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India International Regatta 2014

by Molly Highfield 13 Jan 2015 12:46 GMT 16-19 December 2014
Podium at the India International Regatta 2014 © Hong Kong Sailing Federation

The 2014 edition of the India International Regatta, hosted by the Tamil Nadu Sailing Association in Chennai and also the first of four events in the ASAF Youth Cup series, was undoubtedly a challenging one for Team HKG, with uncertain weather conditions in strange new waters. For some of us, it is our first time competing in open sea: traveling eastwards across the Bay of Bengal, the next landmass would be the Andaman Islands, over a thousand kilometres away.

We departed Hong Kong International airport late on the night of Monday the 15th of December, with our coach Akira Sakai and team leader Cam Highfield, on a five-hour flight to Madras International Airport, Chennai. Despite it being the early hours of the day, the terminal hummed with the quiet chatter of many passengers and journeymen. Once through customs, immigration and baggage claim, we were greeted by a warm winter night and a transport to our accommodation for the coming week.

An hour of weaving through (often bewildering) traffic, and we were pleasantly welcomed to the Taj Club House, a mere fifteen minutes from the TNSA. Once rooms were arranged, we all took our chance to rest before registration and measurements in the morning.

A buffet breakfast of Tamil, Oriental and Western woke us up to our first proper day in India. In the lobby whilst waiting for our passes and transports, we met the teams from New Zealand, Switzerland, and Sweden, and quickly became well acquainted.

Unfortunately due to a few delays, none of us were able to make the practice race or the opening ceremony. A car trip through the bustling streets, filled with tuktuks and vendors of every ware eventually brought us to the port and the TNSA, where we met old and new friends. Tracking down the boats, getting all our equipment sorted, applying sponsor stickers and registering was done by late afternoon, but no more sailing was scheduled anyway.

The first day of racing introduced us to the conditions we were to face for the next few days: 16-18 knots, with gusts over 20, tides, and waves averaging 2 metres. Team HKG had a strong start to the regatta, with Riley Cameron and Chris Bezy coming first after three races in the Radials and 4.7s respectively, whilst Thomas and I remained in the fray. Nancy and Faolan fought hard in the rough seas in Optimists, with top 10 and top 15 results.

Day 2 brought similar conditions, large swells and medium winds shaped another 3 races for all classes. Though their sailing was consistent, Riley and Chris dropped to 2nd place in the two Laser fleets.

The following day races were cancelled due to severe conditions. Whilst waiting on shore for the race committee's signal we heard of curling waves of 5 metres and over outside the breakwater. For many the AP over A was a slight relief.

The sea calmed enough on the fourth day for racing to resume, with 2-2.5 m waves and roughly 17 knots easing to about 12 later in the afternoon. Because the RC did not want to run any races on the fifth and final day, 5 races were run. At the end of the day Riley and Chris had managed to defend a second place in their respective fleets, Thomas and I held on in the 4.7s, and Nancy and Faolan maintained top 10 positions overall.

After an exceptional prize giving the next day, Team Hong Kong left with awards for 2nd Radial and 4.7, 1st 4.7 girl and 2nd Optimist girl. However, that is not the reason we the sailors have mutually agreed that this trip was one of the highlights of our year: it was because we gained an amazing experience, populated by new faces, and a great source of nostalgia for a very long time. And honestly, it doesn't get much more rewarding than that.

Team Hong Kong

Coach: Akira Sakai
Team Leader: Cam Highfield
Laser Radial: Riley Cameron
Laser 4.7: Thomas Norton, Chris Bezy, Molly Highfield
Optimist: Faolan Whyte, Nancy Highfield