Yesterday was the big day for the 2010 Tahiti Moorea Rendezvous. Although a big mix of cruising boats, the 70 or so boats were given a race start outside the harbor of Papeete and told the finish line would be at the outer markers in Opanhu Bay in Moorea. Any time there are two sailboats on the water within sight of each other – you by definition have a race. But, this was a more organized race even though it was a large mix of boats. The weather conditions were really interesting as well.
Here is a map of our GPS track for the race:
View 2010 Tahiti Moorea Race in a larger map
Watch the following slideshow and read all the details about the race in the text below for the exciting race details! We even have a few shots of Tahina from other boats we passed.
Our crew members Jason and Lara have sailed on J-24 race boats for years. Jason owns one and has won many championships. So, I made sure to pay close attention to his advice. We had a great start on the windward side of the starting line and so we had clear air upwind of everyone. The winds were light at the start because we were in the lee of Tahiti (a large mountainous island). So, we were only going 3-4 knots initially. As we got out a mile or so, the winds picked up, and Tahina started moving forward more quickly than the other boats. Soon, we were in third place. We passed the second place boat – a mono-hull – about 30 minutes into the race. The first place boat had a bigger lead. They were a racing mono-hull complete with carbon fiber sails. But, the day had brisk 15-20 knot winds from the south-southeast (we were headed west). And there was an 8-foot southerly swell. These were perfect conditions for Tahina on a beam reach, so we started gaining on the leader. By the half-way point (between the islands), we managed to pass the leader (who we later found out was called “Exabyte”).
So, Tahina was in the lead! Not only that, the winds were picking up speed and we were getting to smoother waters in the lee of Moorea. So, we were soon going 12-13 knots! We actually started thinking we might win this race! Suddenly we looked back and saw a catamaran passing “Exabyte”. They were really moving fast. Despite our increasing speed, they were catching up. And, another catamaran we had seen further out started moving in as well.
It was soon apparent we were going to have some serious contenders. We were worried the winds might get caught off in the lee of Moorea. But, instead we were getting strong winds down the mountain face. The boat from behind was called “Sea Level”. The other catamaran was “Endless Summer”. “Sea Level” was a demon though. They tried to manuever to pass us on the windward side. But, Jason and I decided to cut them off by moving closer to the reefs. They had to give that up and try to pass us on the leeward side of Tahina. This meant they would have to sail through our wind shadow. We were going 14-15 knots at this point and they were still trying to pass us! Sheesh! Sure enough, they tried to pass. But, our wind slowed them down. This happened twice.
We were seeing strong gusts of wind – up to 30 knots apparent (in part due to our speed). We were still on a beam reach and these conditions were perfect for catamarans. We couldn’t believe how fast Sea Level was though. Twice they hit our wind shadow. Suddenly a huge gust came. We were going 15-16 knots, but they just glided through our shadow and took off. We hit 17 knots briefly just after they passed. Later they told us they hit 19.2!
Thanks to Jason’s advice, we probably sailed as perfect a race as Tahina could do. But, Sea Level was a better boat. We managed to gain on “Endless Summer”. The finish line was upwind. We went as far upwind as possible, but it required some tacking to get through the pass markers. Suddenly we saw “Sea Level” mess up on a tack and go in irons. We started to gain on them. But, before we could make our tack they managed to cross the finish line. We crossed 2 minutes later in second place.
What a race! It was a great day for Tahina – we are so proud of her! After anchoring we went over to visit “Sea Level” to congratulate them on their win. We exchanged photos with “Sea Level” and “Exabyte” in the afternoon. We had fun sharing our stories with the other cruisers in the evening during the BBQ they organized on the beach.