LANGKAWI: The third edition of the BMW Royal Langkawi International Regatta (RLIR), which ended on Saturday, proved to be the most exciting and challenging yet in the series.
Although the number of entries dwindled this year, it has to be noted that the tournament organisers managed to host a successful regatta in South-East Asian waters during the post-tsunami period.
The involvement of title sponsors BMW has succeeded in making the Langkawi Regatta attractive to foreign sailors and promote it as the premier yachting event in the country.
The decrease in the number of competitors, especially in the racing class, failed to take the shine off the excitement.
Good winds, which reached an RLIR record maximum speed of 23 knots on Saturday, set the scene for keener competitions.
As expected, Port Dickson Yacht Club- registered YO! was too good for the rest of the fleet and won all six races for a third straight Prime Minister's Challenge Trophy.
YO! skipper Peter Ahern had tipped SonnenKoenig and Ulumulu to be their main challengers.
But with a vastly-experienced Australian crew on board, YO! left the others to play catch up.
“It is a pleasure to compete in the Langkawi Regatta. Although I am no longer residing in Malaysia, I make it a point to return every year to support this event,” said Ahern.
“The regatta here is still in its growth stage but it has the potential to rival several of the famous sailing competitions in the region. The organisers should look into attracting more big racing boats in the future to further boost the popularity f the RLIR.”
The Borneo-based Ulumulu raised eyebrows by fielding a relatively young all-Malaysian line-up.
But their inexperience, combined with an ongoing problem in getting their spinnaker up, prevented the Miri Yacht Club's yacht from posting a bigger threat to YO! and the runner-up, SonnenKoenig.
“We have no regret over our race results,” said Ulumulu skipper Troy Yaw.
“Compared to the other racing boats here, we are relatively new in the category. Our decision to provide opportunities to young Malaysians to compete against the big racing boats show that sailing is not just for the rich.
“Following our exposure here, we have become popular and getting a lot of requests from Malaysians to be part of our crew. This augurs well for the future of sailing as a sport in the country.”
A Malaysian crew still walked away with a major trophy. The Royal Malaysian Navy retained the Langkawi Sports Trophy in the sports boat category through Kapal Diraja Pelanduk (KDP) II.
KDP II stunned overwhelming favourites Somtam Express through the handicap system to repeat sister boat KDP I's success over the same opponent last year.
However, critics were quick to point out that Malaysian crews only do well in home competitions.
The RLIR's principal race officer Mark Pryke said: “Malaysian sailors have progressed well in competitive sailing over the past few years. But in order to improve and challenge the international sailors on a regular basis, Malaysians need to compete in more competitions abroad.”