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A spectacular Reunion

Nov 26, 2013

Courtesy Ille de la Reunion Tourism

The Oyster World Rally fleet has reached Reunion, a French territory east of Madagascar. For these circumnavigators, it’s about as far off the beaten track as they’ll get while still being able to touch terra firma.

At 39 miles long and nearly 1,200 miles from the African coast, the island is a pinprick in the Indian Ocean. But Reunion’s features belie its size. It has a stunning volcanic landscape (the Piton de la Fournaise rises to 10,000 feet), white sandy beaches fringed by coral reefs, and more than 800 miles of hiking trails.

“The Oyster World Rally visits some incredible places, but I have to say that Reunion is just spectacular,” rally manager Debbie Johnson said in online update on Nov. 20. “The landscape is very similar to New Zealand but as a French ‘department,’ it is also very European. … The whole island has the feel of a real community and there is very little in the way of packaged tourism or large holiday resorts.”

Next up for the Oyster voyagers will be the crossing to Richards Bay in South Africa. To get there, they’ll have to navigate the Agulhas current, a strong southerly flow along the coast that can generate giant swells when the wind blows from the south.

“Long-range weather forecasts are not always accurate and once the fleet (is) on the way, there is not really a place to seek relief from bad weather,” Johnson said.

On the plus side, renowned meteorologist Chris Tibbs is providing daily forecasts, and Alan Du Toit – already en route to South Africa – is sending reports from Legend IV, his Oyster 575.

“Hopefully the fleet can then time their arrival into the Agulhas current in northerly winds and have calm waters as they approach the African coast,” Johnson said.

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