July the fourth is the Tongan King’s birthday and therefore a national holiday. Here in Nieafu the yachties celebrated as only yachties do with a regatta. The one and only race of the day started at 16:30. A dozen boats of all shapes and sizes crossed the start line, the three sub 30 footers had been offered their own start but bravely decided to join the main one. The fleet was mostly a mix of catamarans and monohulls with Windborne the only traditional gaffer and Macha the big yellow trimaran making it all the more varied. Most boats had drawn their crew from amongst the big cruising community here in the islands, everyone it seemed had come to town for the big race!
On board Temptress we had Tim, Nok and baby Brian from SY Marguerita, four US Peace Corp teachers and the sister of one of them plus an Australian-German family of four who happened to be visiting relatives on the island. Of the crew only Tim, Nok and the sister Lydia were sailors, Lydia having taken part in two tall ship races but never sailed on any thing as small as Temptress. Nok spent most of her time looking after fourteen month old Brian who was overwhelmed by so many people; his short life has mostly been sailing from Panama in the company of his parents.
Temptress got a good start at the committee boat (a 75ft Swan) end of the line and was windward of the fleet if not quite first over. The first leg was close hauled but almost a direct line to the mark at the far end of the Port of Refuge. Tallulah Ruby led the way with Jigsaw a large (50 foot?) Australian cat second and Temptress rapidly overhauling her. Eventually the cat had to ease away from the wind for speed and Temptress was second around the mark. Just behind us Bravado a Kiwi monohull rounded then unfurled her code zero, her carbon sails and extremely clean bottom (the boats arriving from New Zealand are at the beginning of their cruising season unlike the boats who’ve come from the east) gave her the edge over us.
Our crew rapidly gelled into a team with Peter, his wife and sister working the cockpit under the skippers tutelage, Katie and Chiara sunbathing on the deck, sorry looked after Milo and his brother Josh ensuring they crossed safely from rail to rail at each tack. Tim and I keeping an eye out for boats round Temptress’ huge gennie for the skipper and helping it through the tack. The light winds meant we had all our sail up for the first time in months! The down wind leg to the green buoy opened a gap in the fleet between the first two boats and the rest of the fleet. Meanwhile the gaffer Windborne was still tacking up the first leg, her pirate crew entering the spirit of the occasion by attacking any boats that came close with buckets of water rather than cannon!
Another lap later Temptress crossed the line behind Bravado, Jigsaw coming in third. It was a lovely afternoon on the water enjoyed by all. As the sun set Tim and Kevin ferried the crew ashore to Mango restaurant who hosted the post race party and BBQ. Prizes in the regatta were for the first across the line Bravado, the last Windborne, and entering into the spirit of things again Windborne who kept up their pirate disguise through the party too. There was also a prize for the most national flags worn – all the boats in the anchorage, whether racing or not had dressed overall for the day making a colourful sight.
All pictures except the crew picture courtesy of Emma and Owen of SY Dulcinea www.dulcinea.co.nz