Twelve years to get 10 titles in a row

Oyster opener Vic Pearsey with the spoils of victory after winning the Ladies Open Title in 2018, at that stage her eighth title in a row. Photo: Supplied

CAN it be done?

Vic Pearsey, of Bluff, is seeking to make it 10 in a row when she takes part in the Ladies Oyster Opening contest at the 2021 Bluff Oyster & Food Festival on Saturday.

However, it has been far from smooth sailing as the attempt to make it 10 in a row has taken 12 years.

Ms Pearsey won her first title back in 2010 and repeated the feat in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

She was at the festival venue the following year when high winds intervened and the event was shut down for safety reasons.

The festival moved to a permanent site in 2015 with Ms Pearsey taking the title for the next five years in a row, only for Covid-19 to bring about a cancellation in 2020. With 10 titles in a row tantalisingly close, it meant Pearsey had to wait 12 months to try to achieve the milestone.

Her best time in the event, opening 50 oysters, is 2 minutes 43 seconds, set in 2017. The following year was close-run with Pearsey having to change her style as the oysters proved difficult.

She beat Peggy Bishop on that occasion by 10 seconds in 3 minutes 28 seconds, while the following year she beat her niece Alecia Brown, a first-year opener at the time, in 3 minutes 12 seconds with Brown only 12 seconds in arrears.

“I’m not sure if Alecia is entering this year, she has a fulltime job and only opens casually these days. She had real potential.”

Whether or not Ms Pearsey achieves the milestone on Saturday, she may not be back.

“If I did win, I would probably not be back, not immediately anyway. When I started winning, the aim became 10 and if I do it then it’s time. If I can’t do it, I probably wouldn’t
come back for another go, getting 10 after missing out on one wouldn’t be the same.

“One thing that would bring me back, win or lose, would be if the numbers of women started dwindling.”

Ms Pearsey started competing to get more women into the competitions.

The first year she started opening oysters at work she was on and off the bench, so didn’t enter the competition. She then entered twice before grabbing the first win and the rest is history.

“One of the best things about the way the competition has evolved is the fact that when I first started there were teams from Barnes, Ngai Tahu and Direct Fish & Oysters and there
was no love or friendship.

“It has now become a really awesome day where we all come together and have a really good time. At the end of the day, it is not about winning or losing but about showcasing our industry,

Despite the camaraderie, there was an ominous warning.

“This year I am coming after the men,” she said, as the competition prepared for a first-ever final between the Men’s and Ladies title winners.

The Bluff Oyster & Food Festival takes place in Bluff from 10.30am on Saturday.

  • Lindsay Beer, Bluff publicity/promotions officer