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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

The Exciting Bicol Oz Goose National Championships - Wooden sailboats hold record setting regatta

by Roy Espiritu 10 Mar 15:55 GMT

31 Oz Goose sailboats set a Philippine record for the largest one-design regatta ever held in the country, beating the standing record held by the 7th Hobie 14 World Championships held in Puerto Azul in 1984.

The Exciting Bicol Oz Goose National Championships was the fourth iteration of the Oz Goose Nationals ever held in the Philippines, and the first one held outside Taal Lake where the largest Oz Goose fleet in the world is located. The Taal Lake Yacht Club (TLYC) played host to the Oz Goose Nationals for three consecutive years from 2017 until 2019, and was all set to host the 2020 edition, when Taal Volcano erupted on 12 January 2020. Volcanic activity started to recede by the end of February 2020 and it looked like Nationals could still happen, then the Covid pandemic happened, and put a pause on everything.

Since 2015 a group of boatbuilding enthusiasts called the Philippine Home Boatbuilders Yacht Club. (PHBYC) have been organizing its signature event called the Family Boatbuilding Weekend (FBW). At the FBW, families and groups are to assemble a prefabricated Oz Goose sailboat kit while being supervised by members of PHBYC. All this happens over the span of a weekend and the boats are usually sailing by the third day. To date, more than 100 Oz Goose sailboats have been built this way. The typical cost of 10 Oz Goose FBW kits cost no more than the price of importing one Laser dinghy and spares into the country, and is becoming an affordable way for Filipinos to start appreciating dinghy sailing in the archipelagic country.

The Oz Goose is a 12 foot long, easy to build sailboat designed by Australian boat designer Michael Storer who is currently based in the Philippines. The Goose flies an 89 sq. ft. balance lug sail and is gaining popularity around the world and in the Philippines, thanks to efforts of the designer and help of PHBYC FBWs.

One such FBW event in 2020/2021 happened in Legazpi, Albay in the Bicol Region on the southern end of the island of Luzon. The newly revived Albay Yacht Club (AYC) partnered with PHBYC to build its initial fleet of 12 Oz Goose sailboats. It being the pandemic and all, PHBYC members could not travel to Bicol to supervise the participants, as such, PHBYC developed a detailed instruction manual accompanied with videos to guide the AYC members on how to assemble their boats while under pandemic lockdown.

AYC's original idea was having sailboats regularly sailing in Albay Gulf and holding monthly regattas for its members and developing the Albay Gulf as a prime watersports destination. The AYC Oz Goose program has grown to reach out to the community to train local kids how to sail, appreciate nature, improve sportsmanship and instill a good work ethic that they can carry on to adulthood.

The AYC members trained by members of the Philippine Home Boatbuilders Yacht Club (PHBYC) to rig and sail Oz Geese in March of 2021 passed on their knowledge by training local kids on how to rig boats as well as how to sail them, and later in the year, they were even able to bring onboard Jeff Morris, an avid sailor from New Zealand who lives in Legazpi as the coach of AYC's new sailing team called the Puro Sailors, named after Barangay Puro where all the boys are from and the current site of the AYC boat yard.

Around October 2021,with Covid cases on a steady decline, AYC officers and PHBYC were confident that a big regatta like the Oz Goose Nationals could happen in Legazpi. AYC was confident that it could get the sponsorship necessary to host the Nationals. In November 2021 the wheels were set in motion to host the Philippines' largest ever one-design regatta.on the upcoming long weekend at the end of February 2022, People Power weekend. The current record of 25 boats at the 1984 Hobie14 Worlds was matched by the Taal Goose fleet in 2018, but this year, they aimed to surpass it, and a target was set for 31 Oz Geese on the starting line.

A Notice of Race was issued in December 2021 and Goose sailors from Batangas, Subic Bay and even Butuan expressed interest in participating. To upgrade the level of competition in the regatta, an invite was sent out to trainees of the national sailing team trained by the Philippine Sailing Association (PSA). These young athletes who train at the sailing center in Manila have not had an opportunity to sail competitively or even sail at all since lockdowns started in 2020. Because the event could not get an official PSA sanction due to pandemic regulations,the athletes needed to participate in a personal capacity. An Internet fundraiser was quickly organized for them through the Storer boat plans group and Oz Goose Internet community to help fund their entry and charter fees.

Despite the Omicron surge that gave the organizers a little anxiety, online pre-registration was a confidence booster, allowing the event to quickly fill the 31 boat target. Sailors from Batangas, Subic, Manila and Legazpi signed up.

Most of the sailors arrived on the evening of 24 February or the morning of the 25th and all of them wanted to get some practice before the serious racing the next day. With the launching beach facing directly into the prevailing monsoon wind (Amihan), getting off the beach would be a challenge if you didn't have any help. To assist the sailors launch and return to the beach without incident, AYC hired eight "porters" from the community. The porters helped ensure that the boat wasn't swamped by waves as it launched, and they pointed the boat in the right direction to sail off the beach with its foils in the water. As the boats came back in, they allowed the crew to get off first, then timed the entry of the boat into the beach in between swells and carried the boat to a part of the beach or boardwalk where it was beyond the reach of waves.

There was also a tide window that the regatta organizers needed to consider. At 1.2 meters of tide height, the launching beach disappears, and on the first day of racing, daytime high tide (1.3m) was scheduled to happen at around 09:30. So that means that the boats need to be in the water by 07:30. This was mentioned in the pre-race briefing the night before the first race.

To make the regatta more interesting, a twist was added to the first race of the regatta. Two of PHBYC's founders. Rolly Perez and Louis Casambre passed away in January and February of 2022. The first race of Nationals was dedicated to their memory, both gentlemen had a hand in the development of the Oz Goose program directly or indirectly. The race was called the Rolly and Louis memorial trophy.

Rolly was an avid photographer and Louis loved to race. So for the first race, a photography component was added. The participants had to take a picture during the race consistent with the theme "Exciting Bicol" the race result and the photography contest result are combined to determine the winner. The race starts at the five minute countdown and the racers can take a picture then if they wish. The racers were tracking with a mobile app called raceQs, so they definitely had a smartphone with them that they could use to take the photo.

The conditions in Legazpi were very different from what the northern sailors were used to from sailing in Subic, Manila and Taal Lake. The waves had short wavelengths just like on Taal, but the waves were bigger and sometimes came from two different directions. Michael Storer, Nationals champion in 2019 said that "The waves were awesome! Sometimes it felt like a SUV was heading towards you... and there was no driver!

All the participants and even the designer were amazed how the goose handled the conditions well. The wind was forecasted to blow 8 to 18 kts and sure enough it was blowing around the 15 knot range most of the time. Participants were allowed to sail solo or with crew, most of the single handed participants took in a reef and some didn't. The single handed sailors that reefed fared better than those that didn't. The competition was fierce, Puro Sailors were jockeying for position against racers who have been sailing competitively for years.

The audience along with curious onlookers were out in droves all around the Legazpi boardwalk as well as the new banka jetty, a big tent with an LED wall was set up behind the Legazpi sign by the banca jetty to show VIPs live, RaceQs tracks, video feed as well as drone footage of the races.

A total of nine races were to happen during the series, the Rolly and Louis Memorial was supposed to be a long race out to the channel markers.. However, the race committee decided to call for the shorter triangle course instead, as conditions didn't really permit such a long race. Seven races were completed on the first day consisting of windward - leeward courses with sometimes a triangle thrown in. Thom Kleiss finished sixth in the first race and took a well composed photo of a competitor with a rainbow backdrop. This allowed him to bag the Roly and Louis memorial trophy..

Taal based sailors Job and Thom held their own against the pros from Subic and PSA, getting line honors in the first and second races respectively, with Job also taking the 8th race, but the top PSA and Subic sailors were a quick study and were soon leaving everyone else in their wake. Surprisingly, the top clubs took first place bullets in three races each, The top racer in the Open Division of the Oz Goose Nationals went to Subic Sailing's Fernan Sarmiento and his crew Miguel Magsaysay, their first place finishes came in consecutive races five, six and seven.

In the Women's Division there were 6 teams, one from TLYC, one from Subic, two from PSA, and two from the Sailability or PWD division. The winner of the women's division wass the PSA tandem of the Parocha twins Jonalyn and Jonabel; they also came in 6th overall. In the Sailability Division, Cherrie Pinpin took first along with her Puro sailor crew Joshua Barcelon.

In B-Fleet, the scoring system compares the first three races with the last three races and the biggest positive difference is the winner. Taking second and third spots in B-Fleet were both Puro Sailors, their skills clearly improving as they progressed. 2nd went to skipper John Eugene Balderama and his crew Marvin Bahoy, third in B went to James Gabriel Balderama and crewmate John Anthony Ajero, they were also the top finishing Puro Sailors, finishing 10th overall.

First in B-Feet went to TLYC based skipper, 13 year old Jazmine Lucero and her crew Aries Royce Punzalan. Jazmine started sailing on geese when she was nine years old, mostly just as crew or a passenger when one of her cousins would sail or race. Whereas, Aries was involved with the Goose program from the very beginning, having helped build the first three Geese in the Philippines and is an indispensable skilled craftsman of all PHBYC Family Boatbuilding Weekends with the Oz Goose.

All participants had a great time during the regatta, except for maybe two of them who had a case of "too Exciting Bicol fever" the first one lost his only set of car keys, while the other one needed to get an operation after he broke his foot trying to get to hsi boat before race seven.

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