Around the ragged rocks we weave...
Raja Muda Islands Race highlights beauty of Langkawi Archipelago
Sometimes we get so caught up in the racing that we forget the beauty of the area that we are sailing through. Not so today though as a bright sunny day exposed the glory of the karst topography of the Langkawi archipelago, making most sailors do a double take admiring the beauty they were racing through.
PRO Simon James staged only one race today with two rolling starts; the first for classes 1-3 (nine boats) on course 9, and the second for classes 4-6 (ten boats) on course 3.
The custom-built Yasooda got off to a good start again and continued to race well throughout the shortened course as Hans Rahmann’s yacht claimed line honours for the second straight day with a time of 2:36:33. The first course was shortened at the Jerkom gate; the second course at mark F. Classes 4-6 spent about ninety minutes inching towards the finish line and then just as their race was shortened a gust came up and they all burst towards the finish in a 5-knot flurry.
After six races, and heading into the final race of the regatta the four-boat class one has come down to a final battle between Rolf Heemskerk’s The Next Factor (a Farr 40) and Nick Burns’s Witchcraft (a Mills King 40). Witchcraft won today and sits in second place with nine points, one point behind The Next Factor, which finished second. The Malaysian Navy’s Uranus, skippered by Hanif Husain, will take third spot overall, which is where it sits now with 18 points. And Steve McConaghy’s Aftershock (a Davidson 55) will finish in fourth spot, where it sits now with 23 points.
The two-boat class two (Premier IRC Cruising) again saw Hans Rahmann’s Yasooda beat Peter Cremers’ Shatoosh (a Warwick 75) on elapsed time but lose when their handicap was applied. Shatoosh has already claimed victory in this class with six straight wins.
Lee Yi Min’s Silhouette (a First 40.7) continued its dominance in the three-boat class three (Sports IRC) winning the fifth of six races in its class. It has this division sewn up but Max Palleschi’s Prime Factor (a Farr 40) stands a feint chance of trumping Steve Manning’s Red Rum One (an Archambault A4ORC) on the final day, as it sits only two points behind Manning’s yacht.
The three-boat class four (Sports non-IRC) has already been claimed by Chris Mitchell’s Lady Bubbly (a Naut 40) as it sits atop the class with eight points. It won today and has certainly done considering the difficulties it has had to overcome during the regatta. Karan Khara’s Sitka (a Sun Odyssey 429) will take second in this class, where it resides now with eight points. Sonny Soh’s Lady Elluanne (a Jeanneau 54) will take third in this class, where it resides now with 19 points.
Similar to class one, the three-boat class five (Cruising non-IRC) will come down to a final-day battle with Rama’s VG Offshore (a Dehler 38) leading Amir Zohri’s Dash (a Yamaha 36) by one point. Ken Yap’s Millennium 2 (a Hunter 326) sits in third with 16 points. Dash did have trouble with its shrouds today and they probably won’t be fixed by tomorrow’s race so the charismatic and lovable Rama Menon will most probably add another Raja Muda class victory to his long list of accomplishments.
Class six has Hasani Hassan’s Malaysian Navy Marikh (a Contesa 32) leading the Royal Malaysian Police’s Penarik (a Catalina 30) by two points (9 to 11) going into the final day of racing. Shah Azlan Ramli’s Tofan (a Westerly Storm 33) will take third spot where sits is now with 16 points.
Coastal conditions in the Straits of Malacca set this event apart. Strong tides, unpredictable winds, shallow mud banks, fishing nets strung out across the course and “Sumatra” storms that appear from nowhere all contribute to making the three-night passages races uniquely challenging. Local knowledge certainly helps the navigator but it takes a combination of skill and luck to successfully decide if it's best to hug the coast, sail out offshore or take a more or less straight line up the middle. Most skippers also have to deal with very light winds at some point, and this is the time when concentration and stamina really come into play. On the upside, the sun shines regularly, the water is warm, and shorts and tee-shirts are the order of the day.
John Pool, crew on Lady Bubbly described the adventure his boat had the previous night on its journey from Penang to Langkawi, “We blew the clew ring and tack on the Genoa and then hoisted the Yankee making running repairs using a battery drill and 8mm Dyneema. It was 25 knots hard on, and we got the Genoa back up, but the kite somehow came out of the bag and caught on the hull dropping our speed from 8kts to 2.8. We thought we had picked up a net. We recovered the kite but there was serious damage to it. The spinnaker pole also came off the track on the mast.”
The late great Captain Marty summed it up best when asked what it took to win a Raja Muda regatta, “The long-standing format is the most challenging event on the Asian calendar. Ask any skipper how they fared and each one will have a different story to tell. Then ask the winning skipper of the racing class what it takes to win this endurance event and the picture becomes clearer. A good boat, fantastic sails and an exceptional crew work will get you most of the way there but it also helps if luck is on your side and the Gods working in your favour. Bring all that together and peak at the right time then perhaps you can win a Raja Muda Regatta.”