Royal Langkawi: where IS the finish line?

Royal Langkawi International Regatta 2011
It was a long wait this morning, with picturesque Bass Harbour glassed out in front of the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club. The AP on shore hung limply, and the few boats that had left the marina before it was hoisted – and didn’t know that it HAD been hoisted – spent a long time wondering why everyone else didn’t come out to play, ghosting around where the racing ought to be… good practice for what was to come.

Royal Langkawi International Regatta 2011


The Jury passed the time pushing their little coloured boats around on a table and inventing impossible scenarios with which to test their encyclopaedic knowledge of the RRS, and everyone else repaired to the bar (another soda, please) and stayed in the shade. The RO was spotted fast asleep in a comfy chair. Flies buzzed. Lizards gasped – it was that sort of a flat-out start to the day.

But the somnolent idyll couldn’t last for ever. A breath of wind, life, stirring noises, and all of a sudden the marina was tipping out – heck, it had only been a four-hour wait.

Royal Langkawi International Regatta 2011. HiFi racing in Bass HArbour.


Royal Langkawi International Regatta 2011. HiFi.


All classes duly strolled off on windward-leeward courses – unusually, with the wind from the southwest. But not before RO Mark Pryke had threatened to postpone starts on account of the camera boat and the Chairman of the Jury loitering with intent too close to the pin end of the start line. Maybe, just maybe, the first dodgy ‘call’ of the day.

By the end of the race the thoroughly fickle breeze had swung through almost 180° - the Racing class finished under headsails, and everyone else got a shortened course. It was soft and funky stuff, to be sure.

Royal Langkawi International Regatta 2011. Shoe shop 1.


Royal Langkawi International Regatta 2011. Another shoe shop.


Various weather forecasts now said that the breeze would die, wander all over the place, and then re-establish itself from the original direction. The RO promptly latched on to one of the ‘wandering’ bits, sent everyone away on another w/l to the southwest, and quickly found himself with a fleet scattered to the corners of Bass Harbour in (another) gasping, dying breeze. As the leading boats in the Racing division approached the leeward mark for the first time, a shortened course was signaled – too late for the division leaders, who were then obliged to guess whether to finish between the mark and the ‘S’ flag boat (which they had already passed) or the mark and the Committee Boat. ‘Messy’ doesn’t even begin to describe it. And to cap it all, racing was abandoned for all classes (except Racing) - and there were some mis-calls on the flags there, too.

Voices in the bar, later, were heard to call for the RO’s head on a plate, but he didn’t appear – headless or otherwise – for either the customary post-race ‘RO Explains Everything to the Local Media’ press conference, nor indeed for the protest hearings. One member of the race management team declared ‘of course, I can say nothing’ – then said quite a lot, and finished off with ‘I never said any of that.’

All in all, not a great day in the annals of yacht racing, but a great conversation piece for those inclined to wave their arms around a lot, knock drinks over, play Sailors’ Karate, and explain at length how to unwind long pieces of string.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

Results (first race only) at www.langkawiregatta.com

Royal Langkawi International Regatta 2011. Bass Harbour.


Royal Langkawi International Regatta 2011. Race Director gets out on the water for a change.


Royal Langkawi International Regatta 2011. Opening Party.


Royal Langkawi International Regatta 2011. Opening Party.