Two windward-leeward races for the IRC Racing boats, a welcome home for the PY Cruisers who broke the homeward leg from the Equator with an overnight stopover at Pulau Karas Besar, and best news of all, a welcome amendment to SIs in the form of a 1400 hrs start for the cans racing. Sailors were grateful – yesterday had been long, very long.
For Kukukerchu and Men at Work there was everything to play for, with the two boats on equal points going in to the last two races.
Windsiker was first round the top mark as expected, with the two smaller boats duking it out close behind. Three times round, and Kukukerchu looked to be extending her lead over Men at Work, until The Men found some extra breeze on the last downwind leg and rolled home close enough to take the race on corrected time.
Last race, and probably the closest start of all. Once again, Windsikher took the lead on the water, and this time Men at Work managed to stick like glue to Kukukerchu’s transom. Just two laps of the course, and it was a tacking duel all the way up the first beat followed by a max-concentration run. One more time round, and who knows where you can lose or gain a second? The separation at the top looked about the same as last time, but Men at Work found an extra few feet down the run to record a finish – wait for it – just 1 second quicker than Kukukerchu on corrected time. That second gave them the race, and it also gave them the regatta. Kukukerchu scored second for the regatta, with Sarab Jeet Singh’s Windsikher in third place.
Seven races, including four round the cans, two 79-milers, and a 20-miler across the equator and back. As David Ross (Kukukerchu) pointed out afterwards, ‘that’s the same number of races and (almost) the same mileage as the Raja Muda – in half the time. No wonder we are tired!’
Congratulations to Stewart McLaren and the Men (and Women) at Work. It was undoubtedly a sterling effort to hang on and then come back and win the inaugural Neptune Regatta – the Race to Zero. And it was a family effort as well: in the crew were Trish McLaren, and Rebeccah McLaren (13) who ‘sat at the front of the rail in full foulies and took it on the chin for 12 hrs, every one of the 79 nm from Pulau Buaya to Nongsa, crossing the finish line grinding the spinnaker winch, and very much a fully-fledged crew member.’
Between races – the good ship Hooligan arrived under tow after her 36 hr tow from Pulau Buaya. And Daniel Whittington's diminutive WYSIWYG tried a short cut into Nongsa Point Marina and ended up aground on the reef near the entrance. (A bent rudder stock, and nobody hurt).
We’ll be writing a wrap on the Neptune Regatta, but the short version is this: a lot of people said it couldn’t be done, but the organisers led by Tudor John and Alex ‘Ferret’ Voss – very ably backed by their team including PRO Jerry Rollin – have proved that a racing/cruising/rallying event down to the equator and back can be done and is hugely enjoyable for all concerned.
And for anyone who thinks that this is nothing more than a cruise in company – see you on the rail for the long northward beat next year!
Hats off to all concerned for a top-drawer event with an entirely unique catch to it, and one that deserves to attract interest from all over the region, if not even further afield.
Go the Shellbacks!