David Glenn enjoys a glorious 125-mile downwind sail aboard Eddie Jordan’s Lush as he reports from the Oyster World Rally

Photos: Mark Snyder/WetArtProductions
Pic 1
: Perfect Pacific sailing aboard Lush
Pic 2: Apparently we should be aground – we’re not. One MUST NOT rely on chart plotter cartography in this part of the world.
Pic 3: Pacific sleighride. Audrey Adamson (l) skipper and husband Paul, Debbie Johnson and Eddie Scougall on the after deck of Lush at 11.5 knots

The weather’s been fairly grim here in Fiji
over the last few days where participants in the Oyster World Rally are
nonetheless enjoying the delights of a spectacular island group. The
considerable upside of this meteorological disappointment is that the breeze
accompanying the weather – all 25-28 knots of it from the ESE – has provided us
with the sort of sailing one normally only dreams about.

I was aboard the Oyster 885 Lush, Eddie
Jordan’s silver grey sailing machine as we hurtled north on a broad reach first
to the isolated Welagilala atoll some 25 miles from Vanua Balavu in the Lau
group and then 100 or so miles on to Savusavu on Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second
biggest island.

We topped 14.5 knots, enjoyed perfectly
chilled champagne as we crossed the 180 degree line of longitude and generally
soaked up the fabulous sailing conditions as we took off on our Pacific

In 14,000 miles of sailing since her launch
last year in Southampton, Lush has only been close hauled for 80 of them, but
here in Fiji it was business as usual as we bowled along with a reef in the
main and a couple of rolls in the yankee averaging a steady 10 knots. The only
interruption on the way to Welagilala was a quick furl of the headsail and a
bit of mainsail feathering as skipper Paul Adamson hooked a very respectable
6kg Mahi Mahi which was landed on the stern platform. It was duly despatched
with alarming ferocity by Mrs Adamson, wielding a winch handle and a bottle of
gin, the latter applied to the Mahi Mahi’s gills and thus administering almost
instant anaesthetic.

Audrey Adamson’s delight at landing the
fish was, I later discovered, due to the fact that Lush was running down her
stores in readiness for entry into Australia where officialdom is mighty strict
about biosecurity. Virtually no foodstuffs are allowed in.

Our Mahi Mahi was lightly pan fried and its
light, white, sweet flesh consumed within hours of it being landed. Sublime!

Finding the ‘ship passage’, as it’s
referred to on the chart, into the Welagilala lagoon was relatively simple
because here the Navionics/Raymarine plotter chart seemed accurate, something
we could confirm by overlaying a radar image. We sat at anchor as the wind
topped 30 odd knots overnight and Paul was thankful of a chart repeater and
anchor alarm at the foot of his bunk just to check we were holding. With an
80lb CQR down and 60m of chain it was unlikely we’d be going anywhere and
thankfully we didn’t.

The following morning heralded brighter and
breezier, but this was the perfect mix for a reach down to Savusavu during
which Audrey claimed a 14.5-knot record for this leg – Lush hit 21.5 knots on
their Atlantic crossing when the wind topped more than 50 knots – and the 885
showed how effortlessly she could cover the miles. With Van Morrison cranked up
on the speakers (Paul also made us homesick by playing the shipping forecast
intro Sailing By in full), delicious offering from the galley and the sun
maintaining its appearance, all was very well indeed!

Also aboard Lush for this wonderful sail
were Debbie Johnson and Eddie Scougall both from Oyster. They are the rally
pathfinders and organisers, paving the way for the 24-strong rally fleet as it
continues its exciting journey around the world. Last night Eddie had to deal
with a potential emergency when the crew of the Oyster 56 Purusha called up on
the satphone saying they’d hit a rock at 6 knots.

Eddie’s facial expression matched the
anxiety one sensed in the voice of the caller. Bringing 30 tons to a dead stop
is worrying but after checking engine bearers, floors around the aft end of the
keel, heavy elements like the calorifier and batteries it seemed the sturdy 56
was OK. A couple of rally crew from other boats who also happen to work for
Oyster were able to get aboard to check things out and initially all seemed
well. The yacht was due to be hauled here anyway so Purusha is likely to be
able to continue. It was a good example of how the Oyster support system can
quickly swing into action, provide expert advice and reassure people. “The 56
is wonderfully overbuilt,” said Eddie with some relief!

Eddie’s face beamed as we crossed the 180
line of longitude as he was able test the integrity of our permanently rigged
sun awning by firing the champagne cork straight at it! No sign of damage….

As we charged round the reef protecting one
flank of Savusavu Bay we again thought how much this looked like the Firth of
Clyde as cloud and drizzle hung over it. But this morning as we sit stern-to at
the Copra Shack and Yacht Club – this one certainly does have beer and a very
respectable restaurant – the weather is taking a big turn for the better. Most
of the fleet will gather here for a breather before the next leg of their
journey to Fiji’s main island Viti Levu. I hope to be reporting from there