|EFG Bank Mandrake captures 2011 Raja Muda|
Thirty-scven boats were registered for this year's event, with Neil Pryde's Hi Fi leading the top division and going for a third win. Also keen to take the trophy were Nick Burns/Fred Kinmonth's Mills 40, EFG Bank Mandrake and the Royal Malaysian Navy's brand new DK47, Utarid, launched a month before the Raja Muda start.
Other notable entrants included David Ross's new Ker 40 KukuKERchu, Andrew Stransky's racing catamaran Fantasia, on a cruise up from Darwin, the beautifully sleek Swan 76 Silandra V skippered by Riccardo Gastone Benoni, Aquacraft Asia's Hanse 545e Odin, Tom Whitcraft's GP 42 Won Ma Rang from Thailand and The Royal Selangor Yacht Club's Youth Team on the Jeanneau 36 Panacea, skippered by Rizal Sazali. The Panacea crew are all Malaysian youngsters who started sailing in Port Klang as part of an Optimist program, and this year the club sponsored the group to move into offshore racing.
This year the organisers decided to start Class 1, 3 and 4 boats at the same time for all races, so an overall IRC winner could be declared. The first race was scheduled on Saturday 18th November. RO Jerry Rollin found a space for a start line among an unusually large number of moored vessels and 6kts on the wind instrument was enough to send Class 7 away at 1150h. Then the breeze gradually built to a peak of 11kts for the combined start of IRC Classes 1, 3 and 4 around 13.00. All boats headed north on a port tack, looking to stay in towards the shore line and to pick up the predicted shift later in the day. It's 90nm up the coast to the entrance of Pasir Bogok, but choosing the best course is very much a combination of skill and luck. The two things that complicate the first leg of the RMSIR are the tidal currents in the shallow inshore water, and the highly unpredictable and extremely local weather systems.
The place you really didn't want to be, as Hi Fi found out, was leading the fleet from an offshore rather than an inshore position, and then having to beat to the finish while the rest of the fleet reached out from the coast under spinnakers. Most unusually, Hi Fi finished last in Class 1. Second last at the back of the division was David Ross' new Ker 40, KukuKERchu. They also didn't go as far inshore as other boats. Ben Copely in Katsu took the opposite approach, venturing inshore till the depth sounder read 0.9 meter under the keel - and then just stopped! It seemed that the boats depth instrument was incorrectly set; an error that cost them about an hour on the mud.
First place in Class 1 for Race 1 went to Fred Kinmonth/Nick Burns' Mills 40, EFG Bank Mandrake, with a remarkable performance from the Royal Malaysian Navy's brand new DK47, Utarid to take second. Probably the most notable accomplishment came in Class 6, where top honours went to Richard Curtis/ Trevor Richard's Bristol Pilot Cutter Eveline, despite crossing the finish line last in the race fleet. This is a rare occurrence, despite the 100 year-old Eveline's almost permanent place in the RMSIR entry list.
Following the first party and prize giving at Seaview Hotel Pangkor Island, where sailors were entertained by daring fire dancers, conditions were glassy calm the next morning when racing was scheduled to start. RO Jerry Rollins lead the fleet up the course for almost 10 miles before finding about 6 knts of breeze to send the divisions away under sunny skies on a reaching course towards Penang, now 50nm distant. This time Hi Fi – keen to avenge the result of the first race – sailed a perfect course in to claim both line honours and a first place on handicap by 25 seconds from EFG Bank Mandrake. Neil Ankorn's Farr 11.04 Mat Salleh suffered a jammed halyard and had a crewmember up the mast in the middle of the night, eventually finishing second in Class Four behind Jeff Harris's J 92S Nijinsky.
Crossing the finish line at the south end of Penang, boats still had a 20nm trip to the new Straits Quay, where Marina Manager John Ferguson found space for 30-something boats in a 40-berth marine that already has sitting tenants. After a day ashore, crews reassembled at Straits Quay in the late afternoon for the inaugural Rickshaw Races, updated replacement for the Trishaw Races that used to take place at Tanjung City Marina. Specially constructed rickshaws raced knockout heats around a starboard-hand course, following the usual consumption of liquid by each passenger at the start. Egged on by crew members and locals alike, the Team Hi Fi rickshaw came home as winner after a fiercely tactical final.
Won Ma Rang Competition in Penang Harbour the next day was once again delayed by lack of breeze. However, the wind gods favoured the fleet after about an hour with light zephyrs at 3-4 kts and racing got underway, with four class seven multihulls swelling the numbers. All classes had a light air first race with a shortened course at the windward mark. But between races, a few drops of rain fell then the wind came back with a vengeance- a good solid 15kts from the northeast. Once again Classes 1, 3 and 4 all came to the line together, and Hi Fi was definitely looking to make up some of the points hangover from her disastrous first race from Port Klang to Pangkor. However, this time EFG Bank Mandrake hung on for a Class 1 win in the blustery conditions by 67 seconds corrected.
Other notable performances on the race course came from Tom Whitcraft's Won Ma Rang, getting herself on the podium for the first time; some more good sailing from the Royal Malaysian Navy's new DK47, Utarid; and the sight of Bill Bremner's Foxy Lady 5 sailing straight through the lee of David Ross's new KukuKERchu (Ker 40) in the second race of the day. Andrew Stransky on Fantasia was glad to have some competition at last, but Alan Carwardine's catamaran Sidewinder lead everyone in the multihull division to immediately go to the top of the Class. Everyone was back at Straits Quay again in good time for the evening's party at the picturesque Khoo Kongsi. Quite possibly this may be the most spectacular regatta party venue in Asia. The aerial Lion Dance was fantastic, the street hawker food stalls kept everyone well fed, and the rain didn't matter!
The Raja Muda can claim some consistency – no wind at the start! Once again it was necessary to motor away from Penang Harbour before a light breeze toyed with the boats and the RO could consider getting everyone away to a slow spinnaker start, with heavier boats stalling on the line. 2011 proved to not to be Hi Fi's year for Raja Muda. During pre start manoeuvres her helmsman made a fast gybe onto port to approach the line without realizing that the J 92S Nijinsky was in his "blind spot." Hi Fi hit Nijinsky on her stern quarter, snapping the bow sprit off the Welbourne 52 and taking out Nijinsky's pushpit and safety lines. Fortunately, there were no injuries. Hi Fi later retired from the regatta to arrange for repairs.
Langkawi Harbour racing bucked the wind trend by starting and finishing in 16kts of nor'easterly, with two windward/leeward courses for the IRC racing classes and another trip through the fringes of the Langkawi Geopark for the cruising classes.
In the final countdown, EFG Bank Mandrake scooped the Raja Muda Cup with 10 points for seven races, a handy margin ahead of the Royal Malaysian Navy's brand new DK47, Utarid, on 22 points. The Navy crew did a great job to get the boat up to the pace is such a short time. After a disappointing start to the series, David Ross's Ker 40 KukuKERchu came good in the points count at the end to take the third place overall on the podium. Foxy Lady 5 touched the windward mark on the very last rounding in Langkawi, did the turns, and as a result lost the race by just six seconds. That put them tied on points with Sarab Jeet Singh's Windsikher who took the Class 3 title on countback. Neil Ankcorn's Mat Salleh narrowly took two first places on the last day and put the Class 4 title in the bag.
As always, fun was had by all at the closing party at RLYC. The Regatta Management team of the Royal Selangor Yacht Club, headed by Malcolm Elliott, the Race Officer and his assistants, and all the other support personnel responsible are to be congratulated for successfully running an event in four successive locations. At prize giving time Fred Kinmonth, co-owner of EFG Bank Mandrake, was very generous in his praise of what he called "Asia's very best regatta. We've competed in this event 19 times, and would not miss it for the world. This is the one you have to do." Nobody present was going to argue with that!
Results are available on the web site www.rmsir.com