Some Kiwi cruisers on Pacific circuits have been coming to this event for years; for many international yachts on a circumnavigation, it’s a welcome distraction on their way west. During the days before the event, Musket Cove Marina, the moorings off the marina, and the huge, protected anchorage of Malolo fill up with a wonderfully mixed crowd – 96 yachts this year – of dedicated racing yachts as well as cruising boats of every size, design and age. Everybody’s welcome at the regatta!

The first Musket Cove Regatta in 1984 was organised as a warm-up event for the then-popular Musket Cove to Vila (Vanuatu) Race. This race petered out years ago, but the Musket Cove Regatta kept going – even in 2020 the enthusiastic team at the Musket Cove Yacht Club managed to organise an event while the rest of the world went into lock-down (thanks to the Blue Lane policy of the Fijian government which allowed tested and covid-free yachts to enter Fiji). 2021 was the only year the event had to be paused, but starting on September 15, 2022, the five-day regatta was back bigger and better than ever.


The regatta schedule features the 12-mile-long Pirate Race as a ‘warm-up’ on day two. When the race started at 10 o’clock, only a light breeze rippled the sea under a heavy, leaden sky.

Fortunately, the rules for this regatta simply say that “there are no rules for pirates,” so the participants just revved up their engines and went full throttle. Some didn’t even bother hoisting their sails!

David, the skipper of the Stealth 14 lightweight catamaran WOW lowered his 50hp outboard engines into the water, put his mixed British/American/Swiss crew as a counterweight on the bows and managed to win the race, reaching 11 knots at times. A true pirate strategy that left all the bigger yachts behind.


The main event is certainly the Malolo Classic Regatta on Day Three. This is a serious regatta with regular rules, so all the yachts had to turn off their engines five minutes before the start. Fortunately, the weather gods were with us, sending a stiff breeze. With sails up, each of the 24 participating boats struggled in 15-20 knot southeasterly trade winds for a good position to start. First the biggest catamarans in the field rushed ahead, chased by impressive monohulls and a whole fleet of cruising yachts of various sizes engaging each other in close combat. There were plenty of tight encounters and precarious manoeuvres.

Right in the middle of the action; Fenice finished first monohull in the Malolo Classic.

But then three small, local racing multihulls charged through the field and left all bigger yachts in their wake. Burt, a 33 ft Reynolds cat, won the 15-mile race in just 1 hour 26 min, followed by Kaia, a Seacart 26, and Miss Minnie, a Box 8.5 cat. The first cruising catamaran over the finish line was the SVD 60 Marcato with the first monohull to finish the 62’ Beneteau Fenice.

Entrants in the six-mile-long Sandbar Race on Day 5 merely drifted over the starting line, sails flapping, before smartly hoisting their light windsails and chasing cat’s paws on an otherwise calm sea. What the race lacked in wind, it made up in picturesque aesthetic: all boats had up as much canvas as they could carry and the colourful spinnakers, gennakers and other lightwind sails were reflected in a mirror-like sea under a deep-blue sky and a few fluffy clouds.

Big, heavy boats had no chance in this race, despite the huge sails they were flying. Mustang Sally (NZ) showed an astoundingly good performance, almost keeping up with the cats and finishing as first monohull in 1h 25 min. For a while it was nip and tuck between Burt, the winner of the Round Malolo Race, and WOW, winner of the Pirate Race, but in the end WOW had the better tactics and was first over the line in 1h 17 min.

Calm conditions for the Sandbar Race.


Day One saw the Hobie cats struggle through a first round with very light, fickle winds, but 64 teams with participants of all ages gave it their best, whistling for wind, blowing their sails and paddling frantically over the finish line.

On Day 4 Hobies competed once again in a light breeze, with just enough wind to keep their sails filled during the second round of the race. On the last day of the regatta, the wind picked up in the afternoon, just in time for the Hobie cats to sail into an action-packed finale, with the Kiwi crews of Akonga and Mustang Sally taking the leading places.

Only a handful of ladies, but 12 men and 12 kids, competed in the SUP challenge in the afternoon of Day 4. Later in the afternoon an astounding number of cruisers took the opportunity to move their sea legs in an onshore competition, giving their best in the Fun Run, which was split up in a short circuit (2km) and a long circuit (4km) to accommodate different levels of cruiser fitness…

Exhausted but happy: the winner of the Fun Run.

Held on the leeward side of the big island of Viti Levu, the regatta cannot count on stable winds, even though it takes place during the height of the southeasterly trade winds. We got lucky this year to get a steady, strong breeze that turned the roundthe-island Malolo Classic into a truly spectacular event.

“There have also been years when only two boats made it to the finish line and the other ones were just drifting around for hours…” Will Moffat, owner of Musket Cove Island Resort and Marina and the organiser of the regatta grins. “But it’s all about the fun, really!”

And it’s true, everybody had fun this year, whether competing, or just watching and cheering the competitors. The modest fee of FJ$110 per person doesn’t just cover event entries, but also a welcome dinner, free drinks on two evenings, and a buffet at the prizegiving. The winners took away an impressive array of goodies, ranging from haul-outs at sponsoring marinas to generous food hampers.

All canvas up in the Sandbar Race.

The entry fees for the Hobie cat races and FJ$3,000 from auctioning off haul-outs at Vuda and Marsden Cove Marina (NZ) went to the Youth Sailing Programme at Vuda Marina to encourage young Fijians to engage in water activities. BNZ