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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Big Winners in Malaysia

In 2002 the Royal Langkawi Regatta was formed, now ten years latter this regatta kicks off the Asian calendar by providing competitive and enjoyable racing for all crews, irrespective of the design or vintage of their yacht. This year thirty six boats from all over the world were divided into five classes, and I was lucky enough to be on IRC 2’s defending champion Niels Degenkolw's IOR 3/4 Ton X yacht Phoenix.  Joining Captain Niels (Nederland) and me on this magnificent boat was Niels’ wife Tim (Thailand), her brother Toon (Thailand), Kevin Ashby (South Africa), Liz Schoak (Australia), Mark Minzer (Australia). 

The first race day an overcast morning with about 8 Knots of wind greeted us as we headed out on the waters of Bass Harbor. As we learned our individual jobs and the synergy of working together we held steady and took 2nd place in our class behind Stuart Williamson's Beneteau 34.7 Skandia Endeavour of Whitby.  That night we enjoyed the kick off dinner, traditional Malaysian dancers and fire breathers, and getting to know each other off the water.

For the second day of racing the skies were clear; winds were approximately 9 knots and staying steady as we left are berth super early to make the 5 mile passage outside the group of islands that form Bass Harbor to police boat that marks each start and finish. We were greeted with 10 to 12 knots of wind but the winded faded around the third buoy and the way race was shortened for our class, but we fought hard and claimed first place.   As we sailed back to port, we all enjoyed our celebration Cokes, which Niels promised to me after each first place finish. 

The middle of the week brought a traditional Royal Langkawi Regatta race tradition the around the island race.  Sadly, Skandia Endeavour of Whitby returned to form by taking out the daily double and regained top spot on the IRC 2 point score. Whereas we missed out on the favorable gust in the Dayang Bunting Strait that left us trailing a few minutes behind and down in second place.

Still the beautiful environment with eagles soaring overhead could not dampen our spirits.  We were keen on improving our standings even if there was heavy overcast sky and drizzling rain as we started day four.  The first race we were perfect and smoothly sailed into 1st place.  The second race of the day we were not so lucky and were recalled for being over the start line as the horn sounded, but we quickly made amends and won again.  This coupled with second and fifth finishes by Skandia Endeavour of Whitby allowed us to take back the overall lead in our class.  With such a great day of racing I was ready to dance, and that night after the awards dinner Liz and I joined a few hot shot team members of Marcus Blackmore's chartered TP52 Hooligan for a night out on the town.

A bright sunshine and blue sky bought color back into the scenery greeted us on day five, but we could not be cocky because the pressure was still on with us only be 1 point over Skandia Endeavour Of Whitby for overall class winner.  All week our boat chased Skandia Endeavour of Whity around the course because of our handicap and had to wait until reach shore to find out our standings.  This time we clocked there finished and silently prayed as the wind slowly took us toward the finish line.  It seriously came down to the wire as we counted down the seconds.  With two seconds to spare we crossed the finish line with a loud cry of victory, Niels Degenkolw's crew on Phoenix had managed to defend his five time IRC 2 title. 
On the momentous sail back in we merrily drank our Cokes and sang "We Are the Champions." 

To top it off that night, Kevin and Neil's bought the crew champagne with the cork happily soaring into the night followed by fireworks, all of us happily going on stage to accept our rewards, and hanging out with Estonia Pro Basketball player and hottie Denno Drell. 

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