03 - 05 October 2013

Oyster Regatta Palma 2013

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03rd October 2013


Arrivals day at the ninth annual Oyster Regatta in Palma, Mallorca created a stir at the iconic Real Club Nautico de Palma (RCNP) as a fair armada of 26 Oysters from 46 to 100ft (14-30m) surrounded the club, mooring stern-to the immediately bordering quayside. With the regatta’s famed, blended mix of social competition, this setting in the late season’s sun seemed the perfect picture framed.

For both Oyster and RCNP, 2013 marks a very special year with respective 40th and 65th anniversaries to celebrate. In RCNP Commodore Joan Bonet’s address to the 250 Oyster guests at the evening’s waterside terrace cocktail party and tasty BBQ prepared dinner, Joan spoke warmly of the event and its meaning to the club and presented Oyster CEO David Tydeman with a plaque in honour of Oyster’s anniversary and wished all a great regatta.

In all a very pleasing 11 nations are represented in this 32nd edition of Oyster’s worldwide regattas, Oyster the only sailing brand with such dedicated owner events. It’s a history that draws and creates great interest among owners new and old, and this Palma event sees every level of involvement from the likes of Oyster 82 Starry Night of the Caribbean which has raced every one, through to a clutch of newcomers this year of whom we’ll hear more in the course of this regatta’s daily reporting.

With the increasing length Oyster’s now building, where once there was a domination of 49 to 54ft (14-16m) boats in Palma, now it’s an ascendant 62 to 82ft-plus (19-25m). Reflecting not just a trend but the actual growth of Oyster as a business, if laid stem to stern this year’s fleet would need a quay more than 500 metres long, or 1723ft (522m) to be precise. If wonder world-record sprinter Usain Bolt could keep up his impossible pace that far, even he’d still need a full 50 seconds to run its length. That’s quite a step on from this regatta’s early days which, as an industry and owner standout, seemed impressive even then.

Its expansion has also led to interesting change in the racing and race management with this year’s regatta adopting adapted elements of the Superyacht Racing Association’s (SYRA) racing rules for increased safety on the course, now the fleet includes such a significant 80ft-plus (22m) component, six boats in all in Palma.

Clearly mixing it up on the mark or wind-shadowing in too close-quartered combat among crews of diverse ability, from family and friends to honed circuit stalwarts, could be unnerving or worse lead to incidents, and that is not in the spirit of Oyster regattas. So as Oyster CEO David Tydeman led the Race Briefing there was not a single rumble from the floor as he explained:  “How hard it had been to rewrite the rules to keep you apart. If you have a 20 or 40-metre safety zone, how then do you get an overlap on the mark?” But a solution is in place and now embedded in the Oyster Regatta Sailing Instructions, with the briefing endorsing this, urging empathy on the course. “For a few people here it’ll be their first time across a start line,” said David. “Others are pro, and I ask that this experience is used to help us all sail safely.

To simplify starts,” David expanded, “we don’t expect you to turn round and re-cross. We’ll radio, asking you to furl sails then sit and wait until released by radio again.” A civilised solution, indeed.

Encouraging clean competition in other ways too, excuse the link please, the Arrivals Day as always had a Concours d’Elegance built into the tidy-up process once docked, in which a crack Oyster squad armed with clipboard and keen eyes swept on board the willing victims’ yachts to score the highs and lows of exterior presentation.

An early arrival and keen contender was found in one of Oyster 82 Dama de Noche’s crew who deftly demonstrated prowess with a super cyclonic Dyson dustbug hand tool in the aft deck’s every corner. Aboard neighbouring Oyster 725 Spirit of Phantom, with her handsome block leather serving, and impeccable sheet wrapping of headsails, skipper Brett Sleeth injected a light note with the offer of €100 finders-fee for any rust found. More seriously though, that Phantom looks so good says much for the combination of Oyster-build and a good crew, for in her first year she’s already sailed 18,000 miles.

The same is true of Oyster 72 Billy Budd, the third of her line, with extensive bright steel work and clean, hard worked decks. But it’s not the age that sets the measure of concours score, it’s where the boat’s been, and the stainless steel striker and ice breaker on the bow clearly hints at owner Maria Cristina Rapisardi’s high latitude adventures. One crew member quipped: “No we don’t want to win the Concours for a second time, that would be arrogant… we’re going for the regatta this time!” 

Winning in Class last year, Dario Galvao’s Oyster 655 Rocas showed a keen determination, skipper Ian Smith declaring, “well, you’ve got to go for it”, replacing bungees and end caps especially as icing on the polishing cake.

Oyster 625 Lady Mariposa looked a picture, too, accessorised with neat leather bound quayside shoe chest and director’s chair.

Casting traditional biminis into the shade, new Oyster 885 Clare and good looking Oyster 54 Oyster Reach both boasted new tan, mesh-sided tensile awnings from Dolphin Sails. Beautifully cut following software generated ‘form finding’ lines, the fabric itself actually adds to stability of the structure with the same tension across the entire surface. Great stability and much simpler, reduced connection, so simpler erection. On Oyster Reach it’s over seven metres long and takes less than eight minutes to set. “As instant shade as you’re going to get,”says Dolphin’s Matthew Vincent.

Philip and Helen Scott’s new Oyster 575 Helen, sailed from their Norfolk, UK base to Palma specifically for this regatta, was more than shipshape too with, tempting in the heat of the day, decorative rope-work serving and displays even of Philip’s favoured Adnams ales! Topping that, the boat-named fenders were extraordinarily precision hung, swung, levelled and rotated.

Attention does so count, but who will win? To misquote Shakespeare, that other famed Britsh-best, Oyster of course being the first, it’s only when the racing’s sailed and done, that all the class course and Concours winners will reap their reward for most polished performance. But let’s not wish the regatta away, Thursday, Race Day One, promises brisk winds before lessening through to Saturday. So until then, let’s get to it!

Images by Martinez Studios

04th October 2013

Race Day One

Nine o’clock sharp on this, the first day of racing in the 2013 Oyster Regatta Palma, and heads jerked to attention as all around the RCNP quayside cockpit VHF’s burst into life with a “Welcome” and the start of the day’s sailing instructions. Wind was light in harbour but building from NNE, and the committee boat already out in the bay reported 15 knots while Oyster 82 Starry Night of the Caribbean, out practising, reported 19 knots further offshore. It might be a tough call on whether opting for white sails or colour, some thought.

The order of the day with winds set to fall through the week was to try for two races rather than the originally scheduled single, with one morning, sponsored by Lewmar, one afternoon, sponsored by Pelagos. This played out well, with the day’s challenges mostly about gybe angles and working the shifts in varying strengths from slight to interesting.

A big switch in choice of colour sails or white appeared between the two races, with in Race 1 Class 3 (Oysters 46 through to 575) largely white but then a shift to spinnakers for most in Race 2. Meanwhile in Class 2 (Oysters 62 through to 66) virtually all flew their colour sails excepting Oyster 62 Galloper of Hamburg and Oyster 66 Marlene who have no spinnakers.

In Class 1 (Oysters 72 through to 100) again most opted for colour sails with in Race 2 only Oyster 885 Clare under white sails, owner Sir Frank Chapman drawing on tactics of old practised on his previous Oyster 56, poled out twin headsails dead downwind. Unfortunately, the single tack didn’t win over the gybe angles of top rival Oyster 885 Karibu.

These two 885s dominated Class 1 with Karibu clearly leading with two firsts. With their more modern designs they’re performing well across the spectrum, showing a particular improvement in lighter winds, and with the twin rudders working really well upwind. 

Starry Night of the Caribbean
 led fellow Oyster 82 Dama de Noche in both races, perhaps not surprisingly so as she’s a true veteran of Oyster regattas and carries a crack crew while today was Dama de Noche’s first ever racing. Boldly they pulled the spinnaker out of the bag in Race 2, flying it for the first time in anger, and initially with some frustration. “But a great day,” said skipper Chris Richards, “just needed a bit more wind.”

Oyster 725 Spirit of Phantom and Oyster 72 Billy Budd enjoyed good close racing, swapping third and fourth placings between the two races, and in the lighter airs both finished before the 82s. “First race we needed to blow out the cobwebs,” said Spirit of Phantom skipper Brett Sleeth, “but the second race came good, picking a couple of nice shifts we came back from the dead!”

Oyster 100 Penelope despite having sailed the Superyacht Cup earlier in June was racing for the first time with owner Paul Brewer on board and also on the helm, and sailed cautiously but well, and looking a picture snaffled the attention of plenty in the fleet as she sailed through the smaller boats initially ahead by virtue of the six staggered by boat size starts.

Class 2 saw some very smart, close starts particularly among the Oyster 625s, one of which took first in both races. Brazilian Dario Galvao’s then placed a good second in both aboard his 655 Rocas and was rightly pleased. “Our crew had never sailed together before today, so went out early to practice, particularly the spinnaker. That was a challenge. Racing our first set was a disaster but it got better. The courses were very good, well placed. It was also good that when the fleet was in close contact, everybody was very fair, well connected with respecting the rules. On board we had three newcomers who had never sailed, a father and two sons. It was good, we had 15 year old Paul helping me with tactics and Mark helping too on the main. There he is, never sailed before and trimming the main. A fantastic day!”

Oyster 62 Galloper carried perhaps the youngest average of all with Oliver and Astrid Niemann’s two sons Ingo, Gero and their friend Jakob, aged 13, 15, 16, constituting half the total crew. The Niemanns bought Galloper in 2009, previously having many years with an Oyster 49, but this is their first racing, the family having long contemplated competing, but school prevails at the time of Palma which this year fortunately coincides with a public holiday in Germany. They’re hoping for future repeats!

In Class 3 there were some really close results on corrected time but then variances played in interestingly. Wolfram Birkel’s Oyster 56 Cat Bhad the widest ranging result between races, having started badly in Race 1 and just not catching back up on the beat. But Race 2 was very different and her second became a first when John McMonigall from Oyster 575 Zaybo in true regatta spirit marched straight into the race office after docking admitting hitting the windward mark, so dropping a place. Crew member William Friis-Moeller said: “Second race was our best start, then first around Mark 1 we led the whole way, only four 80-footers in front. We chose the right angles for our gybes and got the timing right. Great atmosphere, everyone aboard is very happy, and that makes for good racing.”

Oyster 575 Cloud 9 also swung both ways. American owners Jan and Terri Buskop have lived aboard, cruising extensively in northern waters and then the Med, since taking delivery in 2011. Today was their first ever racing and after an eleventh in Race 1 they pulled nicely through to fourth in Race 2. “That feels good,” said Jan with a smile a mile wide. He and Terri previously cruised an Irwin 52 in the States and Caribbean before coming to Europe and Oyster. “We wanted more space and a lighter, faster boat with newer technology and the 575 we thought was the biggest we could sail easily as a couple and it’s just so comfortable.” Today they also discovered how well she performs.

Showered, refreshed and coached to the outlying Finca Son Mir in fabulous grounds and a blend of ancient agricultural main house, courtyard and contemporary pavilion, the fleet sipped and supped well before the evening’s prize giving and the chance to impress on the dance floor to a cool sax-led session before bed and a head full of how the next day’s light wind with two races scheduled again, might play out. Only tomorrow knows!

Images by Martinez Studios

04th October 2013

Race Day Two

The second day’s racing in the 2013 Oyster Regatta Palma gave a good morning challenge with a fleet now warmed up and fighting more keenly with closer starts and more grouping around the course. The planned second race of the day had unfortunately to be abandoned though, the already light NNE wind disappearing at noon exactly as forecast.

It wasn’t gloom for all though, the postponement while waiting to see if the sea breeze filled sufficiently to race, gave the chance for an unexpectedly leisurely lunch, a swim for some in the mirror-glass 26° sea, and the novel sight of a youngster wakeboarding behind Oyster 62 Galloper of Hamburg, chomping across the bay at nine knots under diesel. The darndest sight, said one, and a possible whole new recreation!

The tactician’s weather vane of planes changing take-off direction to seaward indicated a rising sea breeze and hinted at possibility but the airport and other forecasting sources reported unstable winds throughout the afternoon so the Race Committee made the hard call and abandoned. As Oyster 82 Starry Night of the Caribbean’s race skipper Campbell Field said later: “Sailing these heavy boats in light winds is not good. It was right to wait for a second race, and it would have been nuts to sail in six knots, and everybody’s had fun.” 

That morning race was four legs of around a left hand, two-mile sided triangle starting and finishing with a beat that began in 13 or so knots and ended in eight for most before failing. The six staggered starts divided not just by the three classes but by grouped boat sizes: Oyster 46, 53, 54, 56; 575; 62, 625; 655, 66; 72, 725, 82 and 885, 100 have met with wide approval as it takes the risk out of what would previously have seen fleets of almost 15 boats careering for the line, yet still provides excellent excitement, encouraging closer but not too close play. Comfort zones stretched but not damaged! That’s a good thing.

Tactical calls mostly turned around tricky shifts and getting them right, and in Class 1 the Oyster 885s held sway again sailing well in the lighter winds. Karibu took first again for the third time, the 45 second, press button furling of her tennis court sized top-down furling gennaker making very light of others’ hard work! Her rival Clare, Sir Frank Chapman’s very newly launched 885, continued her good form, pulling second again. She splashed only in early August and arrived in Palma with, as Sir Frank says, “Her sails hardly seeing light of day and certainly no serious testing before yesterday. The most gratifying thing is that we’re competitive and mixing it up with the leaders.” Paul and Penny Brewer’s Oyster 100 Penelope meanwhile too had her best result yet with fourth in class, so definitely warming up.

Class 2 has clear leaders, too, with hot competition between a new and very pacey 625 and 655 Rocas, driven by owner Dario Galvao, whose team includes as well as his resident crew Ian and Cindy Smith, novice and fast learning teenage sailors Louis and Paul, sons of friend Mark also sailing. 

Rocas is well set for these moderate to light days. As Dario says: “This boat sails well in 12 knots, it was definitely the right decision to go for carbon for the spars and a Park Avenue boom for the fully battened main, helps so much with good shape.” Since Dario’s 2010 purchase, Rocas has covered around 20,000 miles both sides of the Atlantic and deep into the Med in just four seasons, and Rocas has needed little more than general upkeep and a new North mainsail. Dario describes the Oyster formula as: “A very nice ratio between price and maintenance!” This is his second Palma regatta and back home in Brazil he races a hot, modern 25ft (8m) one design.

On the finish line Class-mate Oyster 625 Flying Spirit squeezed through but on corrected time Rocas maintained second spot. Flying Spirit is new this season to Rudolph Kagi. “It is new and completely different to my previous Oyster 56 Magic Spirit. Race 2 was very bad. The 3DL sails from North have very good shape but we over trimmed. We have talked now among ourselves and changed the set up and have speed. Today it was much better.”

In Class 3 John McMonigall’s Oyster 575 Zaybo returned to first after losing his hat-trick with a mark touching the previous day. He sails, he quips proudly, with “ a 100 per cent amateur crew”, and one of those, Laura Dylan, who he says used to do a bit of dinghy and small boat sailing, serves as tactician and says of John that it’s his great tell-tale concentration that puts them in line for the podium. A bit of dinghy sailing means that early days saw her racing Oppies against the now Sir Ben Ainslie! “Make good friends with good sailors,” John says with a characteristic wry smile. 

John’s featured well in the regattas since his first in 2004 at which point he hadn’t raced for 20 years. “We entered not expecting to do anything but ended doing rather well. It’s really down to the basics, attention to detail, nothing fancy, standard sails, getting the genoa track settings right. The monster is getting people to understand what they’re doing.”

After mixed fortunes in Races 1 and 2 with a sixth and eleventh, regatta veteran Alan Parker’s Oyster 54 played a thrilling challenge for first until a lazyline jammed on the boom just on the last tack coming to the finish, snagging the sail half way round until the line could be cut. But this was still a good climb to second. Alan said of the day: “Good fun, well organised and a good sporting atmosphere on and off water. Had hoped for a first, were really in the groove today, see what it’s like tomorrow. We believe in continuous improvement!”

While it’s fair to say there’s a whole flotilla of Oyster sailors hoping, too, for a continuous improvement in the wind, it’s hoped also that it will fill and stay for a pursuit race after the all-important Race 4. Beyond the clear leaders of Classes 1 and 2, with the chance of a discard everything could change. So fair winds please is the call.

Images by Martinez Studios

class 1 overall results
yacht namemodelowner/skipperRace 1 PointsRace 2 PointsRace 3 PointsRace 4 PointsTotal Points
Karibu885Karibu Ltd0.750.750.75810.25
Clare885Sir Frank Chapman2220.756.75
Spirit of Phantom725Brett Sleeth (skipper)533213
Billy Budd72Maria Cristina Rapisardi447318
Starry Night82Starry Yachts Ltd365519
Penelope100Paul and Penny Brewer654419
Dama de Noche82Wim de Pundert and Klaas Meertens776626
class 2 overall results
yacht namemodelowner/skipperRace 1 PointsRace 2 PointsRace 3 PointsRace 4 PointsTotal Points
Guardian Angel625Maxim Kudryashov0.750.750.7535.25
Rocas655Dario Galvao22228
Lady Mariposa625Dan Hardy (skipper)8440.7516.75
Flying Spirit625Rudolph Kagi353516
Acheron655Chris Masterson535417
Marlene66Solomon Finvarb476623
Galloper of Hamburg62Oliver and Astrid Niemann667726
class 3 overall results
yacht namemodelowner/skipperRace 1 PointsRace 2 PointsRace 3 PointsRace 4 PointsTotal Points
Zaybo575John McMonogall0.7520.750.754.25
Cat. B56Wolfram Birkel100.753215.75
Rock Oyster56John Marshall354921
Oyster Reach54Alan Parker4102723
Spindrift53Rory and Susie McGrath575320
Sine Die46Jesus Gasca298423
Cloud 9575Jan and Terri Buskop946625
On Liberty575Rovinj LLP6671130
Helen575Philip and Helen Scott8310829
El Mundo56Jonathan Singleton7812532
Postremo56Chris Boulter111191041