We all know where the equator is – ‘down there’ if you live in the northern hemisphere or ‘somewhere north’ if you are any sort of Antipodean. For as long as people have been making charts of the oceans of the world, the line that marks equidistance from the poles has exercised the imagination of sailors.
Mt Gay Rum 2013 Neptune Regatta. Manao Express at the equator.
In the 18th century many and various traditions grew up around the supposition that ‘Crossing the Line’ for the first time provoked an aggressive visit from King Neptune himself – often accompanied by Queen Codfish, Davy Jones, and a whole panoply of salty characters demanding obeisance to His Aquatic Majesty, a reckoning of nautical sins, some Right Royal forgiveness and the conversion of newcomers (Slimy Pollywogs) into loyal subjects of the King, known as Trusty Shellbacks.
How many ocean races provide for an opportunity to Cross the Line? The Volvo and the Vendee Globe for sure, and maybe the Clipper depending on the route, but not everyone has the time or the qualifications to participate in such events.
So for those wishing to have last Monday’s dinner rubbed in their hair, a desire to be covered in beaten egg and black syrup, an uncontrollable urge to consume evil concoctions of fish sauce Tabasco, coffee grounds, rum and durian, here is your opportunity. Welcome to the only race on the planet (that we know of) that has a finish line on the equator. Welcome to the Garmin Race to Zero – 0 degrees 0.00 minutes – the equator.
1005 start time (to allow for anyone who may have overindulged last night – heaven forbid – all classes, one start and motoryachts joining too. An 8nm sail in highly variable breeze. From the Committee Boat on the equator we could see the whole racecourse, from Neptune’s Realm at 0deg 0.00min, all the way back to the start line at Pulau Sikeling. It’s not often that you can read a race so well just by looking at the whole track. The principal item was a big rain cell that moved east to west across the northern end of the course. Those that looked back and saw it coming ‘got lucky’ and gybed early, leaving the back markers stranded in no breeze at all and allowing themselves to beat into the draft sucked into the system. Not quite a straight line to the finish, but almost.
Kukukerchu read it right, crossing the line at 1137h, and so did Shahtoosh, both winning their respective divisions (IRC Racing, Premier Cruising) by handsome margins. The rest of the divisions straggled in with dying breeze.
After passing over the equator, boats are allowed ‘time out’ to complete Crossing the Line ceremonies. One young lady seemed to have mysteriously lost her swimsuit, no doubt an offering to His Majesty. Across the fleet, champagne corks popped, silly wigs were donned, respectable citizens suddenly turned into pirates, and Slimy Pollywogs were turned into Trusty Shellbacks. Jamie Boag - Director of two VOR challenges, but still a pollywog – was unfortunate to have brought along his good friend Ian Walker – two-time VOR skipper and therefore an exceptionally Trusty Shellback. Boag was last seen manacled to the backstay, bedecked with seaweed and being lashed with spiky palm fronds. Rumours of having been administered ‘a very stiff drink’ are unconfirmed at time of going to press.
By now the rain cell had moved off too the west, taking all the wind with it. This A Good Thing if you are conducting Crossing he Line ceremonies, but Not a Good Thing if you wish to complete the round trip and sail back to Neptune Island. PRO Jerry Rollin and ARO Prakash Reddy exercised their magisterial wisdom, abandoned racing for the rest of the day, and commanded another toast to King Neptune. Do not pass Go, straight back to Pulau Sikeling.
1. Kukukerchu 4, 2, 1, 1 (8)
2. Walawala 3, 1, 2, 4 (10)
3. Sea Bass 1, 3, 4, 2 (10)
4. Rikki Tikki Tavi 2, 4, 3, 3 (12)
1. The Dash 1, 1, 1, 2 (5)
2. Manao Express 2, 3, 2, 1 (8)
3. Tri to Fly 4, 2, 3, 4 (13)
4. Dash Boot 3, 4, 6, 3 (16)
1. Baby Tongs 1, 1, 3 (5
2. Defiance 2, 2, 2 (6)
3. Shatoosh 3, 3, 1 (7)
1. Minx 1, 2, 1 (4)
2. Mico Verde 5, 1, 2 (8)
3. Nay 2, 3, 4 (9)
4. WYSIWYG 3, 4, 3 (10)