Top of the Gulf 2012, Day 1 – more than a capful of breeze
by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia on 6 May 2012
Yesterday it was sunshine and buckets of breeze, but like the saying goes, ‘you should have been here then…’ Overnight the thunderstorms were spectacular, and the torrential rain was still coming down at breakfast time – but there was still breeze. Fitful showers continued until around 1030hrs, and by start time (1100hrs) the rain had stopped leaving behind lowering grey skies and solid wind from the south. It wasn’t quite the picture postcard conditions that usually prevail at the Top of the Gulf Regatta, but 16kts is still 16kts and not to be sneezed at. The wind stayed in all day – Kukukerchu recorded a top speed of 26kts at the masthead, the Committee Boat registered 25kts, and there were some very tired sailors back on the OMYC lawn at the end of the day.
Top of the Gulf Regatta 2012 - The Weasel, Ying Guy Nowell/Top of the Gulf
Cue PRO Jerry Rollins’ in-house Speaking Clock, and with a ‘three, two, one, go’ off went the Cruising division on a windward/leeward course, followed by the Platus, Ocean Multihulls, IRC 1 and 2 and then IRC 3 and the Sportsboats. For the smaller boats a 2nm beat against the tide seemed a long haul, but the bigger boats made mincemeat of it, with Neil Pryde’s Hi Fi taking full advantage of a 51’ waterline and recovering from a thoroughly second-row start to lead all the way round the track. After three laps she sailed home to a corrected time win just 5 seconds ahead of David Ross’s Ker 40, Kukukerchu. Siren, the Sayer 13 on charter to Dmitry Gornyy, retired soon after the start with a broken halyard (but went back to Ocean Marina and reappeared in time for the second race). Timothy Long’s China-built Soto 30, intriguingly named ‘Soto 30’ and making her world debut on the racetrack, brought up the tail of the division at the top mark but took off like a scalded cat down the run, passing Tantrum (Robert van Paridon) and Simon Powell’s Sell Side Dream as if they were standing still. It looked good, but it looked very much like a 30-footer in 40-foot company.
The 40 footers are once again flavour of the week at a major Asian regatta, but it was good to see Hi Fi hold her time against her smaller cousins, even if only by a squeak, and even if Kevin Costin is still complaining of a stiff neck from looking over his shoulder for too long.
Second race of the day for IRC 1 was a 20nm trip out to Koh Rang Kwian, beat-reach-run-fetch-run, and this time Kukukerchu won and turned the tables by pushing Hi Fi down to second place by 38sec after a 2hr race. Kevin Witcraft’s GP42 found her groove to tear home in third place on the water and on handicap, with Steve Manning’s Walawala (Sydney GTS 43) snapping at her heels.
IRC 2 also completed two races (Windward/leeward, and Koh Rang Kwian). David Bell’s Magic made a guest appearance as a hi-tech prawn trawler, but that wasn’t enough to stop her leading the division on 3,1 at the end of the day. Damrong Sirisakorn (Thai Navy 1) took early command of IRC 3 with two bullets from two races, and Peter Herning (Kirifiki) pulled off the same trick to lead the IRC Cruising division.
The Ocean Multihulls all revelled in the boisterous conditions, but star of the show straight off the start line was John Higham’s Sea Cart 26, Sweet Chariot. The super-lightweight trimaran has been modified since her first couple of regatta outings, with a taller rig and one less in the crew. The result today was a sub-light speed start and the boat disappearing away up the course in a haze of spray from her reverse bows. She swung a bit too low at the end of the first race, leaving the Committee Boat to port and having to return to finish correctly – but still won by 2 mins on corrected time. Unhappily, Sweet Chariot scored DNF for the second race when the headboard pulled out, leaving Andrew Stransky’s Fantasia (2,1) to lead the division at the end of the first day.
It was a long tough day on the water for both the Platu division contesting the Coronation Cup, and the Sportsboats division. There are some new faces in the Platu class - Anthony Hastings, usually seen at the helm of Baby Tonga, downsized his ride to join Rolf Heemskerk on Nataya, and Fraser Johnston – another Baby Tonga regular – is sailing 118. Simon Piff (Rainbow Dream) popped up on One One Two Two, and was already complaining of aching bones after yesterday’s practice session (but admits that the Platu is ‘a little more responsive’ than his cruising boat) and Ricky Sandoval and Jun Avecilla have brought their long-standing Platu rivalry all the way from Subic Bay to sail Motornet together.
It was only twice round the track for the first race, but Heemskerk made it look easy, taking and defending an early lead over Ian Short on Short Time. In the second, ‘long’ race, ChrisWay on The Ferret pushed Nataya down to second place. Crime Scene, Noel Leigh-Smith’s new Shaw 650, was the scene-stealer among the Sportsboats with two first places. Scott Duncanson’s very familiar Phuket 8, Quantum, suffered a knockdown and complete capsize whilst rounding Koh Rang Kwian. Rescue efforts from a media boat (they’re not all villains!) eventually righted the boat and slowly towed her the 7nm back to OMYC. 'I guess this is one regatta we’re not going to win,' said Duncanson.
The single biggest class at Top of the Gulf is the mass of Optimists contesting the Thai National Championships, this year with 108 names on the entry list. If it was hard work on the water today in a Platu, it was ten times harder in an Oppie! So hats off to Sarawut Phetsiri (THA) who scored 1,1 from two races, closely followed by Pongsapat Pumyam (THA) on 2,2. Top scoring girl was Chaninat Poolsirikot (THA) in third place, and leading overseas competitors were Conrie Tsen (MAS, seventh), Yann D’Argenlieu (HKG, ninth), Brandon Sung (MAS, 11th) and Calum Gregor (HKG, 12th).
The wind is still blowing, and forecast is still for ‘more of the same.’ Roll on tomorrow at Top of the Gulf – but with sunshine, please.
Full Results: www.topofthegulfregatta.com
1 Kukukerchu 2,1 (3)
2 Hi Fi 1,2 (3)
3 Karasu 3,5 (8)
1 Magic 1,2 (3)
2 El Coyote 3,1 (4)
3 Dynamite 2,4 (6)
1 Navy 1 1,1 (2)
2 Navy Academy 2,3 (5)
3 Amanda 4,2 (6)
1 Kirifiki 1,1 (2)
2 San Sanook 2,2 (4)
3 Reef Knot 3,3 (6)
1 Fantasia 2,1 (3)
2 Free Wheeler 3,2 (5)
3 NoLimit 5,4 (9)
1 Nataya 1,2 (3)
2 The Ferret 3,1 (4)
3 Short Time 2,6 (8)