The Monsoon Cup venue, the Ri-Yaz Heritage Marina Resort & Spa in Kuala Terengganu, is currently hosting the sixth edition of the Malaysian Match Racing Championship (MMRC) where four Malaysian teams have reached the semi-finals, fighting hard in a very tough battle, to take the single Malaysian berth at the Monsoon Cup.
Principal Race Officer David Tallis had an easier day today than he did yesterday; the seabreeze came in after 11am and it held above eight knots all afternoon, which allowed the race committee to complete the round robin and start the semi finals.
With the wind in the east at 8-10 knots, the boats were fully powered up allowing the teams to use all their repertoire of match racing moves.
Defending MMRC champion Jeremy Koo had his 'mojo' back today. He had plenty of boat speed again and good crew work for most of the time, with key wins against both Masyuri Rahmat and Mohd Romzi.
After losing his title to Koo and finishing in third place last year, 2009 MMRC champion Hazwan Hazim climbed into second place on the leader board today, with his new tactician Nik Ashraf Qaedi coming into his own.
For some a hint of inconsistency appeared, with crews tiring over the twelve match round robin.
Mohd Romzi had a a very close call against one of the lower ranked crews, finishing his match just four seconds ahead of Zaidi Md Amin.
Nurul Ain won over Masyuri Rahmat by four seconds and took out Masyuri Rahmat with a black flag. Then Mohd Afendy Abdullah beat Nurul Ain by six seconds in a crash and bash match.
The Nurul vs Afendy match was the closest yet. On the first downwind, Nurul attempted to gain a leeward overlap on Afendy but didn’t see the large port hand navigation mark just alongside and collided with it causing an involuntary gybe. Moments later the boats were locked in a tussle approaching the leeward mark. Nurul gybed to port and claimed an overlap at the zone but the umpires judged the boats were still outside. Afendy then luffed nurul in the zone and denied her room at the mark resulting in contact between the boats. Nurul then took too much room and the boats collided again. The umpires ran out of arms to hold all the penalty flags, with the net result that both boats had been penalised which then cancelled out.
Afendy gained in the current on the right hand side on the next leg and held a small lead at the windward mark Nurul threw gybe after gybe at Afendy but he held on to take his first win. An elated Afendy was jumping around the boat after taking the win.
It was the scare of the day for Koo when 90 seconds ahead of Afendy, who is the tail gunner in this Championship fleet, Koo’s big trimmer went overboard on the third leg in the match against Hazwan. Koo had a commanding lead over Hazwan at the time of the incident but could not retrieve the crewmember on their first attempt. The umpires moved in and rescued the sailor before Koo could come back for a second attempt, as they felt the crewmember was struggling in the water. By the time the crewman was back on board Hazwan had closed the gap to less than a boat length. In a dramatic final run, Hazwan received a penalty for gybing too close to Koo when the boats were only metres from the finishing line. Hazwan could only watch as the RC displayed Koo’s flag even though he had crossed the line first. He had to take his penalty and refinish.
The round robin wrapped up with Koo finishing as the highest qualifier on 10 points, Hazwan on 9 points, Masyuri on 8 and the final qualifying spot awarded to Romzi on 7 points. The crews came ashore for the semi-final draw with the 2010 Champion Jeremy Koo choosing Masyuri Rahmat, while the 2009 winner Hazwan Hazim was matched against Mohd Romzi.
In the first semi-final matches, Koo beat Masyuri and Romzi took out Hazwan.
Koo chose the coveted starboard entry and quickly stamped his authority in the prestart controlling Masyuri and pushing him away from the starting area. Koo timed the start perfectly to cross the line at the committee boat end and immediately tacked and headed for the current on the right hand side of the course. Masyuri could only follow and by the top mark, Koo had opened the gap to almost one minute.
With an ominous dark cloud front moving on from the west, Masyuri gybed early and gained from slightly better pressure and less current, to close it up to a 25 second delta at the leeward mark. Again Koo dictated terms and took full advantage of the current to go on and win the race by a comfortable 53 seconds.
In the second semi final Hazwan match racing experienced shone through as he pinned Romzi in the left hand corner of the prestart and refused to give a inch. Hazwan led off the line and elected to go right as Romzi tacked to the left at the pin end.
Romzi found a favourable left hand shift with slightly more pressure that more than made up for the extra current that Hazwan was sailing in. When the boats converged half way up the beat, Romzi held a two boat length advantage.
Romzi elected to cross Hazwan and take the right hand side and when they met at the top mark the lead had increased to almost four boat lengths. It appeared Romzi could do no wrong. Hazwan threw everything in his arsenal at Romzi on the next two legs but just couldn’t get the break he needed. As the breeze faded on the final run, Romzi held on to take the point in the best of three race knockout by 20 seconds.
With the wind all but gone, the RC called a halt to proceedings for the day.
The semi finals continue tomorrow.
Dockside Koo looked relieved. ‘This Championship battle is the toughest we’ve been involved in. We have had a good start to the semis, we are one up against Masyuri and we saw Romzi beat Hazwan so the stage is set for an exciting day tomorrow.’
Leader board at the end of the two Round Robins:
Jeremy Koo – Koo Racing Team (Selangor) 10-2
Hazwan Hazim – Permai Hotel Match Racing Team (Perak) 9-3
Masyuri Rahmat – MAF2 (TLDM) 8-4
Mohd Romzi Muhammad – Putra Sailing Team (Malaysian Yachting Association) 7-5
Nurul Ain Md. Isa – Ri-Yaz Heritage Sailing Team (Perak) 4-8
M. Zaidi Pardi Mat Amin – MAF1 (TLDM) 3-9
Mohd Afendy Abdullah – Team Afendy (Kedah) 1-11
The Asian Match Racing Championship will follow the Malaysian Match Racing Championship from 12th–15th October, with the winner of both events securing a berth at the Monsoon Cup, the prestigious final event of the 2011 ISAF World Match Racing Tour which is being held from 22nd–27th November at the Ri-Yaz Heritage Marina Resort & Spa, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia.