Top of the Gulf 2014 – a Tale of Two Breezes
by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia on 4 May 2014
This is more like it – sunshine at breakfast time, and the promise of some scenic sailing, even if WindGuru was not an encouraging accompaniment to the eggs and bacon. In fact, it looked like a glass-out, but there was indeed breeze by 1120h and away went the Multihulls, followed by IRC 4, 1, 2, 3 on passage courses down towards Koh Khram Noi and Koh Rang Kwian, and then the start was adjusted for the Coronation Cup Platu fleet to race windward-leewards.
TOP OF THE GULF REGATTA 2014 - Ferret coursing © Guy Nowell/Top of the Gulf
The trouble with passage races from the camera point of view is that after the first five minutes the boats are all split up, and there are no interesting mark roundings to look at. And if there isn’t any brochure-type scenery to admire, like the Ninepins in Hong Kong or the islands in Bass Harbour, Langkawi, then it’s not so interesting in the visual department. So the Media boat stayed with the Platus hoping for some close quarters action. Good call.
The first race started properly enough with around 8kts of what seemed to solid sea breeze, but there were rain cells over the coast, and disruption seemed likely. It’s what the professional cats and dogs people call ‘unsettled localised weather patterns.’ As the leading Platus approached the top mark it became apparent that they were all laying the buoy on port, and the breeze had gone 45 degrees left, from 230 to somewhere around 185. The sort of shift on which a perfectly sensible crew can go from mustard to custard in a heartbeat. There was still breeze, and down the run they went, back up again, and down to a finish which produced a class A gybing duel with Easy Tiger (Chris Way) trying to get past Kingdom Property (Scott Duncanson). At the hooter there was only a boat length in it. The at the end of yesterday the top four boats also included Tigrina (Andrew Moore) and Team Viewpoint (Rolf Heemskerk) and sure enough they rolled home in third and fourth place.
The rain storm was still parked lethargically over Ocean Marina and dumping on the Optimists further inshore when the next race started. A pre-start ‘nudge’ from Teka sent Andrew Moore (Tigrina) for a swim – 'at 90 seconds to go I was swimming. At 40 seconds to go I was back on the helm, and then we had a pure gold start in clear air at the boat end. Shaken, but not stirred.' East Tiger was first around the top, followed by Tigrina, and there was some very interesting close quarters action between Magic Dragon and Nataya who proved once and for all that a 2.62m beam Platu cannot fit into a 1.5m gap (which is why, just in case, marks are inflatable and not solid). See pics.
Then it all went totally pear-shaped. The breeze dropped to a whisper, spun around all over the place, and most notably dumped Tigrina from second to 12th. There a scramble for the leeward gate, at which the RO very sensibly called a short finish.
By now there were spinnakers coming down from the west; the big boats running home from their trip to the islands. But the front runners didn’t have an easy time of it either, having to pass through the transition zone that had blindsided the Platus. Peter Ahern, Oi!, said that 'the breeze was all over the shop, and it took a whole lot of concentration to find a way through the pattern – except there wasn’t a pattern.' Oi! threaded the maze well enough to take line honours for the passage racers as well as a handicap win in IRC 1. Shortly after, seven boats all crossed the finish line either overlapped or nose-to-tail. Last batch to finish were the smaller of the racing boats – the 40-footers – having sailed a longer course than the cruisers, storming home in sunshine on sparkling water with what seemed, once again, to be an established sea breeze. 'It was a great sail,' said Bill Bremner (Foxy Lady 6). 'We had good breeze all the way round the course, max 14kts. Don’t know what all the fuss was about.' However, the Race Officer decided that more big boat racing today might not be a good idea.
There was still another Platu race on the card, and the wind seemed to be good, so… well, first there was a General Recall, and then the wind backed 180 deg and it was all over, Rover. Three guns and race abandoned.
It was an eventful day on the water, not entirely successful for some. But as the saying goes, ‘a bad day on the water is better than a good day in the office’. We’ll be back in the office tomorrow, with another wrap-up from Top of the Gulf.
Full results: www.topofthegulfregatta.com
1 Oi! 1, 1, 1 (3)
2 Island Fling 2, 3, 2 (7)
3 Wan Ma Rang 3, 2, 3 (8)
1 Karasu 1, 2, 1 (4)
2 Foxy Lady 5, 1, 2 (8)
3 Windsikher 2, 3, 4 (9)
1 Hi Jinks 2, 1, 1 (4)
2 Magic 1, 3, 3 (7)
3 Souay 3, 6, 2 (11)
IRC 4 Cruising
1 Amanda 1, 3, 1 (5)
2 Wind Star 2, 1, 3 (6)
3 Tai Two 3, 4, 2 (9)
Platus, Coronation Cup
1 East Tiger 2, 3, 3, 2, 3 (13)
2 Kingdom Property 8, 1, 2, 1 4 (16)
3 Tigrina 1, 2, 1, 4, 12 (20)
4 Team Viewpoint 10, 4, 5, 3, 1 (23)