The Paradise Experience

Tahiti Pearl Regatta

Even minus wind, sailing in Tahiti provides a tropical feast for the senses. Photo essay by Andrea Francolini. 

A REGATTA without wind? Yes, this year. But that proves to be a minor detail when you are in paradise.

Many people wonder what paradise looks like and if it exists. Personally I have never had any near-death experiences so I had never really thought about this question seriously – until I landed in Tahiti.

This is a destination we have all heard about in one way or the other. Perhaps we have been there once and dream about going back, or have friends who have been there as newlyweds on their honeymoon… In the end Tahiti remains a dream for many, a luxury for others and a reality for the rare handful of visitors who have decided to establish themselves there.

Like any tropical destination, Tahiti is a place where you have to turn back time and forget about the stress which regularly engulfs us in our frenetic everday lives. We realise this only after unwinding for three or four days. Once we arrive in the famous turquoise lagoons we get goose bumps seeing the beauty of it all.

For the past six years the Tahiti Pearl regatta has been growing in size and reputation. Now let's be serious, who would not want to go to a sailing event in Tahiti? It is like asking Monet or Picasso if they liked using colour in their paintings. The surroundings are unique. The food is stunning. Getting immersed in the marine life is like swimming in the Sydney aquarium.

Whether we have cruised the world or just enjoyed a boating weekend in Pittwater, we all agree that the quality of the food onboard is a high priority. In Tahiti the first meal of the day begins with the classic French baguette, freshly baked and served with jams made from local fruits; fruits which have a proper taste. Pineapples which are a deep yellow and very sweet; a variety of green grapefruit, mangos, bananas and half a dozen or more types of avocadoes are just the beginning of the feast which this country can offer.

Fish is also in abundance, starting with the yellowfin tuna and the unique mahi-mahi, also know as the dolphin fish even though it is not related to the Delphinidae family of mammals. Its Hawaiian name translates as “strong-strong”. Whether grilled or raw, this is a meal that is certainly worth investigation.

Rally or race

At a certain point we do have to remember the main reason we are here. The Tahiti Pearl regatta is more a rally than a race, and 90 per cent of the boats are cruising yachts, but nevertheless everyone wants to win.

The race committee starts with the procedures and off we go from one paradise island to another. The 2009 route is from Raitaea to Huahine to Tahaa and back to the start. The iconic Bora Bora remains in the distance, separated by breaking waves and providing an excuse to come back again in the future. Each day is crowned with a barbecue on the beach, and then the night is young.

With the wind being the only missing ingredient this year, day one's racing has to be cancelled, day two's course is shortened and day three remains very light. Hey, even in paradise nothing is perfect.

Yet the lack of wind does not seem to bother the competitors. Even while sitting on the leeward side of their boats, participants can admire the crystal-clear waters looking down at the reef, seemingly so close but a good 30 metres below them. The calm waters allow manta rays and dolphins to approach the vessels, drifting in an ocean where the waves can reach 3-4 inches high…!

There may be no place and event more appropriate to fit the expression: “Sit back, relax and enjoy”. So if you and the family want to live the paradise experience, the Tahiti Pearl regatta has a little something for everyone. Location, food, sailing, sealife and traditional dances are all there to be enjoyed.

The only real problem I found with Tahiti is having to return to reality.

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Jeanneau JY60