As the raja muda Selangor International regatta heads towards its silver jubilee next year, it has remained one of asia’s most exciting passage races.
sAILING on a modern sailboat does teach you a couple of science lessons. For one, you can actually sail even if the wind is against you – not in a straight line, but in a zigzag manner!
Well, I got my crash course in sailing during the recent Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta (RMSIR), which saw 36 boats of all shapes and sizes competing for honours (and no prize money at all).
Organised by the Royal Selangor Yacht Club in association with the Britain-based Royal Ocean Racing Club, RMSIR is Malaysia’s oldest keel boat sailing event since its inception in 1989.
RMSIR remains one of Asia’s most distinguished regattas, covering over 240km of passage races that see boats sailing even at night, starting from Port Klang all the way to Langkawi, while harbour races take place off Penang and Langkawi. For the first time, there was participation from Russia, though Australian boats easily made up half the field in the 24th edition of the regatta that just concluded last month.
I was on board the 16m-long luxury yacht by the name of Baby Tonga, which calls Langkawi its home base. The boat is owned by Hong Kong-based Englishman Garry Smith. The boat was chartered by Australian Brian Pozzey, who invited Smith to be part of his crew for RMSIR.
“Sails are like aircraft wings,” said the jovial Smith, whose business deals with boat charters.
Indeed, modern sails are nothing like those seen in the ancient days, when boats equipped with square sails ruled the oceans.
“Baby Tonga has more equipment for serious racing than other boats in its class,” said Smith, who offers the boat he jokingly calls a “soupedup cruiser” for charter at www. yachtsailingholidays.com.
Despite being built in 1992, Baby Tonga is perfectly at home at RMSIR, as all boats are given a handicap (akin to golf).
“Sailing is about aerodynamics, and hydrodynamics,” said Brian Pozzey, an experienced sailor as well as chef who operates Sailing Adventures in Brisbane, Australia.
Hydrodynamics is the study of the dynamics of fluids in motionwhile modern sail aerodynamics have borrowed heavily from lessons learned from aircraft.
The science part aside, sailing from Port Klang to Langkawi over four days, solely by wind power, was a pretty interesting experience. For one, you got to feel how the ancient seafarers made their way around the oceans, with rudimentary navigation aids that included the stars. You also got to see interesting coastlines. Most of all, there was good fun in racing one another.
“Size and boat design does not always guarantee a win. It is about how well you can read the wind and understand the tide,” said Pozzey, who has been sailing since 11.
The race also attracted some professional sailors, such as Peter Madej, who agreed to join Baby Tonga as crew after researching the boat. Madej, 28, started sailing professionally since 19 and has never looked back. Today, he moves from port to port, carrying nothing more than a slingbag.
“I have been sailing since I was five, and my family had a sailing school,” said the Pole who embarked on his first long trip at sea when he was nine.
Jeff Harris, a Briton living in Malaysia, said sailing is a very “complex business”.
“You are constantly looking at different wind shadows to find where the best wind is. It is a combination of a good boat and the skill of using it,” said Harris, who also participated in RMSIR through his boat, Nijinsky, that was manned by a five-man crew.
“The other important skill is working out the tide. Sometimes it is pushing you forward, sometimes back. You need to be in a place where it is not as strong, for example, in the shallows, where the tidal effect is less.
“And sometimes you have to
Like aircraft wings: Garry Smith, owner of baby tonga, adjusting the sail on his boat during the rmSIr passage race.