Sailors who had only arrived at the campsite in the dark rose on Thursday morning to find themselves in what looked like very much like something out of Wellington’s Peninsula campaign - a small tent city complete with latrines and open air showers. Add in the bar and stores tentage, the cooking facilities and all the signage, torches, flags and so on, and it quickly became apparent that the amount of work that had gone into building Camp Neptune was little short of staggering. ‘Five days of hard work, five days of either torrential rain or blistering sunshine,’ said Tudor John. ‘We landed 7 tons of stores, equipment and water, transport courtesy of the Indonesian Navy. With help from around 40 villagers from nearby Pulau Blanding we put up 30 tents, constructed two ventilated latrines, and built all the bar ‘furniture’. It was a hell of an effort from a great team.”
Unfortunately, you can’t stand around eating hot, fresh bacon-and-egg sarnies straight off the bbq all day… today was the day of the Equator Sprint, the Race to Zero, the chance for the timorous pollywogs in the fleet to earn their stripes, be presented to King Neptune as they crossed the equator, and become Trusty Shellbacks.
The course was simple – head out of the Pulau Buaya anchorage and head south towards the equator on 180 deg. All boats had an 8nm spinnaker run down to The Line, where the good ship El Oro stopped the race clock for each boat as crews were welcomed to the Realm of King Neptune, and then re-started going north for the second leg of the race. Aggregate times were recorded, with Men at Work winning the two-leg race in the IRC class, and Rainbow Dream adding another first place to put them at the top of the PY Cruising division.
The motor yachts shouldered their way through the equatorial chop to cross the line and claim their rightful places at the court of King Neptune. On board El Oro no less than eight Slimy Pollywogs were called forward to answer for their seagoing crimes in front of Neptune himself (thinly disguised as Capt Marty Rijkuris) and assisted by Davy Jones (aka Guy Nowell). I guess you call that a real ‘Media Event’! Accusations of backsliding, laziness, carrying the wrong passport and other heinous inventions were forgiven upon consumption of a particularly noxious concoction loosely referred to as ‘Neptune’s Blood’ and including such vaguely maritime ingredients as rum and oyster sauce, and a good dousing with equatorial seawater, and a new handful of Trusty Shellbacks were admitted.
Back at Pulau Sikeling – or Neptune Island, if you prefer – and a huge turnout of villagers from Pulau Blanding (the source of the enthusiastic labour force that had cleared the camping ground in advance of the event and built a 60m jetty off the beach) laid on a grand display of traditional dancing and music to welcome and entertain the arriving sailors, all now proudly wearing Neptune Regatta ‘Shellback’ t-shirts. And then the party started. Crew from the Indonesian Navy guardship KRI Kala Hitam (‘Black Scorpion’) came ashore to join in. The Indonesian Navy provided a huge amount of transport, logistical and security support to the regatta, and the assistance was much appreciated. The welcome ashore was as it should have been.
But all good shenanigans come to an end, and there was still racing to be done, so for many ‘discretion was the better part of valour’.