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All Souls Regatta 2019 – Adrenaline Rush!

All Souls regatta 2019 finish

For the 15th year in a row, against all the weather forecasts, the All Souls Regatta in Puerto Galera proved to be the most enjoyable yacht racing event in the Philippines. Three days of glorious 10-12 knot breezes sandwiched between weeks of almost nothing. The only anomaly, if that is the right word, was the thunderstorm on the first day that surprisingly bulged out of Batangas Bay, encroaching on the fleet as they raced from the Verde Island mark to the finish-line off Haligi Beach – initially benefiting those holding course in the middle of the Verde Passage with extra wind, while forsaking those closer to the shore until much later.

The handicappers should not be faulted for the final results on this day, despite the fleet strung out over almost two hours at the finish-line.

For the yachts that came home ahead of the thunderstorm – nearly half the fleet – there were a number of close finishes. The prize for the closest finish on the first day should go to the little Wharram catamaran Nagayon ahead of cruising yacht Princess Arieta, only three seconds separating them.

Cruiser Dany II was the last of the early finishers to get home, with only a little of the thunderous rain to cool the crew. Then a 20 minute gap before racer Emocean and the forsaken others, finally with cruiser Columbus bringing up the rear.

Close finishes is what Pursuit Racing is all about!

In traditional yacht races, all yachts (or, if the fleet is large then all yachts in individual classes) will start together and sail as fast as they can to the finish. In Pursuit Racing the objective is start all yachts at different times, calculated to have them all arrive at the finish-line together.

The start-line adrenaline-rush in traditional yacht races can soon subside as the fleet gets strung out along the race course, but for those who race in Puerto Galera the adrenaline-rush never stops – you are always wanting to catch the yacht ahead while tactically manoeuvring to keep the yachts behind as far away as possible.

There are advantages to both race formats but Puerto Galera has pioneered the Pursuit Racing format – principally because the start line inside Puerto Galera Bay is so short (constrained by coral reefs) that 20-30 yachts could not safely start together. Thus, the finish-line is always the objective . . .

On the second day of racing there was only one close finish, near the head of the fleet: five seconds separated cruisers Aragorn ahead of Talang Gala. The remaining yachts finished in a spread of almost two hours . . . again! No excuses for the handicappers this time; the breeze was constant and the only obstacles were created by a few skippers (me included) when rounding the distant islands and finding less (or no) breeze in the lee thereof.

Day three, and the handicappers had finally got most things right. The entire fleet of 28 yachts finished within 60 minutes of each other with the closest finish of just one second being separating racing class’s Rags and Emocean. But perhaps the most ballsy close finish was Dany II (Jeaneau Sun Kiss 47) against racer Irresistible (S&S 36).

Dany II had already been passed by cruiser Amihan and Irresistible soon after rounding the top mark so, with nothing to loose, the skipper headed high on the wind for speed (instead of heading direct to the finish-line) and, by half-way home, found a lifting breeze that gave a tactical advantage of an extra 30+ degrees at the bow. With the extra 30+ degrees there was a chance to deploy the asymmetric spinnaker that should add a knot or two of boat speed – probably enough to overtake Amihan and maybe enough to get on the stern of Irresistible, neither of whom could deploy their spinnakers because of their close-hauled sailing angle, direct to the finish-line.

As the minutes ticket by, the overtaking of Amihan was obviously possible, and accomplished, but the yellow hull of Irresistible was tantalizingly just out of reach.

About two miles out from the finish-line, on the approach to Long Beach, Irresistible entered a softer patch of air and Dany II’s skipper could clearly see the opposition’s crew looking back at him: a good omen he thought.

Keeping the spinnaker full is the priority on the approach to Long Beach – avoiding getting overpowered in the inevitable gusts as the breeze swirls around the peninsular and over Medio Island. Dany II crew worked hard to manage the breeze in the spinnaker to keep above the line of Irresistible, to suggest the intention to smother her rival . . . until the moment that the rival’s jib fluttered. At that moment Dany II headed down and well below her quarry, expecting to keep the spinnaker full with breeze by virtue of her slightly taller mast.

Dany II and Irresistible at Long Beach

The tactic worked. Dany II was now alongside and with good lateral separation from Irresistible on the approach to the Manila Channel, with enough clear air to keep the sails full and her speed true. Cheers went up aboard Dany II but the skipper cautioned that the Manila Channel always has surprises . . .

Passing the Manila Channel the spinnaker was first overpowered and then collapsed, more than once. Irresistible gained, and inched ahead. On a puff of wind the spinnaker filled and Dany II’s speed built once more. Would this be a victory or defeat for Dany II?

Passing across the finish-line off Haligi Beach, a few feet from the bow of the time-keeper’s boat, perceptibly ahead of Irresistible, Dany II took 12th place overall by a recorded margin of four seconds. Her vanquished quarry applauded the performance and Dany II’s skipper applauded their rival in return.

That is what Pursuit Racing is all about: the adrenaline rush to the finish . . . and everything that happens in the run up to it.

Do you want to experience the adrenaline rush of Pursuit Racing from the start to the finish-line? Join the PGYC Easter Regatta 2020 or, later in the year, the All Souls Regatta 2020, and have the most fun on the water that is possible, in Asia.

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The 15th All Souls Regatta in Puerto Galera was sponsored by Royal Cargo and the Philippine Retirement Authority. Supporting sponsors were: Broadwater Marine, Als Marine, Asia Yachting, Chetz Marine Supplies and San Miguel Brewery.

Media support was from Get-Wet Asia and Active Boating & Watersports magazine.