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29 November 2005, 09:14 am
Colourful Sights And Special Treatment
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Monsoon Cup 2005
Terengganu, Malaysia

The inaugural ISAF Grade 1 Monsoon Cup got off to a vivid start in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia yesterday, and racing did not even begin. At the launching ceremony in September much of the talk focused on the monsoon season and the potential for heavy rains. It was clear that the inaugural event would be unique based on the weather alone, and yesterday it quickly became clear just how unique this event would be. And it was not even raining.
A police escort guided two loaded coach buses the 15 minutes from the Kuala Terengganu airport to the venue on Pulau Duyong Island. Four police on motorcycles alternated blocking intersections and clearing red lights so the buses could proceed unimpeded. Some sailors and media said they had been part of police escorts for events like the Pan Am Games or triumphant America's Cup returns, but it is believed that was the first time a Swedish Match Tour event enjoyed a police escort.

What sets the Monsoon Cup apart from other Swedish Match Tour events is the culture. While the police escort is believed to be a first for the Tour, never before has there been a dry regatta, and we are not talking about water over the deck.

'We have a culturally fascinating heritage,' said Datuk Seri Idris JUSOH, Chief Minister of Terengganu, who hosted all involved with the Monsoon Cup at a dinner last night at the Terengganu government building. 'We have 225 kilometers of coastline with pristine white beaches. We're very excited to show the world what Terengganu and Malaysia have to offer.'

That heritage was brightly displayed during dinner when dancers performed ancient routines for the dinner guests. Dressed in elaborate headwear and bright, colourful costumes, the dancers hopped, swayed and glided across the stage to sounds from traditional instruments.

The evening was made vivid by the clothing worn by all involved. The Monsoon Cup presented everyone with traditional Malaysian formal wear. Men wore Batik shirts and women wore Baju Kurung evening dresses. The clothing is hand woven and painted silk, and no two items were the same.

'It was a wonderful exposure to a culture and part of the world that we don't see much of,' said veteran television broadcaster Peter MONTGOMERY of New Zealand, who will provide commentary for the live broadcasts of the final two days of the Monsoon Cup. 'Sailing events don't often see that. I was impressed by everything, form the police escort to dinner.'

'We were overwhelmed yesterday,' said Rasmus KOSTNER, a Danish crewmember for Coutts Racing who is also part of the Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team (ITA) for the America's Cup. 'People are putting out a big effort to put on a good show. All the colour at dinner made it more special than your normal sponsor dinner. We had a lot of fun yesterday.'

The Pro-Am event of the Monsoon Cup is underway. Crews are out sailing on the Terengganu River with two celebrities from Malaysian media outlets.

The pro-am is also serving as a practice round for the twelve crews. Racing in the Monsoon Cup is scheduled to begin this afternoon at 1600 hours, and the race committee hopes to complete the first two flights.

The crews have been racing in a light north/northwesterly around eight knots this morning, but the big talk is of current. Boats are side-slipping dramatically after mark roundings.

'I'd say it's running between a half-knot and a knot,' said Jamie GALE, crewman for Chris DICKSON (NZL) and the BMW Oracle Racing Team (USA). 'It's crazy because you've got like three rivers converging.'

Before racing begins the Sultan of Terengganu, Sultan Mizan Zainal ABIDIN, is scheduled to visit the regatta site at 1500 hours to officially open the Monsoon Cup.

The regatta format features a single round robin for the twelve teams. At the conclusion the top eight advance to the quarter finals and the bottom four are eliminated. Once in the quarter final round the event progresses to a ladder format, where the winner of the round robin races the eighth placed team, second place races seventh place and so on. The winners are the first to score two points, and advance to stage four.

Stage three of the event is a repechage round for the losers of the quarter finals. Each match is a single race knockout series. Stage three A pits the winners of stage three against each other in a one race knockout for fifth and sixth place, while the losers race for seventh and eighth place.

Stage four is the semi final round. The winners are the first to score three points. Stage four A is the final and petite final of the Monsoon Cup. The champion will be the first to score three points, and the winner of the petit final will score two points.

Amongst the twelve teams, four former World Champions - Peter GILMOUR (AUS), Russell COUTTS (NZL), Dean BARKER (NZL) and Chris DICKSON (NZL) - line up along with the back to back ISAF Women's Match Racing World Champion and reigning Yngling World Champion Sally BARKOW (USA).

Monsoon Cup Entrants
( - ISAF World Match Race Ranking)

For the current Swedish Match Tour Standings CLICK HERE.

Sean McNeill (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Skipper Cameron DUNN (2nd right) and his Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia team are decked out in Batik shirts:© Guido Cantini/Swedish Match Tour
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