Last Saturday was the final race and party day of the Oyster Regatta Palma 2014, and with the five-race series already in the bag hopes for a bonus pursuit race hung on a… zephyr. Those lucky, early gradient winds of the week looked to have blown out. But a wilful lot, the Oyster race team urged the fleet to come out and wait in the bay, ready to race if the sea breeze came in. And slowly it did. The cumulus built above the Tramuntana hills. The planes changed take-off from inshore to offshore, and with six knots the call went out, “race on”.
In the still hot morning, attrition had hit with a few ducking out for a swim instead, then a rallying call from Judy and Max Morrison on Oyster 575 Silver Lining brought a waivering five back in and the pursuit fleet settled at a mixed 17 with starting times of each boat based not on handicap but on actual individual performance, the elapsed times during the week. That way lies a fairer, better grouped end of race – which is after all the aim of pursuit racing.
The target was a 90 minute race for the smaller yachts, and to attempt the near equal ending, the first and last of fleet started with 31 minutes and all the other boats stepped between them: the first boat Oyster 46 Lazy Tern, the last boat 885 Karibu and the middle boat Oyster 625 Tiger. And so it went. From the deck of the 825 Reina starting last but one, the fleet sailed off ahead. Most starts were individual with a focused chase on the transom dead ahead and then the next. The course was a simple triangle, extended as the breeze built to 11 with gusts to 13 with the start and finish reaching legs. So kites flew from word go and on one of the two paired starts, a luffing match immediately ensued. John Marshall’s 655 Rock Oyster and Henrik Nyman’s 625 Delicia ended 15 seconds apart, in that order.
The course was a simple triangle with a reaching start and on the beat generally more pressure offshore than in. From the deck of 825 Reina, last but one to start, the targets to reel in stretched forward and the race was on, her legacy Class 1 rivals Oyster 82 Starry Night eight minutes ahead, 885-03 Clare two, and 885-02 Karibu one minute behind, and then knocked back further by a top-down furler failure on their code sail leaving them bare headed for minutes.
Eyes and minds moved forward. Starry Night, with regular regatta crew 83-year-old Peter Hetherington (uncle of Graham Hetherington of fourth placed 625 Great Bear V) steering the entire course, was taken by Reina just after the final turn but Clare stayed ahead and finished third. Crossing before her were Charles Billson’s Oyster 54 Sara Blue, and in the very front placing first, Judy and Max Morrison on that rallying 575 Silver Lining. From swimming to winning… they made the right call as they did with their white sails downwind. Novice racers but with helpful folk aboard, including the permanent crew of Oyster 655 Proteus, Max does the driving and he and Judy both work on tactics too. “We’ve never followed the crowd, even in business, and we’ve done the same here. Today on one tack we took a big risk and went inshore and stormed past boats. After the final turn we were so far ahead we thought we’d done something wrong!”
They hadn’t, they’d completely out-sailed their class and next boat was 96 seconds behind. Reina had ended sandwiched by 655 iSNL (fifth) and 625 Tiger (seventh), helmed by brothers Simon, Tim and Nick.
As David Tydeman, race officer and Oyster CEO, says: “It was good close sailing, all boats finishing within 10 minutes. You can lose 10 minutes through just tactics on a beat, so when you’ve three miles beating, you’ve plenty of time to separate.”
With the last boat crossing the line, the Oyster Regatta Palma 2014’s racing had come to an end, but what a week, four days with six good races, with conditions in no two races alike.
In celebration the Oyster party set course for the far side of the bay, by road this time, to the prize presentation and dinner at Cap Rocat, a simply awe inspiring transformation to boutique hotel of a former military fort of immense antiquarian stone block structure now blended in that clever Mallorcan conservational architecture with glass and steel and ancient timbers, all on a huge scale. Drawbridge, trenches, flaming torches, it’s monumental yet through the portal so private, so personal, a perfect proposition to Oyster regattistes!
The evening passage from terrace glass-chinking and canapés through dinner to dancing was of course via prize awards.
In the Concours d’elegance the Class 3 award went to Sara Blue V (Oyster 54 – Charles Billson), Class 2 to Great Bear V (625 – Graham and Victoria Hetherington), Class 1 Penelope (Oyster 100).
Overall in the series, with five races, four to count, in the words of David Tydeman: “In Class 3 such close sailing has not been seen before, with the first five boats all within 3.5 points.”
Fourth was Boarding Pass II (Oyster 575 – Bill Munro and Susan Harris), 3rd YoHoHo of Sark (Oyster 45 – Neil and Sue Speed), 2nd SUNsuSEA (Oyster 46 – Paulina and Mariusz Kierebinski, “we never, ever expected this”), 1st Silver Lining (Oyster 575 – Judy and Max Morrison “We are very, very lucky to have won this prize. Thank you Oyster. And I think we should thank all of our crews”).
In Class 2, it was 4th Delicia (Oyster 625 – Henrick Nyman), 3rd Vamos (Oyster 625 – David and Joanne Furby) and then for 1st and 2nd in the big battle between the two carbon rigged 625s and with everything balanced on the last race, in the end it was 2nd place for Guardian Angel leaving 1st to Lady Mariposa. Truly testing sailing. “Fantastic, really good racing,” said Lady Mariposa. “We’ll be back!” said Guardian Angel.
In Class 1, results, too, were settled by the last race. With 4.75 points, in 4th place, Clare (Oyster 885 – Sir Frank Chapman) who said: “Thank you, David [Tydeman – Oyster CEO] for the running of this event. And I must say you have the patience of a saint with all those requests for repeats on the radio! I’d like to say, too, that the fleet’s looking wonderful here and the new boats very pretty.”
Of third placed Starry Night, David said: “Great to see one of our older, bigger boats doing so well.”
Reina (Oyster 825) notched 2nd after a very hot contest, too, particularly against Karibu defending her title from last year but having to work a lot harder to keep it. Taking 1st, Karibu commented; “We’d also like to thank Oyster for this great event you organise and thanks to our crew permanent and race, too and we look forward to another year and hope we will do as well again.”
David Tydeman then awarded his discretional with Lazy Tern (Oyster 46 – David and Liz Mcnaghten) commended for great sportsmanship earlier in the week; Alpha Eden Island (625 – Tinus Slabber); Chione (525 – Jorgen Kjaernes) who had every intention of arriving and racing but whose journey completion juts wasn’t possible in the time but were present. Not making it to the regatta in time was the result of their very kind loan of the boat to Oyster for display at the autumn boats shows.
In thanking Jorgen, David Tydeman added: “It is a shame that they arrived on the last night with no boat but then there is always the next – the Oyster Regatta BVI, 13-18 April 2015, it will be a good one. There’s also of course the upcoming Oyster Pacific Rally in 2017 and Oyster Asia Rally in 2018.
“Thanks for sailing safely. Thanks, too, to the event’s generous sponsors: Dolphin Sails, Lewmar, Pantaenius, Pelagos Yachts, Raymarine, Reckmann, Sailkote and of course Real Club Nautico de Palma for hosting and helping ensure the smooth running of Oyster Regatta Palma 2014.”