It’s 14 years since I was introduced to the ‘Raja Muda’, and over the years the fascination with Asia’s entirely unique and equally intriguing regatta has not dimmed. It used to be billed as ‘Asia’s most challenging regatta: can you beat it?’ and today runs under the headline of ‘9 days. 4 destinations. Full on.’ They are both true.
The Raja Muda takes off from Port Klang with a passage race up the east coast of Malaysia to Pulau Pangkor, follows on with another coastal race to Penang, and then pauses. Some semi-serious rickshaw racing at Straits Quay marina is followed by a day of inshore racing and a prizegiving function at quite possibly the most spectacular regatta party anywhere in the world – the Khoo Kongso Clan House – and follows on with a third distance race to the beautiful Langkawi archipelago, two more days’ cans racing and a big splashy closing dinner at the picturesque Royal Langkawi Yacht Club.
All that in nine days. Phew! With the long races starting at midday and always – always – finishing in the small hours (or even next day for the slower divisions), and the partying always (always!) finishing late late, by the time the fleet reaches Langkawi the sailors are asking, quite genuinely, “what day is it?” The Raja Muda is not for the faint-hearted. It is not so much a series of sprints as a joined-up marathon, and stamina is required. It is, very much, full on.
Proceedings started last night at the Royal Selangor Yacht Club in Port Klang with dinner and entertainment attended by Government and Ministerial VIPs, and racing started today with the 90nm straight line dash to Pangkor. That sound simple enough, but the direct course will be, and always is, subjected to highly variable wind conditions characterised by a switch from sea to land breeze in the late afternoon or early evening – get the change right, and get on the right side of the shifting breeze and it’s a glamour ride to the finish. Get if wrong, and…
Today’s race started in 7-10 knots of northwesterly breeze, and with a strong out going tide pushing the boats towards the start line at the mouth of the Klang River, five classes headed off with a minimum of fuss and just three OCS calls. After that it was a pretty straightforward race, according to skipper Duncan Hine on board Alive. “The breeze gradually clocked round, but there was no dramatic change. But we weren’t hitting our target speeds – just couldn’t seem to get the boat going properly.
Maybe we picked something up in Port Klang, but we couldn’t suss it. We backed up, but that didn’t help. There’ll have to be a major swimming session tomorrow.” Still, it was good enough to take Line Honours in front of Sarab Jeet Singh’s Windsikher, winner of the last two Raja Muda regattas, snapping at the heels of Alive all the way up the track and finishing just 20 minutes behind for a win in Class 1.
Today’s award for trying hard goes to Richard Barnhurst’s Fast Track, who split the main, top and bottom, and retired. Crew David Thompson and Larry Jamieson hitched a lift with a friendly fishing boat and went ashore, and shot off to KLIA in time for a flight to Langkawi to retrieve a spare main. Return journey: Air Asia doesn’t allow ANY baggage over 40kg, so this morning (Sunday) it was a ferry ride from Langkawi to Kuala Perlis and a taxi to Lumut – which broke down on the home straight, heading for the Pangkor ferry. (And all this was helped along by SMS conversations and plenty of helpful suggestions from the Police/Media Brains Trust).
This year for the first time all RMSIR boats are carrying Yellow Brick trackers. Go to http://www.rmsir.com to watch the action unfold, or download the free app ‘YB Races’ and keep up on your phone. Of course, there’s the amusement value of watching your favourite boat streaking towards the finish, but the real reason for the tracking is safety. In 2016 it proved very difficult to send assistance to a dismasted boat between Penang and Langkawi because poor communications made it impossible to locate the vessel in distress – Yellow Brick tracking fixes that problem. (And a happy side benefit is that the media mavens can easily sort out conflicting accounts of the race delivered by sailors coming ashore at Pangkor at 02h00).
Quick racing summary: Alive took Line Honours, with Windsihker winning Class 1 by a slim 6 minutes from Ramrod. Starlight beat Antipodes for Class 2, but reported a tough race full of “major tactical discussions. We have discovered that the Brains Trust at the back have to be served dinner in sequence, and not in parallel.
” There is no Class 3. A thoroughly experienced crew on Fujin won Class 4 in front of Regatta Chairman and RSYC Commodore Jeff Harris’s Jing Jing, and La Samudra – aka the Fay Khoo Memorial Cruise – were the winners of Class 6. Lady Bubbly beat Mystic River in Class 5 (motoring allowed).
14 years on, and it is great to be here at the Raja Muda once again. Right now, Sunday afternoon, the sun is shining and the sea breeze is blowing at the Seaview Resort. The committee boat has dropped anchor in picturesque Pasir Bogok, Pangkor. The beer is cold, and the sambal is hot. Time to chill and enjoy the view, take a breather before tonight’s party, and get ready to race to Penang tomorrow.
Standing by on 72.
by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia