Ayaz Shaikh (IND) Wins the Thailand September Match Race Challenge

Action Shot from Day Two of Siam Winery Thailand Match Race Challenge - Siam Winery Thailand Match Race Challenge
Alex Samaras
The continued enthusiasm at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Thailand for match racing was in evidence again at the ISAF Grade 3 event held over the long weekend, second to 4th September 2011.

Platu 25 foot yachts were used for the event and those who had not sailed in them before thought they were 'just the job' for match racing. There were eight teams with a good geographic spread: India (2), Singapore (1), Malaysia (2), Finland (1), France (1) and Thailand (1) rotating between four Platus.

Some light rain delayed racing on day one until lunchtime. But Race Officer Chris Dando is not one to dilly dally and he got in eight flights of the round robin by close of business on day one at 5.30pm, with each match doing two windward leeward loops. The tide played a key role day one’s racing with those venturing out to the right on the beat generally coming off worst again those that stayed closer to shore.

That night former Flag Commodore Peter Cummins remarked over a beer that the easterly night time on shore breeze augured well for good winds for day two; and he was right. Racing got away as planned by mid-morning on day two in a medium and freshening offshore breeze with clear skies. Hiking out was the order of the day. The races were much closer on day two as the teams got used to the boats, the currents and any vagaries of the local wind. There were some real battles fought tooth and nail between the leading four boats. In several races there was only a few seconds between first and last place. One crusty old mariner who had been watching the action from the beach bar remarked that evening 'it was world class racing out there today'.

By lunchtime on day two the round robin had been won by Jeremy Koo (MAS 333) with six points, who beat off some serious competition in the process. Next was Maximilian Soh (SIN 154) with the same number of points but he lost, literally, by inches to Jeremy in their match. Ayaz Shaikh (IND 129) came third with five points just edging out Atool Sinha (IND 425) with four points.

Jon Ericksson (FIN 134) also had four points, but he lost to Atool and so came fifth. It was not the 'Fearsome Finn’s' weekend (he does not warm to that sobriquet, so we include it here) as he fell off the stern of the boat during a prestart, and was not wearing a life jacket either! This was in a match against Rolf Heemskerk (MAS 1043) who was gentlemanly and/or sensible enough to stop match racing and head to the line and start with a nice lead. Rolf won that race but overall he came sixth in the round robin with two points.

Taking up the rear were the regatta’s unsung heros: Florent Herson (FRA no rank) who stepped into Morten Jakobsen’s shoes (THA 206), who had to dash off and work over the weekend to fix an offshore gas pipeline, and Sinsupa Wannasuth (THA) who while an experienced and very accomplished fleet racer was learning-by-doing in her first match races.

The round robin on day two was finished early enough to allow a one-match race-off between the bottom four teams for fifth to eighth places in which Rolf Heemskerk (MAS) beat Jon Ericksson (FIN) and Sinsupa Wannasuth (THA) beat Florent Herson (FRA).

On day three we moved onto the semi-finals in which Jeremy Koo (SIN) lost 1-2 to Ayaz Shaikh (IND) and Maximilian Soh (SIN) beat Atool Sinha (IND) 2-0. Then onto the finals between Maximilian Soh (SIN) and Ayaz Shaikh (IND).
In the view of many Maximilian Soh (SIN) often had the best boat speed of any team on the water. But in the view of some observers perhaps occasionally lost out on strategy and tactics. In the first of the final races the boats split off the start line with Ayaz correctly heading out right where the wind was a bit stronger and the tide was slack. A large gap opened up within 30 seconds and it became a something of a procession after that.

In the second race of the best of three finals, the Singaporean team picked themselves up, gave it a go, and opened up a lead of four boat lengths by the top mark. The race was on. But later on the run there was some indecision on the Singapore boat on whether to approach the bottom mark on port or starboard? The compromise of a dead run with no pole did not work out. Maximilian remarked afterwards 'we got into a hole at the bottom mark and I could hear the Indian boat gaining on us'. This allowed Ayaz Shaikh to catch up and gain a vital few boat lengths on the Singaporean youngster and get back in the match.

Ayaz did a better second top mark rounding and was barely two boat lengths behind but crucially one boat length inside his opponent. Ayaz promptly gybed away inshore and Maxi was a bit late on the gybe. This allowed Ayaz to spill bad air onto the leeward boat and break the overlap and then move ahead. Ayaz opened up enough of a gap to finally gybe to port and cross the trailing starboard tack boat and head for the finish line. The whoops of delight from the winning Indian boat could be clearly heard ashore, which in any case at Varuna is only 30 meters from the start-finish line.

In the petit-final Atool picked up a penalty in the pre-start and this helped Jeremy Koo clinch third place overall. Team Atool Sinha was sponsored by Next Level Media and Team Koo Racing was sponsored by Evernew.

Simon Makinson the Varuna Flag Commodore said ' the club is very supportive of events like this and we are glad that we have another match racing success under our belts. Our thanks go to our sponsor, Siam Winery, the Race Committee led by Apple Asawawatanaporn, Race Officer Chris Dando, and Chief Umpire Neil Semple (IJ)'.

Winners of Siam Winery Thailand Match Race Challenge - Siam Winery Thailand Match Race Challenge
Alex Samaras



Place Nation Skipper Main Jib Foredeck

1 IND Ayaz Shaikh Sandip Jain Nijeesh Bhaskar Santosh P V
2 SIN Maximilian Soh Christopher Lim Justin Wong Andrew Paul Chan
3 MAL Jeremey Koo Ng Ai Li Looi Sing Yew Fariz Sawal
4 IND Atool Sinha Imolemnok Rahul Rai Samal Pradhan