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Team Malaysia-KLRegistry @ The China Cup 2016

November 3, 2016

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The China Cup International Regatta 2016 was a campaign unlike any other. Flying the flag under Team Malaysia KLRegistry, we were an ensemble of enthusiast sailors led by Malaysia’s Olympian for Rio 2016, Khairulnizam Mohd Afendy. It was certainly a challenge for the whole team and it tested our limits physically and mentally.

Time was not on our side. From the moment we landed in Shenzhen, we only had 2 days to practice and settle in. We were not familiar with the dynamics nor have operated the Fareast 28R racing yacht before and this was Khairul’s first time racing keel boats. Bar the Olympian, the last time the rest of us sailed competitively was almost a year ago. More crucially, we have never sailed together as a team and this would be the biggest hurdle we face. The bus that ferried us to the marina and back only had a few runs so practice was very limited.

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138 Teams competing in CCIR2016

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Straight into the game, we went to the marina to setup and headed out to sea. From the start nothing worked out right. The hoists were slow, the tacks/jibes not efficient, plenty of errors stemmed from the simplest tasks and more. The team was not gelling and communications was at an all-time low. No matter how great the skill sets you bring as an individual, sailing requires teamwork and good communication is top priority. The weakest link on a boat is the strongest link. Break that and even the best sailor will not be able to turn around one’s fortune.

The next day practice resumed. We were making progress but not fast enough. The equipment also kept failing but that could be caused by our disjointed operation. Nevertheless we stayed out at sea till the bus rang us in persistently.

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Race Day 1, we were as prepared as can be. Except we didn’t realize our outboard motor failed to start. Without drive, we were the only team stuck at the marina while the rest were already out at sea preparing for the race. Fortunately the organizer towed us out and we made it in the nick of time. The rest of the grid saw 20+ teams with proven winners and harden sailors from many countries. Last year’s winner China and New Zealand returned to defend their Asian and International titles. Thailand and the Philippines were back to improve on their podium finishes. Singapore deployed their full Olympic + Asean Games battalion. Oman sent their very famous Dream-Team. Japan’s lady skippered multiple class winning team was present for the 4th year in a row. Hong Kong, Macau, you name it, everyone wanted a piece of the pie.

But racing was not to be. The winds registered 3-5 knots, not enough to start racing; Race Day 1 was called off and everyone headed back to shore. Knowing our deficit, we took this opportunity as a bonus to stay out and practice. With every tack or jibe we inched ever closer to improving our performance and teamwork.

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Come Race Day 2, our prayers for wind were overly answered. Dark clouds loomed and heavy winds were blowing even before we left the marina. As we headed out to sea, big waves started to bombard. An hour before the race began, we did a last minute practice run again. Seeing as this was a whole different situation to what we were practicing with the last few days, we needed to recalibrate the yacht and reprogram the crew.

30 minutes before race start, the bow sprit line snapped. Our practice suddenly came to a halt and it was a crunch time to fix the damage before we missed race 1 entirely. Inside the bow is not the best place to be during choppy seas. Such a kill joy especially when you are psyched up for the long awaited race. No matter, heads down, hands cranking and banging, we manage to fix the Bow Sprit just minutes before race start. Feeling nauseated after being down under, we “donated” to the sea, gargled and readied for the start.

Race 1. The starting horn fired and we were off. The whole grid started strong and we had competitive pace. Everything was clockwork until rounding a mark, the tiller jammed and our yacht clipped the mark. As the rules go, upon contact we had to do a full 360 turn around and thus incurring lost time allowing some teams to pass us. After the penalty we worked hard to catch up. Knot by knot we made progress. As we crossed the finish line, we caught up to secure 3rd position but the rest were too far away. We were pumped and ready for the next round. Or were we…

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Race 2. Mother Nature really cranked up the “boomz” this round. 20+ knot winds, metres high waves and the rain pouring down, it was like an Alaskan fishing documentary on Discovery. The yacht piercing through the waves sent gallons of water combing everything in its path. You chase your competitors jumping over waves. It’s like a game of cat and mouse. The yachts getting airborne and landing on their heel, everyone was on their limits. The feeling was awesome. In other sports, this scenario could have been deemed unsafe, very.

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Getting airborne

 

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Into the next mark, we were third behind Oman and Singapore. Though the wind was gusting stronger we persisted with the decision to fly the spin. Bad call. Almost instantly the yacht broached into the water. Everything on deck was spilling over and the crew were hanging on precariously. At this level, any mistake you make is rewarded by others overtaking you. In the case of this broach, we lost about 4 places as we wrestled the vessel back into control. We settled down and it was time to play catch up again. After much toiling, we managed to cross the line in 4th just behind Japan. We were pretty relieved as the result could have been much worse.

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Race 3 was held the next day in calmer seas. This weather suited us well as we spent the most time practicing in these conditions. Singapore had a good start followed closely by us. Both our teams played text book with the wind and we ended up maintaining the same positions till the finish line. First and Second. Oman had a heavier crewed boat thus performing less ideal in the lighter winds and unfortunately they also incurred a penalty presenting them maximum point’s deficit this round.

Overall score at this point, Singapore was leading with 5 points, followed by Malaysia with 9 points and in third position was Oman with 14 points. It was still anybody’s game. With one race left, it was make or break time. We had to decide either to run conservatively securing the current position or to continue the attack hoping for a win with Singapore finishing nothing less than 6th position... to gain overall Champion; it was a highly unlikely scenario as they have not put a foot wrong so far. But we had to decide going in to the last race.

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Final Race 4. Starting horn fired and everyone was off to a good start. We were front running but the entire group was tightly bunched up. We decided to go for broke. Pulling away from the group, we tacked starboard for cleaner air. The decision was good as we were faster than the bunched up group and Singapore. But the winds did not hold and towards the end, we hit a pocket of still. As we approached the last straight, four teams made it in front of us and we crossed in 5th position. No regrets for trying but it was worth the risk.

In the end, all results were maintained. Singapore in 1st, Malaysia in 2nd and Oman in 3rd. Coincidentally all 3 teams took the same honours in both Asian Class and International Class Fareast28R. Therefore we brought two 2nd place trophies home.

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Against some of the world’s best teams, we stand on the podium humbled but proud carrying the Jalur Gemilang. As a team and as Malaysians, we supported each other’s short comings, conquered the demons and unified towards a common goal. After all the challenges, we are relieved to have delivered a solid result for Malaysia. This proves than Malaysians have what it takes to shine on the international stage. Given the correct support and nurturing we can achieve what we set our minds to.

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Everything is big in China, even their trophies are almost 2 feet of steel

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A second award

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all Malaysians for their countless support, the uber friendly Chinese locals who provided us supplies and cheered us on, to all the teams who helped and pushed us further, the 10th China Cup International Regatta organizers for the spectacular event and not forgetting, The Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia (KBS) for producing world class athletes like KhairulNizam Mohd Afendy. This achievement was certainly a group effort.

Malaysia Boleh! Malaysia Boleh! Malaysia Boleh!

And guess what happens when you check in a giant metallic trophy and sailing gear at an airport...

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Highly questionable objects, bring in the suspects...

Picture Credits: ChinaCup2016, Marty Rijkuris, Sailing China

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