The Neptune Regatta fleet is now safely back in the Nongsa Point Marina after a trip to the Equator. It has been an action-packed three days since we left Batam and headed south. There’s been some great racing, some tremendous entertainment, huge fun, and an adventure thrown in for good measure. For almost everyone it has felt like a week – at least. And that’s a compliment.
This story is in three parts...
Way back (last Wednesday to be precise) the IRC division headed out of Nongsa for the 80 nm race south through the Riau Strait, down past Big Stiffy Island (where the PY fleet had anchored overnight after sailing the first leg of their course the day before), past Neptune’s Knuckles and Barge Island, and then through the gap between Pulau Buaya and Pulau Blanding and on to the equator.
The nor’easter provided between 9 and 20 knots of breeze all day long, andthe fleet made good time all the way down the course, with Sarab Jeet Singh’s Windisikher taking Line Honours on the Equator after 10h 44m of racing, but not before a King Neptune had welcomed one and all with a drenching of epic proportions. First on corrected time came Stewart McLaren’s A35 Men at Work – more accurately known now as ‘Women at Work’. Second in the results list was David Ross’s diminutive Kukukerchu, and hour behind on the water but only 16 minutes back on corrected time. 'It’s not often we get to enjoy a 70nm spinnaker leg,' said Windsikher’s navigator Graham Lind, 'and we enjoyed every mile of the course. It’s tough being out in front of the fleet – that’s how everyone else knows where the potholes are, but I think we gave a pretty good account of ourselves'. Doldrums? What Doldrums? Anyone who thought that the Race to Zero was destined to be a drifting match needs to think again. Windspeeds were between 9 and 20 knots for the trip, making for a good workout for all concerned.
The PY division raced from Nongsa to Pulau Karas Besar on Tuesday, with Chris Schuler’s Mico Verde claiming honours just 40 seconds ahead of Rainbow Dream on corrected time. Positions were reversed for the second race, when Rainbow Dream beat Mico Verde into second place by a full 26 minutes – who in turn beat Simon Morris’s majestic Sirius by a scant 3 seconds.
Also on the ‘race track’ were the four motor yacht participants in the event – Nehelennia, a Sea Ray 47 belonging to Leen Janse; MP Singhania’s Pershing 80, Mantra; James Harris’s Sunseeker, Something Special; and Drew Gardenier’s Hooligan. Electrical problems on board Mantra had occasioned a return to Singapore on Tuesday ('It only takes 15 minutes to get back there', confided MP), but she was back in action for the trip to the south, tearing past the good ship El Oro (carrying ice, victuals, bar staff, media crew and a great deal of gin) in grand style on her way to Pulau Buaya.
El Oro came to anchor just as dusk turned into dark, having paused briefly along the way to double as the Pengelap gate boat. It was time for a sundowner, we thought, while we waited for the ferry boat to take us to adjacent Pulau Blanding (now better known as Neptune Island). This took a little longer than expected, and the tide was ebbing the while, meaning that arrival at the party island involved the ferry boat, the smallest rowing boat I have ever seen that didn’t have a sliding seat (AND the driver was standing up!), and a beach landing through 50 yards of knee-deep water. But, having taken refreshments on board, the El Oro crew found this all to be a huge adventure – as did everyone else.
Ashore at ‘party central’, we found everywhere lit by flaming torches, a bar set up and ready to go (and waiting for the Uncabunca bar staff!), sausages and hamburgers on the bbq, and a very relaxed, happy and relieved Tudor John (‘Regatta Architect’). ‘I have heard ‘no’ and ‘it can’t be done’ so many times over the last year-and-a-bit,’ he said, ‘that the sight of Windsikher slipping past Pulau Buaya under spinnaker was quite an emotional moment. It’s been a long haul and a lot of hard work by a great number of people, but it looks as if we really have got the Neptune Regatta out of the bar, off the ground, and onto the water.’
There was plenty of jollity around the bar and the bbq that night, and then gradually everyone drifted off to the tent village on the other side of the island (ie about 100 yards away). Those who retired early enough were saved another soaking from the several squalls that came through during the night!