Oyster World Rally: The Latest From Our World Rally Coordinator
With the Oyster World Rally fleet now over halfway round the world, we caught up with Regine Watts, World Rally Coordinator here at Oyster, to find out how they are getting on and their journey so far.
So Regine, what’s your role been in the 2017/19 Oyster World Rally?
I’ve been with Oyster since 2009 but joined the Rally team originally as shore support in 2015, when we began organising this circumnavigation. The pre-rally stage involved a lot of planning. Upon deciding to do another rally [the first Oyster World Rally took place from 2013/14] we updated a big information book for our participants, telling them what to expect when travelling to the myriad of places we visit. It’s a practical working guide for our fleet, looking at things like Visas, local banks, which marinas to use etcetera. The Oyster World Rally team started writing it in 2015 and didn’t complete it until 2017, so that gives you a good idea of just how much went into it!
Despite all that organisation though, everything changes so quickly - especially in developing countries - that I still have to do the occasional bit of last-minute re-jigging and be prepared to be flexible. Now the Oyster World Rally is underway, my role entails flying out to our planned destinations ahead of the fleet and making sure all arrangements are in place, including informing the officials that our Oysters are coming and where to find what in terms of local services!
When I am with the fleet, I also liaise with them about their plans and fuel needs and arrange for any technical issues to be sorted. I usually travel with an Oyster technical support person who knows the boats inside out, and can try and fix any onboard issues. If new parts are needed, our After Sales department will ship these items to the destination and the technical support guys assist the owner in repairing the issues on the vessel, if they don’t already know.
All in all, it’s an incredible role. You get to know the owners so well and it’s a fantastic community; they really do feel like one big family.
Tell us about the Oyster fleet’s journey so far?
The journey had been different for everyone; every yacht has had extraordinary experiences. If you go onto the World Rally section of the website you can see the Oyster fleet entries where quite a few of the boats have links to their own blogs. These are are well worth a read if you want to understand the rally from a range of perspectives.
What I can tell you is that every single participant has made this rally their own. There are some people who go to every single island that lies on the way, and we find the fleet’s confidence grows as the rally goes on. They have visited some truly incredible and remote places, such as remote Fijian islands where hardly any yachts ever visit, and have got to know a variety of local customs. Sometimes on these islands, all you can do is try and communicate with your hands and feet because there is no common language. But it’s all an adventure; they are experiencing a completely different world to the one they know, and it is a life-changing experience.
Have you received warm welcomes?
Everyone has been incredibly friendly towards us. What’s more, all the owners have made friendships amongst each other that I know will last a lifetime. Because they are sailing as part of a group, they always help each other when a member of the fleet has problems, whether it’s a medical concern, a spare part needed or anything else.
We have also had some amazing parties along the way. I organise these events at suitable locations en route and coordinate with the locals, who sometimes can provide food and entertainment. We had a fantastic end party in New Zealand to celebrate making it halfway around world. And then the Oyster owners organise their own and get together when an occasion arises.
Just on this second half of the rally the Oyster fleet has been to New Zealand, Vanuatu, Australia and now Indonesia. What have been your highlights?
We had to put a 5 month break at New Zealand because the Pacific has cyclone season, which is dangerous to sail in. So people flew home and rested, had work done on the boats, and some visited New Zealand and Australia’s beautiful country side as we were so close by. But everyone came together to sail on to the Vanuatu island group, where we got special clearance to visit a live volcano - a breathtaking experience - before cruising up further on to Port Vila and the northern islands. Along the sail route we try and work in as many exciting experiences as possible, whilst making the best possible use of the trade and prevailing winds.
And what’s next?
We will use these trade winds to carry on towards South Africa, leaving on 6th/7th of September from Lombok. We go via Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Mauritius, Reunion and then onto Durban, to have the Oyster fleet in Cape Town by the end of November/Early December. Then, for weather, tidal and current reasons, the boats will be in the marina for servicing before the rally re-starts in January. The plan at the moment is to head to Brazil on the 4/5th January via St Helena, sailing on to Grenada and then finishing in Antigua at the end of March, where we will have our final party on the 5th April 2019. There’s a whole lot to look forward to yet!
Stay tuned for future monthly updates from Regine as the fleet sail ever-closer to their finish.