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Oysters gather in Antigua

Oysters Gather in Antigua for the Build-up to the Start of the Oyster World Rally

An impressive fleet of 31 Oyster Yachts will take part in the 2017-19 Oyster World Rally, starting from Antigua on Sunday 15th January. The fully-supported 27,000 mile circumnavigation, comprises four connecting stages, taking in some of the most beautiful regions of the world.

The Oyster World Rally has been carefully planned to make the best of seasonal weather patterns, whilst affording the participants generous cruising time. 15 different examples of the magnificent Oyster range will be taking part, flying the flags of 10 different countries. At each stopover, participants are provided with professional shore support and fantastic social gatherings.

The first stage of the Oyster World Rally will see the fleet explore and enjoy the Caribbean islands between Antigua and Panama, including the wonderful Lesser Antilles of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, and the San Blas Islands of Panama. In March 2017, the Oyster yachts will regroup to navigate the Panama Canal.

Prior to the start, Oyster Yachts and their partners, have been providing bespoke training sessions and informative seminars, as well as organising fabulous social gatherings at the spiritual home of the Oyster World Rally; Antigua, West Indies.

The first event in the countdown to departure took place on Wednesday 21st December where a wonderful welcome party at Boom, Admiral's Inn was enjoyed.

Dark & Stormy Cocktails on the Dock

The first Antiguan party for the 2017-19 Oyster World Rally was held in the magical surroundings of Nelson's Dockyard, English Harbour. The Oyster family was invited to join Antigua Distillery, on the lawn of the Copper and Lumber Hotel, to enjoy complimentary “Dark & Stormy” rum cocktails. It was the first big get together before the adventure ahead, the atmosphere was relaxed, laid back and very well attended. Much of the conversation was about the last few days of preparation before the start of the Oyster World Rally.

Richard & Angela Parkinson's Sophistikate is one of eight Oyster 575s taking part in the Oyster World Rally. During the last few months,  Sophistikate has been undergoing an extensive maintenance programme. “It makes far better sense to invest the time and effort in Antigua, where expert advice and access to parts is readily available.” commented Angela Parkinson. “Sophistikate may be six years old, nevertheless, she is in now in excellent condition. For the last few days, we will be concentrating on provisions for the next month. We have seen a lot of the Caribbean over the years, so we will be exploring Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire, as well as the San Blas Islands and others near Panama. We very nearly did the first rally, however now we are glad we have waited until the second. The extended length of this edition really appeals to us, it gives more time to explore the route.”

Sevenstar Yacht Transport Weather & Passage Planning

One of the most important aspects of sailing safely around the world is understanding the weather, and where ever possible, avoiding unfavourable conditions. Oyster World Rally shipping partner, Sevenstar Yacht Transport, dispatched four-time Volvo Ocean Race navigator, Wouter Verbraak, to Antigua to deliver a special weather briefing, designed to assist the fleet with passage planning and to understand the weather in the months to come.

“The Oyster World Rally Team have been very clever in the planned route and the additional assistance during the circumnavigation” explained Wouter. “The vast majority of the route is timed to coincide with stable trade winds, and when that has not been possible, specialist weather routing from Chris Tibbs is available to all of the yachts. This strategy and implementation of the route is very professional. The Oyster World Rally sailors should, for the most part, get what they have signed up for; downwind bluewater cruising. However, as we all know, the weather does not always do what it is supposed to. For the briefing we concentrated on understanding the weather around you and also the bigger picture, which is available through weather services. Understanding what is causing the weather to change is the key. When the weather becomes complex, having the guidance of a trained meteorologist, and good data, is extremely useful.”

Wouter Verbraak delivered a user-friendly guide on micro-management of weather, including how to navigate in squalls, and explained how to adjust a watch system to take into account the common times of squall activity during a 24 hour period. Wouter also gave a detailed list of useful weather data services including; Global, Regional and High Resolution weather models, as well as the importance of synoptic charts.

“That was the best weather briefing I have ever attended.” commented Matthew Harrison, skipper of Tom Reed's Oyster 56, El Mundo. “ It was invaluable to be educated into why weather conditions form. By understanding what is happening, rather than just being told the technical terms, the important points really do sink in.”

After the briefing, Sevenstar Yacht Transport provided a delicious complimentary lunch at Club Sushi for all participants. Wouter continued to assist Oyster World Rally participants throughout the day, with bespoke details of the route he has experienced during his circumnavigations.

Sea Mercy – Sail with a greater purpose

The Oyster family returned to the Antigua Yacht Club Event Centre for a training session from Sea Mercy, which facilitates health care to remote island nations. Oyster World Rally participants will be providing an invaluable charitable service to remote communities, within Sea Mercy's “Give Sight Programme”. Oyster owners and their crew were trained and stocked with hundreds of pairs of near and farsighted glasses, and also equipped with packs of solar lamps, for reading and providing light in homes and schools without electricity.

“Sailors in the Oyster World Rally have abilities, which will be useful for remote communities when they stop along the route, just fixing a generator can be invaluable” commented Sea Mercy USA President, Richard Hackett. “In addition to their existing skills, Sea Mercy tries to empower sailors to do more and give something that will really change lives. Eye care is something we take for granted, but in these remote areas it is not easily available. By giving someone their sight, they can thread a fish hook, read a Bible, or see the words on a blackboard at school. Providing glasses for people who need them, really does make a difference.”

Words by: Louay Habib
Photos by: Tim Wright/photoaction.com

Follow the adventure on www.oysterworldrally.com

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