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21 September 2010, 08:43 am
Ridgely Balladaras (PHI) wins Thailand Match Race Cup III 2010
Match Race Thailand II
Kevin on collision course with team Phillipines

Match Race Thailand 2010
Varuna, Thailand

As usual at Royal Varuna match racing events, the start line was just 30 metres from the beach bar and the spectators had a great view. A new addition this time was a huge comfy sofa for onlookers to sit on while watching the pre-start and exciting race action.
On Sunday the wind came in from the north nice and steady, the course was set and racing began.

Day Two (Sunday)

Sunday started out bright and sunny. A few races held over from Saturday got underway in fresh to medium winds from the north. The lead changed hands several times in all races and no one gave up until the very end. For example, Ai Li Ng (MAS) overhauled Kevin Whitcraft (THA) to windward on the final run to claim victory. Why didn't you luff her up Kevin?

The Filipino team led by Ridgely Balladares (PHI) warmed to the better wind conditions. They gradually pulled away from Kevin Whitcraftin their tie, helped by their ability to hoist and fill their spinnaker as they rounded the top mark in about one second flat. Well okay two seconds flat.

Neil Semple (THA) managed to lure Jon Eriksson (FIN) onto the anchor line of the start boat just before the starting signal. It was some time before the 'Finnish Missile' freed his boat and this allowed Neil to pull away to a comfortable led which he held to the end of the race.

The best match of the entire weekend was the final battle of the round robin stage Group B, between Jon Eriksson and Ridgely Ballaradas as this would determine which one of them would get into the semi-finals. We thought it was all over on the last beat when Jon went out the left, got good wind and pulled into the lead, while Ridgely got stuck in a bit of a hole in the middle of the course. But Ridgely's excellent spinnaker work allowed the Philippines team to close the gap on the run. Just before the finish line Ridgely gybed onto port to cross the line just ahead of Jon on starboard just a few meters behind. We were all on the edge of our seats at the beach bar sofa. Even spectators on the yacht club veranda 100 metres away hear the whoops of delight from the Filipino boat. This sent a message to the rest of the teams that the Filipinos had got into a groove.

The Finals
The wind then eased somewhat but there was wind enough for racing to continue. In the first semi-final Neil Semple (THA) met Veerasit Puangnak (THA). Neil won the favoured left side in the pre-start manoeurving but struggled with the light conditions. Meantime Veerasit reached the better wind near the middle of the course and pulled into a lead which he held to the finish. Well done to Veersit and his young Thai Navy team and into the Finals for them.

In the second semi-final the Filipinos fought well in the pre-start against Morten Jakobsen who adopted his usual style of 'taking no prisoners'. Ridgely mastered the light conditions and while Morten (THA) put up a good fight, Ridgely led over the finish line to secure a place in the Finals.

In the Petit Final for third and fourth place, Neil won the start by taking Morten to windward of the start boat. But Morten gybed quickly, made a good recovery and played the light conditions well to get into the lead half way up the first beat. This was a lead he held onto until the last run. Neil went out left and got some better wind while poor old Morten sat in a wind hole on the right side of the course. As the two boats converged at the finish line, Neil with the starboard advantage nipped across the line to claim third place.

In match one of the Finals, Veerasit entered on port and did well in the pre-start but the Filipinos used the committee boat to gain an advantage and make a good start. It was close on the beat but Ridgely got to the top mark first. It was nail bitingly close at the bottom mark as well. Veerasit was close behind and luffed hard to try to get a hook on Ridgely but the Filipino pulled away. Some good spinnaker work on the run to the finish line gave Ridgely victory in the first race.

It was now sudden death for Veerasit, he had to win the second race or it was curtains for the Thai Navy team. Veerasit had the favoured starboard entry for this match and took Ridgely to out 'coffin corner' on the left side of the pre-start area. But some clever manoeuvring by Ridgely resulted in the Philippines team escaping from Veerasit's control and winning the start. The lighter conditions which had troubled the Filipino earlier in the event now presented few worries. It was a closely fought contest but Ridgely held onto the lead and won the second match and victory in Thailand Match Racing Cup III of 2010.

So who is Ridgely Balladaras? He is with the Philippine Sailing Association and has done most of his sailing in a small two man dingy called a 470. He has some experience in large keel boats, but is fairly new to match racing. 'I was in Shanwei in China in March this year in a small dingy and my limbs froze solid and I vowed to only return there in a keel boat'. A man of his word, he intends to compete there in a keel boat in the match racing in November 2010. We asked 'Was there any pivotal point in the regatta for you?' He replied 'After beating Jon Eriksson in the round robin stage, I had no fears about anyone else'. Thanks go to Standard Insurance of the Philippines for sponsoring his team at this event.

Day One (Saturday)
September is the second rainiest month of the year and while it did not rain on Saturday, cloud cover hampered the traditional south west sea breeze and from setting in and light conditions characterized the event. The light winds meant that the proceedings were more similar to chess than the really physical game which takes place when the wind is howling.

The day started early with the skippers briefing just after breakfast, where the umpires and teams discussed the day ahead. The boats and teams were put through a random draw in order to decide the order of the races. This alone started the day off on a high note for some team who got in Group A as they know they would not have to face 'the missile' Jon Eriksson until much stages of the event.

The teams lucky enough to get into group A set off from the beach at 0930. A light wind set in at about 1100 and short 15 minute courses commenced. The competitors realized that the intensity of the racing was reverse proportional to the wind strength. The umpires had an eventful start with the all girls Indian team, helmed by Ayesha Lobo overwhelming the perhaps slightly rusty local based team helmed by Koravic Bhanubandh Na Ayudhya (Wikki). By the end of the day Wikkis team was hard to recognize having learned a lot from the first few matches.

In the light conditions a short start line was set and this made a timely entry a key part of the race; one or two competitors realized the cost of being late - some of the more hard fighting opponents took the opportunity to shut them out and in some cases the match was in effect over before the start. Hard lessons were learned, but not ones which would likely be quickly forgotten. Of course the shifty and tricky wind conditions didn't help the tacticians who needed a crystal ball more than the conventional used compass/GPS to help find from where the wind would come next.

For further information on match racing in Thailand.

Neil Semple
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