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Final two rounds of 2014/15 Asian Grand Prix Circuit, EFG Mandrake III

After some last minute rescheduling due to a typhoon passing through the Philippines over the Easter period, EFG Mandrake III headed to Thailand for the final two rounds of the 2014/15 Asian Yachting grand prix. The penultimate event of the season was the Top of the Gulf regatta, held at Ocean Marina in Pattaya. This was to be a new venture for EFG Mandrake III, who had never previously competed in this event. The event in the past has had a reputation of fairly light and tricky conditions, but with the traditional Easter feeder race to the Philippines being abandoned this year due to the typhoon, it was decided to see first hand for ourselves what the event had to offer.

The Top of the Gulf regatta offers the usual mixture of windward/leeward racing and island courses. A small but quality field gathered, including Asia’s current boat of the year, so with points tight at the top of the table for this current year, racing was sure to be tight and competitive. Despite the events reputation, this year’s event provided reasonable wind over the eight races that were conducted. There were a couple of delays where the thermal build up over the land was fighting the sea breeze, but the RO managed to conduct two races each day. The two standout yachts for the regatta were EFG Mandrake III and Foxy Lady VI. For the first three days of racing, both yachts swapped the lead until in race seven a crucial start line incident resulted in EFG Mandrake III being disqualified after originally finishing the race in first place. This minor infringement all but gifted the regatta to Foxy Lady with only one race remaining, which she also won in a close battle with EFG Mandrake III. So while a second place overall in our first visit to this venue was a solid result, experience in the different conditions that prevailed definitely proved the difference in some races. So with only one regatta to follow, in Koh Samui in a couple of weeks, EFG Mandrake III was sitting in second place, within striking distance of series leader Island Fling, but also hotly pursed by Foxy Lady VI and then a little gap to the next competitor.

So nearing the end of our first season in the new Ker designed GTS 43, a stock take showed a consistent improvement throughout the season with wins in the China Coast regatta and Boracay Cup in the Philippines and several other podium results throughout the season. But with all new boats there is always plenty of room for improvement, but there is plenty of potential in the Ker design and the following few years will be exciting.

Possibly one of the best, if not the best regattas on the circuit, is the Koh Samui regatta on the island bearing its name in tropical Thailand. Chewang Beach, on Koh Samui is a pristine location with stunning scenery from the water that provides perfect racing in the tropical paradise. This event is always a favourite amongst the crews with many nations represented on the water. With Island Fling missing the regatta and EFG Mandrake III and Foxy Lady VI separated by a mere point, the three way battle for the honour of being named Asian Grand Prix champion of the year was going to be intense. Conditions for this year’s regatta started off very well with consistent breezes for the first half of the regatta. Unfortunately when things were at there most critical in terms of wins on the board, the breeze didn’t co-operate quite as well.

After the first three races of the regatta it was a three way tie at the top of the leaderboard between EFG Mandrake III, Foxy Lady and the Australian entry Jessandra II, the former Rockall III which formed part of the successful Hong Kong team in the 2010 Commodores Cup in England. Race four was the first of the island races and a massive wind shift early on cost Jessandra II badly and she finished in near darkness with every other crew on the beach enjoying the festivities after a frustrating last few hours on the water. Day three dawned to better conditions early on, but by time the racing got under way at 10 am the breeze was already becoming fickle. So the first race of the day saw EFG Mandrake III obtain her ‘drop’ race after an extremely shifty first leg where nothing went right. On the first beat the left paid and on the second the right, both times however EFG Mandrake III was on the wrong side. So a result to forget. The team bounced back better in the next race with a third, but there was a little bit of catching up to do for the final two days of racing. It would be fair to say that most crews enjoyed a pretty lazy lay day, where luckily for the race committee all boats were ashore as there was no wind on the southern side of the island all day, but on a tour of the northern side of the island there was a cracking 20 knots of breeze. Geography and or nature can be a pretty amazing beast.

The penultimate day of racing looked a lot better than the lay day with a consistent 12 knots of breeze shaping up to provide ideal conditions, but again as race time rolled around, it faded. In fact it got so patchy that the race provided more twists and turns than it was thought possible. Foxy Lady was last and Jessandra and EFG Mandrake III fought out a tight battle for top points to again throw the regatta wide open. The second race of the day was even more patchy and the RO eventually shortened the course, but by which time EFG Mandrake III had built a huge lead up on the water to claim another victory, and with our main opponents being mid fleet the last day was going to be exciting for the top three crews as only one point separated all three yachts.

Hughie, the wind god, didn’t read the script and as the fleet motored out for the last day, the breeze was patchy at best. Racing was delayed nearly an hour and when it did eventually get underway the conditions were difficult for all tacticians. Our game plan was to try and cover Foxy Lady and win the season overall. This allowed Jessandra a free rein with the breeze and she claimed a big victory and with it the regatta. Onboard EFG Mandrake III we watched a massive lead over our main rival disappear in an instant with a massive 30 degree right hand shift with pressure and with it our hopes of being crowned champions for the year. It was a pretty quite motor back to the mooring, but on reflection a very close third to eventual winners Foxy Lady VI was a fitting result first up for the new EFG Mandrake III. This result will be improved on in coming season as the boat is better tuned, better handled. Next year there will be new teams, new boats all gunning to be 2015/16 Asian Grand Prix Champion, but the consistent and solid team of EFG Mandrake III, lead by Nick Burns and Fred Kinmonth will be on the start line to take on all challengers.

Author Peter Fletcher

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