THE historic Sirius, named after the brightest navigation star, made its presence felt once again. This time, it was at the first leg of the 16th Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta on Saturday.
Seasoned seamen would remember Harold Nossiter going on the historic around-the-world voyage in 1935 on the Sirius. His sons, Harold and Dick joined him in the expedition that took about two years to conclude.
Today, Simon Philip Morris owns the 19m yacht. The yacht was delivered to him in Pulau Langkawi four years ago on Nov 16, the date when Nossiter arrived in Kuah 70 years ago.
But, things were not smooth sailing at the regatta that began at Port Klang.
For one, the crew on board Sirius, representing St Andrew’s Society and skippered by Morris, were apprehensive about the number 13 on the yacht’s hull. “It signifies my date of birth,” said Morris, who briefed his men on the safety procedures such as the life jacket usage, “man overboard” drill, fire prevention and how to avoid collision.
“Basically these are the four ways that you could kill yourself at sea.”
But, just minutes into the 88- nautical mile race, Sirius collided with Mat Salleh that was skippered by Neil Ankcorn.
“It was too late,” said James McGowan, who was at Sirius’ helm when the accident occurred. “I could not do anything fast to manoeuvre the yacht to avert Mat Salleh, which was coming in the same direction.”
Mat Salleh was attempting to overtake the yacht ahead on the starboard tack.
“We were playing a game to get ahead,” said Ankcorn. “My concern was to keep the yacht upright for the crew’s safety,” said the civil engineer who is based in Kuala Lumpur.
Following the collision, the crew from both yachts looked at each other in silence for about a minute. When the initial shock had passed, they quickly got down to business again, repairing the damage to their yachts.
“It was a minor damage to the bow spread,” said Morris, who had received the good news over his “Malaysia, My Second Home” application. “We would have been out of the race if the yacht were to have been made of fibreglass. Wooden yachts are versatile and easier to repair.”
However, despite both Sirius and Mat Salleh crossing the finish line at Pulau Pangkor, the judges disqualified the yachts from the first leg. Their offence was violating the “no collision” rule.
It was a sad start for Sirius, considering that besides Morris, it had two other seasoned seamen on board – siblings Roger and Peter McGowan.
For Peter, the regatta brought back old memories. The 61-year-old Englishman worked as a navigator for a freight company in Malaysia during the 1960s.
“Port Klang was known as Port Swettenham in the old days,” he said. “The Royal Selangor Yacht Club venue used to be where expatriates held social gatherings.”
Good buddies Morris and Roger served with the Royal Air Force in Germany 32 years ago.
“Flying is less stressful than sailing,” said Roger, and Morris agreed.
Before the accident, Sirius wrangled for position with Eveline 1910 that was skippered by Datuk Richard Curtis.
“We had a good start because we knew the local waters better,” said Curtis, who is also the regatta’s organising chairman. “It was all about the competitiveness to get ahead of each other from the start.”
Curtis was Morris’ neighbour when they were growing up in Jalan Pantai, Seksyen 9, years ago. The regatta was an opportunity to revive the friendly rivalry they had as teenagers.
“I wanted to be part of the regatta because of Richard’s (Curtis) invitation,” said Morris.
For the participating yachts, the passage was not entirely smooth.
As the sun set, the Sirius and the others had to also sail through unforgiving sea conditions and harsh weather. But, they all arrived in Pulau Langkawi almost unscathed.
Today, the 31 yachts will participate in the harbour races in Penang before setting off for the final leg tomorrow – from Penang to Langkawi.