Stage One of the Kata Group Andaman Sea Rally got underway on Sunday 4 January with winds of over 12 knots off Kata Bay , Phuket.
As the starting gun sounded, 'Rusalka', sailed by husband and wife team Kevin and Sheila PERRINS of Changi Sailing Club, Singapore, made a perfectly-timed start and were first over the line and off out of the bay. They were closely followed by 'Emerald Blue', skippered by Nick BAND, and 'El Samali', with Philippe ROOLANT at the helm.
The rest of the fleet followed, with 'Stormvogel' hanging back, keeping out of the start line action. The Warwick sloop, 'Intrigue of Stornaway', skippered by Gary FOSTER, was last over the line, a good five minutes behind the others as they experienced problems with the main sail.
Good breezes graced the fleet the whole way over to Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, with 'Stormvogel' taking line honours in record time - a little over 48 hours. This was not good enough for last year's Stage One winner, and on count back she placed third behind 'Intrigue of Stornaway', who made up for her poor start, and 'Rusalka', who took a commendable second.
After swift clearance of all boats, everyone headed off to the party and prize-giving hosted by the Andaman & Nicobar Islands authorities.
The fleet for Stage One of the rally consisted of 9 boats, almost double last year, including one power boat. Numbers were lower than expected, as Gareth TWIST, Managing Director of Yacht Solutions Marine Operations, organisers of the event, contested. "It is a little disappointing. We had 15 boats signed up a month before the event and a few more 'maybes'. Due to circumstances beyond our control, a number of boats had to cancel last minute because of illness and urgent business matters. However, the fleet we have, had a great sail over and are looking forward to the sail back."
The boats now have a week at leisure to explore the spectacular islands and beaches of the Andamans before departing on 15 January for Stage Two and the race back to Phuket. Closing party and prize presentations will be at Kata Beach Resort, Phuket on 18 January.
The Kata Group Andaman Sea Rally is sponsored by Kata Group of hotels and resorts, The Nation newspaper, Beer Chang, Far Away Sail and Dive Expeditions, Radio 100, Simple Computers and Noonsite. The event is supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Phuket Chamber of Commerce and the Andaman Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The event is organised by Yacht Solutions Marine Operations.