Wind, a consistent long swell and a lot of sun: the Tahiti Pearl Regatta sailboats could not dream of better conditions to start the 16th edition. Leaving Raiatea this Thursday morning after a first race in the lagoon, the fleet headed for Huahine, where the fleet will have to spend the night before heading back to Taha’a this Friday. After two races, Team SCEAP (Multihulls) Pepe Favouille (Division 1), Windfall (Division 2), Terematai (Sailing Pirogues) and Sea Sheperd (Cruising) took the overall lead in their respective divisions.
The Tahiti Pearl Regatta started Thursday morning at 8:30, with 7 to 8 knots of a north-northeast wind. Four divisions were called on the starting line for this first race, a “banana” in front of the port of Uturoa: the Monohull divisions 1 and 2, the Multihulls and the sailboats. The course is short: 7 nautical miles between the pier and a turn around marker in Vairahi Bay. Taking advantage of the good weather, the competitors completed the course in just 44 minutes for the first and 1 hour 44 min for the last. Leading the way, the Tahitians Didier Arnould, Vincent Goyat and César Villa of Team SCEAP (Diam 24) can congratulate themselves for having just edging out the Air Tahiti Nui crew led by the winner of the Route du Rhum 2018 in multi50, Armel Tripon, who finished in the 3rd place behind the Russian Catana 65 Selika. In the Monocoques 1 division, the local speedfeet Neva Neva takes the win, while the Omega 34 Windfall wins Division 2. Finally, the Holopuni Moana Explorer with captain Teiva Veronique finishes at the top of the sailing canoes category.
After the starters, all 53 boats entered were called by the race committee to start the second stage of the day, a crossing between Raiatea and Huahine, 23 NM. Taking advantage of a constant north-east wind of more than 11 knots, the boats headed through the Teavapiti pass of Raiatea. The great number of sails competing for wind at the beginning of the race put some good placing boats at a disadvantage due to bad air. This was true the Diam 24 Silicon Tourists. Almost the whole fleet opted for the most obvious heading: pushing into the wind Portside with a small return to the median line near the finish at the Fiti’i pass.
The Diam 24 finish once again ahead of the pack for the Multihulls: Team SCEAP confirms its first place in the provisional general standings after two races, ahead of Air Tahiti Nui. Selika drops to 3rd place, still a good result for this cosmopolitan crew that welcomes French, Russians and Italians. Only downside in this category: a collision between boats Tintin and multi-hull Ekolo’kat, which results in significant damages the latter. The men of Nicolas Gruet will not allow themselves to be down after this incident and intend to fight back into the end of race defending the colors of their team.
In the Division 1, Pepe Favouille, skippered by Jean-Cyril Dubois moves into first place, taking advantage of a very good performance on this second race. He is followed by Speedfeet 18 Neva Neva, (winners of the first race) captained by Gwenaelle Janicaud, and followed by Jean-Pierre Basse on A35 Arearea. In Division 2, Roland Marti’s Bongo 9.60 Windfall is at the top of the standings, ahead of New Zealand’s Rumpus, a Beneteau First 44.7 skippered by Rupert Wilson and followed by Hervé Bride’s Fan 11.60, Diabolic.
As for the sailing canoes division, most crews arrived from Moorea about 105 NM away the day before. This first day of racing presented a formidable challenge for the crews as the Va’a Taie Terematai captained by Teiva Veronique outlasted two Holopuni canoes: Tamari’i Moana and Holu Loa. Finally, in Cruising division, the crew of Sea Sheperd crosses the line first, in front of Seaside and Nacira.
Tonight, the 300 sailors of the TPR were expected on the beach of Fare for a festive Polynesian evening, with traditional food (ma’a tahiti) and dances (ori tahiti). This Friday, two new stages await the participants: a banana in front of the Fiti’i pass, followed by an open ocean crossing between the islands of Huahine and Taha’a.
Credit: Tahiti Pearl Regatta / Tor Johnson Photography