Yesterday, Opening Night at the Commodore’s Cup, Subic Bay, Philippines. Skippers’ Briefing followed by a party with fire dancing, live bands and and singing in the gardens in front of The Lighthouse. All afternoon the breeze had been blowing a pleasant 8-10 kts out in the Bay, although Hi Fi managed to find some stronger puffs that put paid to one of their spinnakers during the practice race, and necessitated a phone call and a last minute courier dash from Hong Kong to bring in a replacement kite!
What is now called the Commodore’s Cup, and is run out of the rather grandiose Subic Bay Yacht Club, has been around for a while in different guises. First of all there was the Philippines’ Easter Regatta (1993), run by the Philippines Keelboat Association out of the Manila Yacht Club and stopping – one year at least - at historic Corregidor Island before continuing on to Subic Bay and the venue of some of the most epic regatta parties we have ever seen. In 1996 the Easter Regatta was re-named the President’s Cup, with the blessing of then-President of the Philippines, Fidel Ramos.
Well-supported by local sailors, the event also flourished with the arrival on alternate years of the China Sea Race fleet from Hong Kong, with the finish line for the 565nm blue water classic in Subic Bay. Fast forward another couple of years, and the Manila Yacht Club became more of a motor boat club and then a social club, and the remaining MYC sailors de-camped to Subic Bay. The MYC still laid claim to the event title, ‘President’s Cup,’ and so the Subic sailors inaugurated the Commodore’s Cup.
Entry numbers are down these days, but this is a regatta that well deserves to appear firmly on the map – or chart, if you prefer. The Asian regatta circuit was described to us very recently – by an Australian grand prix sailor – as 'collectively better than anything currently happening in Australia.' Strong words and high praise! Add together the China Coast, Raja Muda, Phuket King’s Cup, Neptune, Top of the Gulf and Koh Samui Regattas, and it’s a pretty full calendar in this part of the world, with all the events attracting 30+ boat fleets, and some of them running races for 100 or more entries.
The attractions are obvious – sunshine, blue water, warm weather, top quality race management, lavish hospitality and favourable exchange rates for visitors all add up to hugely attractive events. To that list we should really be adding three Philippine events – the Commodore’s Cup, the Subic-Boracay Race and Boracay Cup, the best-kept secrets of the Asian regatta circuit.
And so to today. Eleven starters in three divisions (IRC Racing, IRC Racing/Cruising, PY Cruising), and courses designed to take the boats the full length and breadth of what must rate as one of the best inshore race courses anywhere. Not for nothing did the US Government build and maintain an enormous naval base here – Subic Bay is huge and deep, the water is flat, and the surrounding mountains make for a great backdrop whilst occasionally throwing some powerful and interesting wind ‘bombs’ at the racing fleet.
Today there were no bombs. Just a good solid 10kt sailing breeze that sent the Racing fleet round a 24nm course, and the other divisions on 19nm and 14nm tracks. Hi Fi and Free Fire went at it hammer and tongs, with the lead on the water changing more than once, and Free Fire rolling through the finish line just outside the marina at 1340h after 3h 10m of racing. Hi Fi were 1m 10s behind, and took the handicap honours. 'It was a tough race,' said Neil Pryde, 'mostly because it was hot… but it was also trick on account of some severely shifty breeze, and that kept us on our toes.' Pryde agreed that the Commodore’s Cup deserves a better entry list, and added that 'seeing some more of the local boats out on the water would be a good start.'
In the Racing/Cruising class, Ridgely Balladares on a Platu, Frantic, beat Jesus Avecilla Jr’s Selma Star to the top spot, and in the two-boat PY class the honours went to Selma (Viggo Lisson).
At tonight’s prize-giving it was announced that (starting tomorrow) the IRC racing division will be split into two sub divisions – 50-footers and 40-footers.
Day 1 Results:
1 Hi Fi
2 Free Fire
3 EFG Bank Mandrake
4 Sell Side Dream
5 Subic Centennial (RTD)
2 Selma Star
3 Body Shot
2 Rapparee XXX
by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia
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12:02 PM Wed 11 Apr 2012GMT
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