Stephen and Alison Yeo including their very first Atlantic crossing in 1996 when they’d just bought the boat new.

Oyster 46 SUNsuSEA had three generations of the Kierebinscy family aboard, everyone having active responsibilities, including daughter, aka grand daughter, Klaudia driving off the quay, grandfather Jacek on main sheet, and co-skippers Mariusz and Paulina supported by son Marcin and step-son Peter, new to sailing who yet turned his hand to stripping down and replacing rope jammers just before leaving dock.

Their Race One was unfortunately effectively surrendered to spinnaker snuffer troubles, but Race Two under white sails saw a climb back to a happier fourth.  

Mariusz and Paulina have sailed SUNsuSEA, their first owned boat, extensively both sides of the Atlantic since sailing her straight from the factory to the Canaries and the ARC in 2009, enjoying the Caribbean for two years before returning east, stopping in the Canaries for two more years before shooting back into the Med last year. Racing though has not featured other than the Oyster Grenada and BVI regattas, last in 2011. As Paulina says: “Three years past, good memories, but a long time ago!” To which Mariusz wryly adds: “At least we weren’t at the back of both races – we’re slowly moving forward!”

In Class 2 as already said there’s an extraordinary tussle at the top between those two fliers Guardian Angel and Lady Mariposa, with Guardian Angel’s Maxim Kudryashov reflecting that the higher winds as today suit him better and he likes the way the fleet is becoming “more competitive, more challenging” but that there’s still a “kind” approach, with particular mention to Class 1’s Oyster 100 Penelope and 885-02 Karibu.

Guardian Angel took both her races but Lady Mariposa gave serious contention while watching 625 Vamos closely too. “Vamos is the dark horse,” says Lady Mariposa’s skipper Dan Hardy, “she’s been poling out A sails, diving a bit deeper… we’re seeing a lot more of her.” This is Vamos owners David and Joanne Furby’s third Oyster regatta after two in the Caribbean where they’ve had a good time. So watch this space.

New 625 Tiger owner Simon Pullar also pulled a blinder. A complete rookie racer who took delivery of the boat only in April, he notched a remarkable third in Race Two, 69 seconds ahead of Vamos. Simon has his brothers Tim and Nick aboard and not only was this for all of them their first day’s racing, it’s the first time they’ve ever sailed together. There’s another Tim on board, too, so to avert disaster they’re careful not to call “Dump it, Tim” when both are on sheets! Of their day and the sense of regatta, Simon declares: “Fantastic, no other word, a great, great day. To class race boats like this, there’s nothing to beat it.”

Class 1 with its big boats getting ever bigger is always good value on the water and this year with the arrival of Reina, the first 825 off the line, it’s been given a pep of a different new order. The latest completed Humphreys/Oyster collaboration, Reina is really proving a top line performer in this, her first regatta.

Sailing to an already excellent second and third behind Reina in the day’s two races, Steve Branagh aboard regatta stalwart 82 Starry Night of the Caribbean reported Reina: “A very quick boat, no doubt about it.” And pulling that first and then a second, effectively out-sailing 885s in three of four chances today, her owner’s unsurprisingly of much the same sentiment. Reina skipper Jarrod Cripps says of the owner’s reaction: “Absolutely chuffed, it’s been a long journey and he says he’s now seen what’s possible, it’s opening a whole new world. I’ve been with the boat since blueprints and as we finished I said thank you, Reina, I’m just so pleased.”

With such a good first day’s racing for the entire fleet, and an extra race already under the collective belt, it was then coach loads of smiling faces all the way to the city’s commanding iconic, exquisitely renovated 13th century hillside Castillo Bellver for a relaxed prize giving and evening of terrific contemporary gypsy music and dance under the wide open circular roof of this extraordinary stone fortress… another Oyster first.

With daily prizes for each class’s top four, David Tydeman thanked Raymarine and Lewmar for their kind sponsorship of the day’s races and also Pantaneus for start line-merit prizes, too. The forecast for race Day Two looks to be north easterly again but a little lighter. We’ll see!

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