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Destination East Coast Malaysia- Rare Sailing Gem

by Rob Kothe on 28 Mar 2006
Sunrise across the ocean SW
Round world cruising sailors just love Thailand, and they love the journey via Indonesia and Malaysia up the Straits of Malacca to get there. But there’s a new allure to the other side of the Malaysian Peninsula - the more remote less trampled east coast. It has always been a wonderful, if neglected, coast, so what is the new allure?

Well, as respected Asian yachting journalist Captain Marty Rijkuris comments; ‘The Malaysian Government is certainly serious about yachting. They embarked on a marina building program a few years back and now we have marinas all the way up the west coast of the Malacca Straight. However, now they are branching out onto the east coast and this is the first one, in Terengganu.’

The difference this makes is enormous. While cruising sailors are pretty adventurous, it’s always nice to know that there’s a marina you can call into, for any number of reasons – repairs and maintenance, water and fuel, some of the luxuries that are not available in an anchorage, just to name a few.

So what is Terengganu all about?

Three hundred kilometres north east of the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula is the traditional Muslim state of Terengganu. In tourism terms this is ‘an uncut jewel’ and the highly respected Conde Nast has rated the diving and cruising area off the state capital Kuala Terengganu, as one of the best in the world.

There are many breath-taking islands complete with resorts, situated in the beautiful South China Sea. Redang Island, Lang Tengah Island and Kampas Island are accessible from Marang Jetty and Perhentian Island from Kuala Besut Jetty. There are many delightful anchorages and this area could obviously support numbers of bareboat charter, diving and other marine tourism operations. However in terms of international tourism development the biggest problem to date has been the lack of a major base, for use by dive operators, yachts and cruising boats.

Kuala Terengganu, a bustling seaside city, with a population approaching a million people, is well served by air and road, but even though it is the centre of this significant marine area it has previously had no marina facilities. Visiting yachts have previously had to negotiate an often-shifting bar and anchor in the river, hardly an enticing proposition for transiting cruising yachts.

In Kuala Terengganu on a sandy island called Pulau Duyong, in the middle of the river that flows through the city, Malaysian property developer Datuk Patrick Lim is developing a luxury high-end resort that will eventually include a 500 berth marina with full support facilities including travelling crane.

The first stage of the deep-water marina is already up and running, and is perfectly situated for yachts cruising and travelling between Hong Kong and Singapore. The marina already has 30 berths and upon completion the facility will be a well-protected 500-berth marina with a six-metre depth through out and with a 50 tonne travel lift crane.

Currently under construction is a breakwater outside the harbour approximately two kilometres long. This new breakwater is being built in front of the river mouth; it is expected to be completed in late 2009 and will be very important for the future. The breakwater will ensure good depth all year round, making the entrance safely navigable, prevent the easterly swells coming into the river and reduce the flooding that used to happen in the wet season.

Not only that, there are plans afoot for marinas at Tioman Island, Mersing and Johore, so that eventually the east coast will be as well served as the west coast

But it’s not only cruising and leisure sailors who will benefit from the Malaysian Government backed development.

The Monsoon Cup:

The Malaysian Government is using sailing as a major tool in its tourism development strategy. While many cruising sailors might have little interest in racing, a newly established Malaysian regatta, the Monsoon Cup, part of the prestigious World Match Racing Tour, has become a major plank in a program to open up more South China Sea cruising grounds.

The support of a Prime Minister helps, no matter which country you happen to be in. Supported by the Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Haj Ahmad Badawi, young Malaysian entrepreneur Lim and veteran Australian Match racer Peter Gilmour, proposed to Scott MacLeod and the Swedish Match Tour that Pulau Duyong be added to the 2005 Tour. The Prime Minister even suggested the event title - The Monsoon Cup.

Before the inaugural Monsoon Cup in Terengganu, the Duyong Basin was a sandy shoal. Adjoining a small fishing village, the Palau Duyong island site was under developed, and now it features a five star resort.

The Basin was, in parts, hardly more than six inches deep and in other areas only six feet deep and it needed to be six metres. Dredging moved five million cubic metres of sand, that’s equivalent to 500,000 ten-ton truckloads.

Last December, the entrepreneurial young Malaysian developer Lim and Gilmour delivered a stunning event. The occasion climaxed with a fairytale win for Gilmour beating Russell Coutts in the match racing final in front of a crowd of more than 15,000 cheering locals on the newly dredged Duyong Basin.

When the Monsoon Cup event occurred it seemed the script-writer had some ‘heavenly powers’. The last two afternoons turned out to be great weather with blue skies and 10-12 knot winds, ensuring world-wide viewers of the television coverage through ESPN and Star were treated to a display of top class Match Racing.

Now, eight months before the next (2006) Monsoon Cup, Peter Gilmour reports;

‘There is a lot happening, with further bungalows being built in the resort complex for the Terengganu Heritage Bay Club. This year it’s the Club House, expanding the marina and preparing the boat yard area for full haul out facilities.

‘There will be three or four events, corporate sailing, over the next few months. In April the first serious offshore racing boat will be visiting the Heritage Bay Sailing Club when Ellen MacArthur helms her amazing B&Q trimaran into Terengganu after a high speed run from Nha Trang in Vietnam.

‘On the Malaysian National sailing scene we are putting in place a national sailing academy, with venues in a range of areas around the country, of which Terengganu is one. The academy will cater for kids all the way up to adults; dinghies for the kids then up to adults in bigger boats. Additionally we will be initiating classic corporate sailing programs similar to what Matt Hayes’ Sydney by Sail and Eastsail run on Sydney Harbour.

As Captain Marty sums up ‘The Terengganu (Monsoon Cup) event is self-contained and does not compete with an already busy Asian regatta circuit. It’s like a Formula One car event on the water, with top class America’s Cup crews and the like.’

Developments and events like this spectacular one at Terengganu, benefit Malaysian tourism and facilitate the further expansion of the marine industry, while sailors and the cruising community are also big winners.!Click_Here!same to comment on this article

For more information on Kuala Terengganu and Malaysia visit the Malaysia Tourism website -

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