On the final day of the 2013 Oyster Regatta Palma, the 26-boat fleet woke hoping for two things: Race 4 of the series and a separate Pursuit Race. The forecast though said “Nada, slim chance, not enough wind,” sending natural hesitancy into the voice of Race Officer and Oyster CEO David Tydeman, who said: “If we can get an early start in the wind we have, we’ll try to give you four good legs for Race 4 with the hope we might then be able to run the pursuit race afterwards.”

Hope seemed forlorn but then on a day that apparently shouldn’t have happened we got not just both races but the absolute best day of the regatta. The wind swiftly built from the NNE again to 15-17 knots with flat sea, blue skies and sun, and the racing was close and pressure packed, the previous racing evidently proving itself as warm-up and learn days to deliver a great final day in the Bay of Palma.

Courses for both were left-handed triangles of 7.8 and 11.3 nautical miles with a longer downwind leg to make colour sails more worthwhile. The desired effect left only four boats with white sails, an impressive turnaround from Race 1.

The starts were tighter and the finishes, too. In the morning’s Race 4, sponsored by Dolphin Sailsl, the first three boats, Oyster 625 Lady Mariposa, Oyster 655 Rocas and Oyster 625 Guardian Angel were all only nine seconds apart on corrected time. It had been a real tussle, Guardian Angel fighting hard to maintain their terrific run of firsts, but Lady Mariposa, skippered by Dan Hardy with Igor Yakunin, the owner’s teenage son, later enjoying the helm, too, tacked across the line first, followed by Dario Galvao on Rocas who had fought a reaching battle with Guardian Angel for two legs, at times almost only an arm’s stretch away before squirting through to second place.

In Class 3 the competition was also hot with the six boats placed fourth to ninth just 90 seconds apart. The front runners though were wider spread, John McMonogall’s Oyster 575 Zaybo securing his third win, a full 3m 19s ahead of Wolfram Birkel’s Oyster 56 Cat B, followed by Rory and Susie McGrath’s Oyster 53 Spindrift which led the remainder by another chunky 2m 4s, impressive for a newcomer to regatta racing. In Class 1, Oyster 100 Penelope, first across the line, and Oyster 82 Dama da Nochetook off from the starboard end well, while at the pin end Oysters 885 Clare and Karibu looked set for a close challenge when just a couple of minutes after the gun an explosion signalled the end of Karibu’srun of three firsts as the jib’s head noisily failed and the sail dropped. Sir Frank Chapman helmingClare, with three second placings behind Karibu’s bullets, now looked for an easier first and took it, 55 seconds ahead of Oyster 725 Spirit of Phantom skippered by Brett Sleeth and then Maria Cristina Rapisardi’s Oyster 82 third.

While Karibu has had the benefit of a season’s busy sailing including the Loro Piana regatta, Clare, handed over only on 5 August is fresh out of the box and until now virtually untested. Today put that one firmly to bed. Stepping up into Clare from an Oyster 56, her owner helmed deftly sided by skipper Simon Hughes with a newly formed crew, some he has history with, some new, and of whom Sir Frank says: “It was like a jigsaw, we had the outside and the centre naturally filled in. It’s been very good. She sails beautifully and to windward no weather helm at all, just 1° rudder hard on the wind. She’s so balanced in a blow you could be well over before you ever knew, and she tracks so well.” After Palma Sir Frank is heading off on the ARC for the Caribbean season and, with Clare the latest addition to the Oyster Charter fleet, she’ll appear at the Antigua Charter Show in December.

With the day continuing so unlike the forecast, the wind held with the NNE gradient maintaining sway for an interesting play out of the Pursuit Race, and pleasingly Karibu made it back out to the start. “It was a bit unfortunate,” said skipper Eric Sweetser, “but it was ok, we had another sail on board, although not so good. It was close getting back out time-wise but we just came in on our start sequence!”

Handicapping changed for this race with the cascading start times based not on the rating you should optimistically sail to, but on how you had actually sailed the series. A complicated but logical proposal and given the varied conditions of the races to date, a 50 per cent allowance was applied to Races 1, 2 and 3 with a further 50 per cent to Race 4. The weighted performance distribution then formed the calculation across an anticipated two hour race. And it worked… Jesùs Gasca’s Oyster 46 Sine Die, the smallest in the fleet, took 2h 3min, and the largest, Paul and Penny Brewer’s Oyster 100 Penelope, came in just ninety seconds behind her, with two thirds of the fleet between finishing within 4 minutes.

Philip and Helen Scott’s super shoal draft Oyster 575 Helen set the trail, starting first and just staying out front the entire five legs. It’s tempting to say they never looked back but that wouldn’t be true! “It was very pleasurable looking back and seeing everyone behind us,” grinned Philip, continuing, “we had some extremely good upwind work, the twin rudders really do make it light to helm, no weather helm at all, even powered up, and off the wind we got up to 8.5 knots… in a 575, fantastic.”

Second finisher was fellow 575 On Liberty, a Class champion at the last regatta in Grenada and which coincidentally the Scott’s had twice chartered before delivery of their own new 575. On Liberty’sskipper Harry Blazeby reported a great race, too: “Very exciting finish, we had Acheron [Chris Masterson’s Oyster 655] breathing down our necks, very close. We passed five boats but we just couldn’t catch Helen, she was way ahead.”

Third placed Acheron’s skipper Brendan Hall was very buoyant: “We had new crew and the boat’s only ever done three races, and we’re getting to know how she handles. We’ve been behind but today it all came together. Everyone’s now very motivated and we might be making a few changes but we don‘t want to become an all-shouty pro-boat! Push hard but not too hard.” Brendan might know something about this, he’s recently published a life and Leadership book, Team Spirit, based on his experiences as the winning skipper of the 2008 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Tailing Acheron for fourth place, Oyster 82 Dama de Noche, crossed the line with Oyster shareholders Wim de Pundert and Klaas Meertens aboard. Wim commented: “This was our skipper Chris’s first regatta in six years, and it has all been so good. Having sold our Oyster 82 Tilly Mint since the last Palma regatta, we needed to charter this time and we were very lucky indeed to be offered another 82,Dama de Noche, and gradually we’ve got better and better. I have to say it’s also good to see the new designs performing so well in the series, especially the 885s, as we have our own 825 being built for delivery in 2015.”

With the racing all concluded it was time to unwind and relax at the closing gala dinner and prize giving at the quite fantastical Cap Rocat hotel 20 minutes East along the bay. An old fortress on the edge of the sea converted in the clever modern Mallorcan architectural vein of blending contemporary and ancient, it’s an extraordinary venue and a perfect setting to celebrate a week’s gathering that ended with a particularly exceptional day’s sailing.

The spirited prize giving in the splendid courtyard before the dinner party began involved so many in receiving awards for the conventional to perhaps less expected that it all reflected the exceptional all inclusive nature of the Oyster regattas and the welcoming family of Oyster owners and crew. For a quick view of Overall Class Winners see the table below. For full results click the link at the bottom.

Next venue? The 33rd edition, the Oyster Regatta Antigua, is timed to coincide and celebrate the return of the Oyster World Rally crews on 5th April 2014. Until then, good cruising.

Overall results in brief

Overall Results Class 1
OverallModelYacht Name
1885Karibu
2885Clare
3725Spirit of Phantom
472Billy Budd
Overall Results Class 2
OverallModelYacht Name
1625Guardian Angel
2655Rocas
3625Lady Mariposa
4625Flying Spirit
Overall Results Class 3
OverallModelYacht Name
1575Zaybo
256Cat. B
356Rock Oyster
454Oyster Reach