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17 January 2004, 03:27 pm
Penultimate Day
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Singapore Straits Regatta

The international fleet in this year's Singapore Straits Regatta sailed back into Singapore this afternoon in a long race from Nongsa Point on Batam to Changi.
Taking a seventh consecutive victory in this regatta was Clariden Karakoa from the Philippines, skippered by Ray ORDOVEZA. The fleet had to negotiate one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and strong currents but wind and weather conditions were perfect.

For the past four days strong monsoon winds have been blasting from the north east and it's been a festival of sailing for the 300 or so competitors who have gathered here to compete in this third event on the Omega Asian Yachting Circuit.

The conditions have most favoured Ray Ordoveza's Clariden Karakoa from the Philippines. The skipper and crew must take much of the credit but the conditions have also been ideal for the design of the yacht. As Ray Ordoveza explains "we really need wind speeds of over 13 knots if we are to beat the likes of Hollywood Boulevard and Hi Fidelity. The hull, the sails - everything - is built with this kind of wind in mind. So yes, we are fortunate to have had the right conditions - but my crew have been exceptional and we have not put a foot wrong".

The fleet left the Riau Yacht Club mid morning and moved toward the start line of a race that would take them back from Batam to the familiar comforts of Singapore. And at the startline the strong wind seemed to have abandoned the regatta and all that remained was a light 10 knot breeze. It looked as if the tide was about to change for the fortunes of Clariden Karakoa.

As the signal was raised for the start of the race the fleet surged across the line and right at the front was Australia's Hollywood Boulevard followed by Hong Kong's Hi Fidelity and Malaysia's Yo! Behind them were Clariden Karakoa, Hong Kong's Stella Minter Ellison and the remainder of the fleet.

And suddenly both Yo! and Hi Fidelity abruptly turned 180 degrees and headed back to the startline. They had been adjudged over the line early and, as a penalty, they were ordered by the Racing Officer to return immediately to the startline to begin the race again. This cost a good 2 minutes of time for the two top yachts, minutes that would surely cost them the race.

Ahead of them the rest of the fleet raced on in the light winds and Hollywood Boulevard, now in her element, surged ahead to a convincing lead. As the fleet moved out into the Singapore Straits there were now some added hazards in the guise of huge cargo vessels plying some of the busiest waters found anywhere in the world. Size really does matter out there and the yachts in the regatta are under strict instructions to give way to ships they meet.

About half way across the Straits the winds suddenly picked up again to 14 knots and Clariden Karakoa could immediately be seen to close the gap on Hollywood Boulevard. By the time the fleet had crossed the straits it was clear that Clariden Karakoa was doing enough to beat Hollywood Boulevard and now the only yacht that could really touch her was Stella Minter Ellison. But Stella at 38 feet, much smaller that Karakoa's 54 feet, and with current against her could not quite do enough and she finished in second, three minutes off Clariden Karakoa's winning pace. So for the seventh consecutive time at this year's regatta, Clariden Karakoa wins the race and now has absolute confirmation of the title Champion at this year's regatta.

Said Ray Ordoveza, "we can't be beaten now so we're all very happy. It's been a great team effort. It's the first time that Karakoa has ever scored seven consecutive wins, an achievement in itself - but against this competition too. We are familiar with all the other yachts and we race against them regularly. Today we thought Holly Bolly would take us and she certainly powered away from the start. But we gradually clawed the time back and in the end it was a convincing win."

Stella Minter Ellison finished today in second and their place second overall is also now assured. Said skipper Fred KINMONTH from Hong Kong, "we're very happy with our performance. We thought today would be our day and we believed we could take Karakoa. But it was not to be and we're happy with second. We'll still be racing tomorrow even though our second place overall is assured. There's pride at stake".

Tomorrow sees the last race of the Singapore Straits Regatta with a round island race starting at 1pm and travelling around Pulau Ubin. Prizes and trophies will be given out at the Changi Sailing Club at 5pm on Sunday evening.

Full results are available on the event website at the address below.
Andrew Owen (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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