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12 September 2011, 09:39 am
Ayaz Shaikh (IND) Wins The Thailand Siam Winery September Match Race Challenge
Soh against Ericksson
Team Maximilian Soh (SIN) Crosses in Front of Team Jon Ericksson (FIN)

Match Race Thailand Challenge
Pattaya, Thailand

India's Ayaz Shaikh (IND) won the ISAF Grade 3 Match Race Thailand Challenge which was held at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya, Thailand from 2-4 September.
Platu 25 foot yachts were used for the event and those who had not sailed in them before thought they were "just the job" for match racing. Teams from India, Malaysia, Finland, France, Thailand and Singapore were represented and after a slight delay on the opening a day a full eight Round Robin flights were possible.

The tide played a key role in day ones racing with those venturing out to the right on the beat generally coming off worst again those that stayed closer to shore.

Racing got away as planned by mid-morning on day two in a medium and freshening offshore breeze with clear skies. Hiking out was the order of the day. The races were much closer on day two as the teams got used to the boats, the currents and any vagaries of the local wind. There were some real battles fought tooth and nail between the leading four boats. In several races there was only a few seconds between first and last place.

By lunchtime on day two the round robin had been won by Jeremy Koo (MAS) with six points, who beat off some serious competition in the process. Next was Maximilian Soh (SIN) with the same number of points but he lost, literally, by inches to Jeremy in their match. Ayaz Shaikh (IND) came third with five points just edging out Atool Sinha (IND) with four points.

Jon Ericksson (FIN) also had four points, but he lost to Atool and so came fifth. It was not the Finnish sailors weekend as he fell off the stern of the boat during a prestart. This was in a match against Rolf Heemskerk (MAS) who was gentlemanly and/or sensible enough to stop match racing and head to the line and start with a nice lead. Rolf won that race but overall he came sixth in the round robin with two points.

Taking up the rear were the regatta's unsung heros: Florent Herson (FRA) who stepped into Morten Jakobsen's shoes (THA), who had to dash off and work over the weekend to fix an offshore gas pipeline, and Sinsupa Wannasuth (THA) who while an experienced and very accomplished fleet racer was learning-by-doing in her first match races.

The round robin on day two was finished early enough to allow a one-match race-off between the bottom four teams for fifth to eighth places in which Heemskerk beat Ericksson and Wannasuth beat Herson.

On day three Koo lost 1-2 to Shaikh in the first Semi Final and Soh beat Sinha 2-0 to advance to the final.

In the first of the final races the boats split off the start line with Shaikh correctly heading out right where the wind was a bit stronger and the tide was slack. A large gap opened up within 30 seconds and it became a something of a procession after that.

In the second race of the best of three finals, the Singaporean team picked themselves up, gave it a go, and opened up a lead of four boat lengths by the top mark. The race was on. But later on the run there was some indecision on the Singapore boat on whether to approach the bottom mark on port or starboard? The compromise of a dead run with no pole did not work out. Soh remarked afterwards "we got into a hole at the bottom mark and I could hear the Indian boat gaining on us". This allowed Shaikh to catch up and gain a vital few boat lengths on the Singaporean youngster and get back in the match.

Shaikh did a better second top mark rounding and was barely two boat lengths behind but crucially one boat length inside his opponent. Shaikh promptly gybed away inshore and Soh was a bit late on the gybe. This allowed Shaikh to spill bad air onto the leeward boat and break the overlap and then move ahead. Shaikh opened up enough of a gap to finally gybe to port and cross the trailing starboard tack boat and head for the finish line. The whoops of delight from the winning Indian boat could be clearly heard ashore, which in any case at Varuna is only 30 meters from the start-finish line.

In the Petit-Final Sinha picked up a penalty in the pre-start and this helped Koo clinch third place overall. Team Atool Sinha was sponsored by Next Level Media and Team Koo Racing was sponsored by Evernew.

Simon Makinson the Varuna Flag Commodore said, "The club is very supportive of events like this and we are glad that we have another match racing success under our belts. Our thanks go to our sponsor, Siam Winery, the Race Committee led by Apple Asawawatanaporn, Race Officer Chris Dando, and Chief Umpire Neil Semple."
Neil Semple (As Amended by ISAF)
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