It’s been a while in the gestation, and the man firmly behind it all – Tudor John – admitted just a couple of weeks ago that as the inaugural event drew (draws?) closer and closer ‘I am alternately excited and terrified at what we have started’.
‘It’ is the Neptune Regatta, ‘The Race to Zero’, and as far as we know (challenges, anyone?) it is the very first regatta to sail to the Equator and use 0 deg 0 min 0 sec as the finish line. Right now nine sailing yachts and four motor yachts (yes, everyone is welcome) are ready and prepped at the Nongsa Point Marina, Batam, Indonesia.
Nongsa is just nine nautical miles across the Singapore Strait from the Tanah Merah Ferry Pier which is a mere two miles from Singapore’s Changi Airport. (Location alone could well make this one of the most ‘accessible’ regattas in the world!).
The IRC racing boats will race windward/leeward courses tomorrow, while the PY and powerboat fleets head south towards a stopover at Karas Besar and then – the next day – Pulau Buaya. IRC boats race straight to the Equator (approx 79 nm) on day two, and then back a little way to Pulau Buaya to join up with everyone else. On day three all fleets will head south in a 10 nm sprint race to the Equator, and then back to PB for a party at which, no doubt, the Trusty Shellbacks will welcome the Slimy Pollywogs to Neptune’s Realm.
This a strictly ‘come as you are’ event – there are no glam resorts among the scattered islands of the Riau Archipelago – and accommodation for all participants will be either on board, or in the tent village set up by organisers on Pulau Buaya.
Previous reconnaissance trips by the organisers have also enlisted the assistance of local villagers in making available a space on the island, and building a jetty to allow shore access at low tide. There’s been a huge amount of organisation, logistics, and support planning ploughed into this regatta before anyone has gone anywhere, and Safety Officer Alex ‘Ferret’ Voss honestly (and cheerfully) acknowledged at the Skippers’ Briefing tonight that ‘we have tried to cover all the bases that we have thought of, but this is a much bigger undertaking than we ever realised in the beginning, so please bear with us if there are any hiccups along the way’.
Judging by the general mood at the Briefing and dinner tonight, regatta participants are sailing this event more for the buzz of participating in something totally and utterly new than with thoughts of silverware and glory. ‘It’s planned as a fun event, but you can take as seriously – or not – as you like,’ said Voss. (Well, you know what they say – scratch a cruiser and there’s always a racer underneath!)
Weather over the last few days has been dominated by torrential downpours, so no doubt everyone is hoping for a let up in the precipitation, if not the wind. Tonight’s Skippers’ Briefing dotted a few I’s and crossed some T’s concerning course gates and anchorages, and RO Jerry Rollin once again reminded everyone that ‘it’s all in the SIs’. Then the company sat down to a buffet dinner under the watchful eye of regatta patron King Neptune himself.
Tomorrow is another day, and promises to be the start of something new, different, and huge fun. We’ll be bringing you as many update stories as we can, but ‘down south’ where there are no lights (and the stars fill the sky from corner to corner), and no mobile phone connections, internet coverage is gong to be patchy at best.
The Race to Zero could also mean the Race to Zero Broadband – but we’ll post what we can. But in any case, we’ll come home with some stories tell…
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