Jimmy Cornell's Millennium Odyssey rally reaches Tahiti and visits islands only newly opened to cruisers

After sailing separate routes for the last six months, the 35 yachts in the Millennium Odyssey round the world rally have regrouped at a rendezvous in Tahiti. The last time the fleet was docked together was last year at the beginning of November in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. From here, a small group of seven yachts sailed south to circumnavigate South America, while the larger fleet crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean and transited the Panama Canal.

From the Galapagos Islands, the 30 Millennium yachts taking the warm water route sailed the 3,000 miles to the Marquesas. Fabio Colapinto’s 62ft Taratoo took line honours at the end of a record-breaking 14-day passage.

Until recently, while the French nuclear test programme was still underway at nearby Mururoa atoll and visits by foreign vessels to the Gambier Islands, of which Mangareva is the main island, were not permitted. All that has now changed, so the Gambiers, one of French Polynesia’s five groups of islands, made a perfect landfall for the seven Millennium yachts that had taken the much longer Cape Horn route.

On their way to Tahiti and the planned rendezvous, both fleets had to cross the Tuamotus, once aptly called the Dangerous Archipelago on account of the many navigational hazards. GPS, radar and all other navigational aids that most yachts carry on board now make that a thing of the past, thus giving rally crews the chance to call at some rarely visited atolls before finally sailing into the picturesque harbour of Papeete, in Tahiti. . From here, the regrouped fleet will sail together as far as Bali. There, boats will either sail to the Mediterranean via south-east Asia and the Red Sea, while those intending to finish in Wilhelmshaven, Germany will turn left for the somewhat longer Cape of Good Hope route.