This year’s edition of Asia’s unique adventure race took off on Monday 06 Feb with a combined start for all divisions in 10kts of northeasterly breeze, out in front of Turi Beach on the north shore of Batam – just across the Strait from Singapore. The course towards the equator bears away to starboard around the northeast corner of Batam, then down through the Riau Strait and past Pulau Karas Besar at around the halfway point. The waters are more open for the next stretch across the Pengelap Strait, and next comes the massively confused tidal overfalls approaching Pulau Pompong, generally referred to as The Cauldron (and it doesn’t matter which way the tide is going, it’s still a cauldron). The last stretch is the crossing to the little group of islands that includes Pulau Sikeling, ‘Neptune Island’, and the finish line.
The IRC and multuhulls divisions made the passage to Sikeling in one hit – 72nm – while the Cruising and Classic divisions got an overnight stop and some social time at P Karas Besar.
Mount Gay Rum 2012 Neptune Regatta - They’re off! Kay Sira and Rikki Tikki Tavi head for the equator. - © Guy Nowell/ Mt Gay Rum Neptune Regatta Click Here to view large photo
Mount Gay Rum 2012 Neptune Regatta. El Oro leads the Classics along the coast of Batam - © Guy Nowell/ Mt Gay Rum Neptune Regatta Click Here to view large photo
It was a reaching start that became a run as the boats bore away down the Riau Strait, with the breeze holding good and solid. Predictably enough, KukuKERchu (Ker 40) the ‘scratch’ boat for the fleet, jumped into the lead and stayed there all the way to the finish and line honours. But skipper Jonno Rankine and the KKKs didn’t have it all their own way – neither Men at Work (A35, Brent Morgan) nor the Elan 43, Rikki Tikki Tavi (Chris Furness) fell too far off the place. The biggest tactical call in this race is how to handle the ‘washing machine’ conditions north of P Pompong – try to go round the top of it… or the bottom… or straight through the middle? After only two races through that patch of water there just isn’t enough local knowledge to draw on, so roll the dice… After corrections were applied, it was Men at Work, KukuKERcu and then Rokki Tikki Tavi.
Mixing it up among the IRC finishers were the four Corsair Dash 750 cats, with Siren (Yung Lee) taking line honours followed by The Dash, Singa’loc and Kaze. Scott McCook on board Siren reported that the trip around the ‘washing machine’ was awesome – if someone can figure out how that works, it could be a race winner.'
Meanwhile, back at the ranch at Karas Besar, aka Big Stiffy Island, the Cruising and Classic divisions were settling down to fresh catch purchased from a passing fisherman. For both divisions it was pretty much a soldier’s course, with waterline length and good trimming making all the difference. The biggest boat in the Classic fleet, El Oro, threw away some of her advantage when she blew out her spinnaker at an early stage of the race and had to settle for line honours but second on corrected time. First place went to Kay Sira (Slipper 42, Barry Wickett). Ol’ Blue Eyes, Glen O’Grady’s Young 88, scored the first of a string of firsts in the Cruising division, closely followed by Sapphire Star (Simon Connor, Olsen 34) feeling like she, too, had handicapped herself with a damaged steering system that – but it didn’t seem to slow her down too much over the following days.
The Mt Gay Rum Neptune Regatta is as much about travelling hopefully as it is about arriving, but by the end of the first day’s racing the whole fleet had, indeed, arrived in their respective anchorages. Last year’s southern anchorage was at the back of P Sikeling, in the lee of P Buaya, but that’s a couple of miles from the centre of activities on Neptune Island, and the decision was made to anchor the fleet right in front of P Sikeling instead. Sailors who made the trip south last year well remember the hassle of getting ashore, in the dark, when the tide has gone out (it goes a looooong way) and left behind a labyrinth of coral just waiting to trap unwary feet. It was a tortuous process getting everyone ashore in the dark, but accomplished in the end, and everyone was happy to settle down to lashings of 5-star Mt Gay Rum punch, plenty of cold beers at Harry’s @ The Equator, a brilliant and almost full moon, and more stars that most of can remember seeing for a long time – well, since we last went to Neptune Island, maybe!
Mount Gay Rum 2012 Neptune Regatta. Setting up the finish line on the end of the jetty. - © Guy Nowell/ Mt Gay Rum Neptune Regatta Click Here to view large photo
1 Men at Work
3 Rikki Tikki Tavi
2 The Dash
1 Ol’ Blue Eyes
2 Sapphire Star
3 Melissa III
1 Kay Sira
2 El Oro
3 Mico Verde
Mount Gay Rum 2012 Neptune Regatta. Arriving at Neptune Island is easy when the tide’s in. - © Guy Nowell/ Mt Gay Rum Neptune Regatta Click Here to view large photo
Mount Gay Rum 2012 Neptune Regatta. PRO and others checking out the Essential Facilities - © Guy Nowell/ Mt Gay Rum Neptune Regatta Click Here to view large photo
Mount Gay Rum 2012 Neptune Regatta. Why does the Regatta Director have his head in a cardboard box? (Trust us, it’s to do with checking lights). - © Guy Nowell/ Mt Gay Rum Neptune Regatta Click Here to view large photo
Mount Gay Rum 2012 Neptune Regatta. But landing is trickier in the dark when the waters all gone down the equatorial plug hole. - © Guy Nowell/ Mt Gay Rum Neptune Regatta Click Here to view large photo