A grey and blustery day to start the inaugural Neptune Regatta – the Race to Zero – that is taking a mixed fleet of IRC racers, PY cruisers and (gasp!) a rally of motor yachts from Nongsa Point Marina on the north coast of Batam, Indonesia, ’down south’ to the Equator.
RO Jerry Rollin sent the PY boats away at 1000hrs off a reaching start to the east, with the course then taking the fleet south and east down the Riau Strait towards a finish line and first night’s stopover at Pulau Karas Besar, 34 nm away. It was spinnaker reaching all the way in 9-15 knots of breeze, and first to finish after six hours’ sailing was Simon Piff’s Rainbow Dream. Provisional Results phoned through from the outer reaches of mobile phone coverage have Mico Verde, Chris Schuler’s Westsail 32, in pole position, beating Rainbow Dream by a mere 40 seconds on corrected time. The smallest boat in the PY fleet, WYSIWYG had a slow time of it having blown out her spinnaker, but at press time had made the finish line, and the overnight anchorage. The PY boats will race from Karas Besar to Pulau Buaya tomorrow, in readiness for Thursday’s sprint race to the Equator.
Instead of heading south, the IRC fleet started proceedings today with two windward-leeward races just in front of the marina. In conditions ranging from 12 to 20 knots (there was usually plenty of warning as you could see the squalls coming down from the north east) the division nipped smartly round two ‘sausage’ courses, with plenty of incidents to keep spectators interested. There were some entertaining spinnaker gybes, and a few moments when boats were very close to the edge of control, but with no serious casualties reported bar some kite damage. Helmut Shutte’s Aquavit 5 crew spent a good deal of time in the Race Secretariat afterwards, artistically reconstructing their A-sail.
Through two races David Ross’s Kerr 32 Kukukerchu looked to have the conditions well under control, and came at the end of the day with two bullets from two races. The rest of the pack fell into line, with two second places for Men at Work (Stewart McLaren), two thirds for Windsikher (Sarab Jeet Singh), two fourths for Adriaan Schmidt’s X-99 Power Partners, and Aquavit 5 bringing up the rear of the fleet in both races.
Tomorrow is another day, as the saying goes. The PY boats will be racing their second ‘leg’ to the vicinity of the Equator, and the IRC boats will be racing from Nongsa ‘direct to Zero’ , finishing their 79-mile race on the Equator. There are going to be some interesting navigational and tactical calls as the boats thread their way through the Pengelap Strait, scattered with islands and islets, many without so much as a name on the chart. All boats can expect challenging tidal and current wind patterns.
On board the good ship El Oro, sister to Baron Bich’s Kriter that won the very first Whitbread Race, media accompanying the race are looking forward to some spectacular island scenery, and a passing glance at what just may be one of the undiscovered treasures of the cruising world. However, we are also expecting to be able to access internet coverage ranging from zero to nothing, so please excuse if the Neptune Regatta reporting falls off the radar and the chart – quite literally – for the next couple of days. As already promised, we will bring back the stories to tell just as soon as we can.
On board El Oro this evening skipper Simon Blundell regaled a number of timorous Pollywogs (those scurvy heathen who have not ‘crossed the line’ and entered King Neptune’s Realm) with ever more lurid hints as to the fate awaiting them at the Equator, while the Trusty Shellbacks present reclined in comfort. We’ll bring you those tales as well, in due course.
The Neptune Regatta is as much an adventure as a race, a way of introducing sailors to the beauties of the Riau Archipelago, a cruising ground on the doorstep of Singapore that has, thus far, received very few visitors. We aim to correct that omission.