Fijian icon – Race among the best in the world

Yachts race at this year's Fiji Regatta Week. Picture: MACIU MALO

SINCE its humble beginning 35 years ago, the Fiji Regatta race is shaping to be one of the biggest yacht races in the world. The annual regatta started in 1984.

Since then it has attracted yachties from around the globe.

The meeting point is Musket Cove Island Resort and Marina. The race has promoted Fiji throughout the world.

It was the brainchild of the late Fijian tourism icon, Dick Smith.

Less than 30 yachts pioneered the race. Thirty-five years on, the resort hosted more than 200 yachts from around globe this year – the biggest contingent.

Participating countries include South Africa, Brazil, Germany, USA, England, Russia, Sweden, Argentina, Singapore, Japan, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Belgium, Netherlands, Cayman Island, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Cook Islands, to name a few.

The idea of the race back then was initiated by Smith and his friend Jack Hargraves, was a year-end celebration for yachties.

Hargraves, now 80, said the first race designed by the late Dick Smith was to race from Musket Cove to Vanuatu. He said things changed when the late Smith who was also a yachtsman, decided to hold the races within Fiji to avoid yachties from sailing away from Fiji.

“The first regatta was a combination of a couple of a few yachties and Dick got them together and planned to have something going,” said Hangraves.

“It really started as Dick’s idea was to get the yachts here and sail to Vanuatu, but again there were a lot of things to be done such as getting Customs clearance.

He spent a lot of money to organise for the Vanuatu logistics until such a time Dick and I were in Vanuatu and we found the yacht club was very small. “The main idea of the race was the end of the season get together.”

He said the Fiji Regatta race continued to grow each year and had been regarded as one of the best in the world. Hargraves said the race was an opportune time for yachtsmen and yachtswomen to socialise and meet.

“Most of them have feelings for the ocean and even spent half of their lives in their boats. This regatta is to unite them,” said Hargraves.

“For more than three decades, Musket Cove Fiji Regatta has been famous for its traditional, warm hospitality, excellent racing and a fun factor that remains on high from start to finish. “Yachting is a big thing in the country and Fiji is one of the best destinations in the world.

“More and more yachts will come each year and we will never get rid of them no matter how hard they try.”

Resort director Will Moffat said the regatta that was initiated by his late father-in-law Dick Smith, had been attracting new faces to the resort each year.

He said resort staff were honoured to be part of this event.

Moffat said the early interest in the regatta indicated that last year’s record fleet of 105 yachts would be surpassed this year.

The signature event at the Musket Cove Fiji Regatta is the 20-nautical mile Round Malolo Lailai Race, which starts and finishes at the waters off the resort.

On shore, the party agenda will include the fancy dress Pirates’ Day, the Musket Island Rum Run and the ever exciting off-the-beach Hobie Cat round robin.

“Party Central is for all participants for post-racing and based around Musket Cove Yacht Club’s unique open-air island bar, where great island music will get things moving,” said Moffat.

“This year will be no different: sail by day and party by night”.

Resort manager Jo Mar said the regatta was to thank the yacht owners for choosing Musket Cove Marina as its berthing place during hurricanes and bad weather.

“The late tourism icon built his marina which I believed was the first to be built in Fiji,” said Mar.

“Before the yachts head back home after the cyclone season, he (Dick Smith) wanted to throw a a thank you party to all yacht owners for coming to Musket Cove.

“I was only a boy that time and my dad used to work with Smith.” Mar said since its humble beginning 35 years ago, the event had slowly gained recognition throughout the world.

“The event has grown from strength to strength and this can be seen in the types of yachts coming in. He said some of the yachts that participated at the regatta
had been in the country for more than three months.

Mar said most of these yachts who had been competing for more than 10 years participated, not only for the race, but to enjoy one week of fun with their fellow yachties.

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