Adriatic Lagoon Regatta: Pleasure Regatta Like No Other
Ever wanted to be a part of the sailing world, but didn’t know how? Well, this is it. On April 28th to the 1st of May 2017, myself and colleague Tara Miranda, were lucky enough to attend the Adriatic Lagoon Regatta 6.0. A Croatian pleasure regatta that provided a weekend of laughter, cuisine, dolphins, dancing and of course, sailing!
When I was asked by Jelena Banović from Nautika Centar Nava, if I would be interested in attending their 6th Edition of the Adriatic Lagoon Regatta, I think the words “yes please” came flying out of my mouth before she had even finished the sentence. I knew of the Regatta from reading about it in Yachts Magazine and had heard nothing but praise about the event, but none of this prepared me for the weekend ahead. With my background in Restaurants and Charter Yachts and Tara’s background in Regattas, it was going to be interesting to combine our perspectives on this ‘Charter-Regatta’.
The Adriatic Lagoon Regatta 6.0 was organised by Yacht Club Lagoon, Nautika Centar Nava and Yachts Magazine, in association with a host of local sponsors. The weekend and Regatta itself is for boat enthusiasts of varying skill level – from boat owners and old seadogs, to amateurs. There were different options for chartering a Lagoon catamaran for the Regatta, but most opted for ‘all-inclusive’, which included hire of the Lagoon cat, regatta entry fee, skipper, fuel, dining out and even provisions aboard – the yacht was ‘healthily’ stocked with everything one could need, from a full fridge of food, as well as beer, wine and other thirst quenchers.
Every year, Regatta participants have the option to find their own skipper, but generally they rely on the experience of Nava to assign a skipper. This year, Toni Kacic from Nava was the only employee to skipper a vessel, while the rest were chosen because of Nava’s prior good experience with them. Some years there are more owners who skipper their own yachts, but this year Deni Cetin on the Lagoon 440, was the only owner to skipper his own boat with crew. In total, there were 84 crew from Croatia, Russia, Ukraine, Austria and Slovenia and 11 Lagoon catamarans from Lagoon 39 – Lagoon 570.
Day 1 of the Regatta and I must admit, we were both a little apprehensive, Jugo had been blowing for three solid days and caused chaos on the usually serene Adriatic. Jugo is a South-East wind and typically accompanied by dark, moody clouds and storms – not ideal when you are about to hit the water. But, nothing was going to dampen the spirits of the Nava team, who greeted us enthusiastically and immediately took us to our new home for the weekend – Mustra I, 450 Lagoon.
The second we stepped foot on Mustra I, our apprehensions were relieved and we knew we were in for a fab weekend – our crew, greeted us with the biggest smiles and a platter of local delicacies and vino, courtesy of the Nava Team provisions; not too shabby!
Darko Šupuk from Yachts Magazine, one of the organisers of the event; headed up the skippers’ meeting at 3pm and informed everyone we would wait until 5pm for the winds to drop a little before we departed. However, he continued – there would be no racing due to the inclement weather conditions.
After the OK from Darko and the Nava team, we all pulled out of the ACI Marina just after 5pm; the conditions were a little hairy to begin with, but not as bad as either of us had expected. Credit must be given to the Lagoon Catamarans here, I have been thrown around on plenty of sailing yachts before in this kind of weather, but our skipper Igor Mihajlov, handled Mustra like a dream. These boats aren’t just beautiful, they are functional, comfortable and luxurious – the fact that we could enjoy a glass of vino in this weather, says it all really.
Our first destination was to be Maslinica on the island of Šolta, we arrived around 7pm into the Marina and what a sight we were – all of the Lagoon catamarans lined up with lights glittering over the harbour, in front of Martinis Marchi – the newly restored Heritage Hotel and Restaurant.
Martinis Marchi is a lavish 300-year old Castle and everything about the setting and staff exudes luxury and elegance. Once again, we were greeted with a gorgeous glass of wine – Dingač Matuško, 2011 Barrique… no doubt about it, I could get used to this.
From the outskirts, dinner was traditional; chicken & vegetable soup for entrée, followed by Risotto, then roast pork… however, everything was executed to perfection. Having managed Michelin-starred restaurants, I can be hard to please, but I cannot fault one element of the evening. The staff were what I like to call – ‘Ninjas’ – everywhere and nowhere; plates were delivered with ease and grace, while wine was continually topped up without ever noticing. Perfection (and dangerous).
Our personal highlight was the Saffron Risotto; saffron is a funny thing, because it is known to be expensive, a lot of chefs add it to a dish thinking it speaks for itself, like covering oneself in expensive brands and believing this gives class – it doesn’t. However; this risotto, was hands down, one of the best I have had in a long time. After being cooked, the risotto was poured inside a hollowed-out block of Parmesan, which created the perfect combination between the delicacy of saffron and the richness of parmesan. At one point the Chef came out of the kitchen and insisted on personally getting us another plate of risotto, now that’s service!
I digress, the night wasn’t over here, it was just the beginning. Desert, drinks and dancing were to continue by the pool. The rain hammering down had potential to hinder this plan, but, once again the Nava team & Martinis staff continued the program seamlessly. The ‘After-Party’ was instead held in a gorgeous pool-side room, where Lite Motive with singer Ana Opačak (Croatian ‘Voice’ Finalist) were waiting to set the room alight! It wasn’t long before the whole room was grooving to their smooth tunes and unique covers.
Day 2, saw us waking up to clear skies and zero wind – still not ideal for sailing… After a short walk around the gorgeous bays of Maslinica, we were invited aboard another yacht for breakfast. This, is exactly what I love about the boating world, it is such a community; there is something about the sea that provides a backdrop for instant connection.
From island Šolta, our next destination was Palmižana, Hvar. We hit the water at around 12pm and cruised towards the island of Hvar in hopes of the wind picking up and being able to race. The weather was gorgeous, and our trip was about to get a whole lot better – in one moment, our skipper yelled out “dolphins”, as we raced to the front of the boat, we were just in time to see a pod of dolphins swimming gracefully along with us! Seriously, could this weekend get any better? (The short answer is yes).
After a beautiful afternoon of cruising, dolphins, music, more food & laughter… we arrived in front of the Pakleni islands, where we would finally get some racing in… The racing committee were on the Lagoon Power 44, waiting to give the signal, while ‘Colnago’ a small powerboat donated by Water Express, went around placing the buoys to lay out the course with well-known yacht photographer – Mario Jelavić aboard, ready to catch the action.
And, this is where Tara steps in to give her sporting take on the race…
“Unfortunately, the weather didn’t permit for a photo finish moment. With near zero wind, the large Lagoon catamarans sailed around the racecourse quite placidly. In fact, my favourite moment was when the already delicate breeze, decided to leave the show completely. Steering the yachts was proving futile, there were near collisions and comical banter was hollered between competitors across the glassy water. The dynamic between regular Adriatic Lagoon Regatta Charter guests, the devoted Nava workforce and the ever-growing number of new faces, was incredibly endearing and wonderful to be a part of.”
Two races were completed, before it was of course, time to eat again. We anchored in the gorgeous bay of Palmižana, directly in front of Toto’s Restaurant, our venue for the evening. There is something truly magical about Toto’s restaurant; tables are nestled in amongst a botanical garden that the Meneghello family has lovingly tended to over the last decade, overlooking a deep-turquoise bay. Combine this with lush palms and lanterns gently swaying in the breeze and you have a tropical ‘secret garden’ kind of feel.
Once again, the food and service was on point; share plates of bruschetta, seabream ceviche and local delicacies, set the tone; followed by shellfish and scampi ‘buzzarra style’, then chargrilled tuna or lamb and vegetables by peka for main. A selection of decadent cakes was laid out to finish, though by this time, the majority of the contingency had taken to the dance floor, busting some very sweet moves to old school RnB – a genre that spans all cultures and ages!
Unfortunately, Tara and I had to miss the last day, we exited the scene at Hvar while everyone carried on to Trpanj on the Pelješac Peninsula, for the final race and closing party. Much to our dismay, it turns out the Nava team and organisers had saved the best ‘til last! After another race-day – where the highlight was our boat Mustra I, ‘nudging’ a buoy and dragging it along for a while… the Lagoon flotilla finished in Trpanj and were greeted on the dock with fresh oysters and wine. Dinner was at Beach Bar Trpanj and began with sushi and prosciutto, followed by goulash, cuttlefish with broad beans and freshly caught, grilled swordfish.
Remember, this was a Regatta and, while it may have been ‘friendly’ as such, there is always a winner… so, there was of course an awards ceremony, with trophies and even a first place prize of a Lagoon SUP Board!
Group 1: 1st Place Kotovskyi, Lagoon 560,
Group 2: Sponge Bob, Lagoon 440
Group 3: Leggiero, Lagoon 42
And, being that we were on Mustra I, it is a given that I must mention our boat was 3rd in Group 2 – pictured with the infamous buoy.
To finish the night? They really pulled out all the stops – fireworks, lighting of lanterns on the beach, while a DJ accompanied by saxophone got the party started! I am told it was a night to remember…
Though the closing party was on Sunday night, the weekend was not quite over, there was a final breakfast, SUP and kayak testing courtesy of Surf Shop and an optional wine tasting at Matuško winery.
To say the experience and weekend exceeded all expectations is an understatement. From both of our perspectives the weekend was an incredible experience from beginning to end; we enjoyed the ‘relaxed-friendly-regatta’ element (an expression you won’t often hear in the racing world) and the overall atmosphere, organisation, comradery and professionalism blew us completely out of the water (excuse the pun).
There were so many more elements from the weekend that I could write about, the characters on the Regatta being one of them. From the boys on our boat, like our incredibly passionate and experienced skipper Igor Mihajlov, or Renato Munitić – the man with every license (boat, car, diving, plane…), Alenka Alujević who has worked for Nava for 14 years and still oozes enthusiasm, the crew on Leggiero who have been returning for 6 years because: “this is the only Regatta we do, it is the perfect combination of pleasure (the amount of food & wine borders on hedonism) and a regatta – but, even though it is ‘friendly’ when the signal sounds, everyone’s competitive side still comes out to play”; to one of the youngest skippers – Igor Stropnik, who, among other things has completed a 9-day sailing tour around the Croatian Coast on a Dinghy! And this is only scratching the surface (you can look forward to our ‘Characters of the Sea’ Series on Total Croatia Sailing for more stories like this).
So, who is the Adriatic Lagoon Regatta for? Any sea enthusiast, or lover of gastronomy for that matter. Whether a lifetime experience, or that aching desire to get on the sea and feel a part of the sailing world, if only for a weekend… While some of the crew may have been handy with a winch or sails, others preferred to kick-back and relax, watching the stunning Croatian Coast drift by. Regardless of participants’ reasons for coming along, – Nava, Yachts Magazine and Yacht Club Lagoon crafted an exceptional program.
I only have one complaint… that no one physically forced us to stay for the last night! Though, I am hoping this just means we will be invited back next year to see it all for ourselves. Special thanks to Owner of Nava Dario Marijan, CEO Inge Ćosić, Jelena Banović and Darko Šupuk from Yachts Magazine for making this a trip to remember. We are penciling in next year’s dates now!