The Oyster World Rally fleet have now crossed the Atlantic, representing the last ocean passage of the 16-month Oyster odyssey around the world. Following a truly amazing adventure, the rally will come to an end in the popular Caribbean yacht charter destination – Antigua, this April. The 2nd edition of Oyster World Rally Rendezvous will kick off at Grenada‘s Port Louis Marina in March 2014.
Oyster World Rally Project Manager, Debbie Johnson and Customer Care Manager Eddie Scougall spent two years planning the event and have followed the fleet for over 30,000 miles. As the rally nears conclusion, Debbie looks back at some of the defining moments of the Oyster World Rally.
Exploring the Lau Group – Fiji’s remote Far East
“I think that one of the defining moments of the rally was in the Lau Group. The yacht crews were all there as friends having sailed thousands of miles together and it was such a privilege to be allowed to be there. The Lauans had only just opened up their islands to outsiders and they have never seen anything like the Oyster World Rally before. It was a big moment for them and for us.
For the islanders to witness something that was so international, having been isolated for many years, was an amazing experience. For the Oyster fleet it was like tasting the same experience as James Cook, who discovered the islands in the 18th century. There are no restaurants or hotels but the islanders were so kind to us, so willing to share everything from their fruit and vegetables to their companionship, these are the things that you read about in history and rarely happen anymore.”
Stormy Seas – Richard’s Bay, South Africa
The Oyster World Rally is supported by renowned Meteorologist, Chris Tibbs. His expert knowledge proved extremely valuable when the fleet encountered rough weather before making landfall in Richard’s Bay South Africa. The arrival of the Oyster fleet was met by rapid changes in weather and the Aghulas current created a significant sea state.
“Chris has been on standby for the fleet for the duration of the rally but as we were sailing out of the trade winds for the first time and into more changeable weather we engaged him to advise us until the fleet all got safely to Cape Town,” commented Debbie.
“Different groups of yachts were experiencing contrasting conditions and Chris delivered bespoke weather briefs to each group about what was coming up for them. The fleet were in constant communication with each other on the Radio-Net, giving weather observations to go with Chris’ predictions. Armed with this information, the yachts could choose the best route to avoid very bad weather and they would know when to hold back or when they needed to speed up. Several Oyster yachts experienced stormy weather but they all handled it very well.
When you have excellent information, it is easier to address the situation because you are less likely to get stressed or panic. Chris Tibbs sailed part of the rally down from Antigua to the Galapagos Islands and he had met all of the sailors and that bond was also very useful, he is very much part of the family.”
The Oyster World Rally organises regular rendezvous for all of the yachts taking part. These meetings are an essential part of yacht maintenance, where Debbie Johnson and Eddie Scougall can offer advice and service but the rendezvous have another essential ingredient – Parties!
“As the rally has progressed, the camaraderie within the fleet has grown to such an extent that the parties have been wonderful get-togethers. The Oyster World Rally visited Vanuatu in the South Pacific Ocean, the archipelago is remote, over 1000 miles from Australia and 300 miles away from Fiji. The World Rally base in Vanuatu was at Yachting World in the capital Port Vila.
We were just expecting to have a quiet social evening, as the islands have little in the way of party venues but it was one of the most raucous parties I have ever been to, probably the liveliest party of the rally.
Prior to arrival, the fleet had been split up a bit throughout the Fijian Islands but at Vanuatu, we all came back together. The friendships that had been created really came to the fore and the party went on well into the night. We were six months into the rally and on the other side of the world, the bond and understanding across the fleet had become very strong.”
Oyster held a wonderful dinner party at the Groot Constantia Valley Vineyard, near Cape Town, South Africa, as Debbie explains: “Constantia was a fabulous setting, the area is the oldest wine-making region in the southern hemisphere, dating back to 1685, with whitewashed shutters and a cobbled floor, the courtyard had a very rustic appearance but the service was first class. We enjoyed some fabulous wine and beautiful food in a really glamorous location and it wasn’t long before the party really got going. It turned into a hilarious evening with dancing and there was a real buzz throughout.
I remember thinking at the time – this is like a graduation disco! Everyone was there to have a good time and celebrate being together. The friendships that have formed during the rally are so powerful, I think probably as powerful as the friendships made from University days. People that would not have met in normal life, people with very different backgrounds and characters, have been brought together by the rally. They have an amazing bond through their shared experiences, which will stay with them forever.”
The Oyster World Rally will conclude in Antigua this April, the Grande finale will be complimented by the Oyster Regatta Antigua. As many as 50 examples of Oyster Yachts will gather together, the largest gathering in Oyster’s 40 year history.
“It is going to be very emotional,” concluded Debbie with tears of joy. “Over the last few days I have been collating the photographs from the rally and it is amazing to see how far these people have come. Looking back at the pictures of the seminars before the start, they just look like different people – wide eyed at the amount of information they would have to absorb and wondering what the Oyster World Rally would be like. They looked like children taking their first steps.
Now they barely need us, they can do just about everything on their own and that makes Eddie and I so proud of them. Everyone is looking forward to Grenada, Oyster has been made very welcome there at previous regattas and the Grenadians are so friendly and genuinely happy that we have decided to come to their island. After that, it is going to be one hell of a party in Antigua.”