Sail­ing spirit

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.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - OUTDOORS - Story and pic­tures by MENG YEW CHOONG star2@thes­tar.com.my > TURN TO PAGE 16

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.

Sail­ing skills

“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.

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