There have been a number of last-minute dropouts from the entry list, but numbers are well up on last year’s inaugural event, with 18 sailing yachts and just the one powerboat. No doubt defending champion Men at Work (Stewart McLaren) will have their hands full fighting off the challenge from David Ross’s new Ker 40, KukuKERchu, but tomorrow’s opening race – 72nm from Nongsa Point to Pulau Sikeling (aka ‘Neptune Island) just 8nm from the equator – is not a straightforward passage race.
Mount Gay Rum 2012 Neptune Regatta. Skippers’ Briefing. Alex ’Ferret’ Voss (Safety Officer (l) and PRO Jerry Rollin ¨ show off their flags
South through the Riau Strait and the Pengelap Strait, boats will have to deal with the wind shifts that go with inter-island sailing, and the thoroughly complicated currents that develop when the tide tries to push the China Sea into the Indian Ocean (and back again) twice a day. Last year one particularly gnarly patch of sea, riddled with cross currents and tidal overfalls, was immediately named ‘The Cauldron’, and with good reason.
It’ll be open season in the Cruising division too, with boats ranging from Daniel Whittington’s Ericson 28, WYSIWYG, right up to Sea Ranch, a Beneteau Oceanis 50 owned by newcomer Richard Lovenitz. 'We have a clear advantage here,' said Wittington, 'since we’ve done this before, we know where to go, and most particularly we know where not to go. This local knowledge will stand us in good stead, I’m sure.'
Back again, and this time racing in the Classic division instead of ‘merely’ hosting the media, is Tim Wilson’s El Oro, skippered by Simon Blundell and chartered to Simon Piff (Rainbow Dream). Piff says he is looking forward to some 'highly competitive cruising'.
And there’s an all-new multihull one-design division in the shape of four Corsair Dash 750s. Scott McCook, skipper of Yung Lee’s Siren, says that the saucy graphics on Siren’s sails are going to be a class-beater. 'Nobody wants to sail past a good-looking girl.' (We promise photos, later). Lee says he is on a 'practically vertical learning curve,' having bought the Corsair just a couple of weeks after learning to sail a Laser. 'But I know I am in good company, and we are all looking forward to tomorrow’s start.'
Mount Gay Rum 2012 Neptune Regatta. Skippers' Briefing. Hands up everyone who's been here before...
In the last 12 months the Neptune Regatta has established a very visible online presence for itself, having been ranked in the top ten sailing Facebook pages worldwide. Maybe that’s how the event has managed to attract no less than 16 nationalities among competing crews, from Australians to Russians, with Irish, Dutch, Korean and Canadian competitors thrown in for good measure.
Title sponsor this year is Mount Gay Rum, 'the Rum that invented Rum,' as they like to say in Barbados. (Down at Neptune Island, thirsty sailors will be able to enjoy sundowners at the Mount Gay Rum Beach Bar - did you know that Mount Gay’s Eclipse rum is was first created in 1910, to commemorate a solar eclipse coinciding with the passing of Halley’s comet? There’s more to this drinking thing than we realized!)
While the IRC racers are rushing straight to Neptune Island and a finish line off the beach jetty there, the remaining divisions will take it a little easier, making the trip in two ‘legs’, and stopping overnight at Pulau Karas Besar (Big Stiffy Island). We’ll tell you all about it later, but ‘normal service’ – ie daily race reports – from Sail-World will be interrupted over the next few days as internet coverage is not an option down south in the Riau Archipelago.
Mount Gay Rum 2012 Neptune Regatta. Skippers' Briefing. Brian Masters (Harry's Bar) explains drinks vouchers. Really?
Safety Officer Alex ‘Ferret’ Voss got the audience’s full attention at the Skippers’ Briefing tonight when he announced that 'the Riau Islands have moved.' Actually, the WGS84 chart datum offset has been amended by about 120m, so navigators are well-advised to pay attention to non-electronic nav methods!
PRO Jerry Rollin surprised absolutely nobody when he reminded us that 'it’s all in the Sailing Instructions', and Brian Masters from sponsor Harry’s Bar apologized that drinks coupons cannot be purchased with credit cards on Neptune Island – there aren’t any terminals down there.'
In fact, there’s nothing on Neptune Island (Pulau Sikeling) except what organisers put there to welcome and entertain the arriving fleet. P Sikeling is an uninhabited tropical island with no water and no electricity – except that right now the Advance Party is busy building a tent village, Harry’s @ The Equator, the Mount Gay Sundowner Beach Hut, and bbq facilities for the whole fleet.
Neptune Regatta will return to Nongsa Point Marina next Saturday 11 February. Tonight, drink and be merry – tomorrow, we sail!
Mount Gay Rum 2012 Neptune Regatta. Skippers' Briefing. Full House.
Mount Gay Rum 2012 Neptune Regatta. Skippers' Briefing. "Which way do you think we should go..?"
Mount Gay Rum 2012 Neptune Regatta. Skippers' Briefing. Last minute art class. Siren.