The Nongsa Neptune Regatta has cemented itself as the most adventurous regatta in the region after another excellent sailing from January 23-29, 2023

The regatta was the brainchild of Tudor John back in 2011. Then called just the Neptune, it was carried forward with the diligent hard work and effort of Graham Lind and Alex Voss. Today, it is in the capable hands of Nongsa Point Marina Manager Prakash Reddy, who himself started the Nongsa Regatta in 2016 to help replace the Singapore Straits Regatta (that regatta will be relaunched & rebranded as the Nongsa Coast Regatta next January).

The regatta takes place entirely in Indonesian waters with a start and finish at Nongsa Point Marina (N01°11’.90 E104°05’.80), the yachting gateway to Indonesia, located only 11 nautical miles from Singapore & Johor.

Crossing the equator by sailboat is of great nautical significance, and the Nongsa Neptune Regatta celebrates this by being the only regatta to do so during its duration. Legend has it that only seamen who have transited from the northern to the southern hemisphere are considered full-fledged sailors.

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Over the centuries, the area around the equator has been feared by many sailors because of the doldrums, long stretches of time without wind – causing sailors of days gone by to go mad and jump overboard due to days of no motion.

The sailing area has been nicknamed the “Cauldron” as it where the tidal streams of the South China Sea and the Java Sea collide. The seabed is scarred by centuries of erosion and strewn with shoals that have claimed many vessels, their crew and cargo.

In every regatta you get close to your crew, you have to as teamwork is the key to a good performance. But in this regatta, you get close to everyone. Maybe, it’s crossing the equator and the lively polliwogs to shellbacks initiation that goes with it. Maybe, it’s the remote & exotic destination – you’re out there, miles from civilization in the Selat Riau and the South China Sea. Maybe, it’s the Robinson Crusoesque feel of Neptune Island (N0°08’.00 E104°13’.98). which is inhabited once a year when a bar and restaurant are set up for the regatta participants. Maybe, it’s the challenging sailing conditions set against the backdrop of beauty of the Riau Archipelago. Whatever it is, you will be hard pressed to find another regatta where fellow participants bond so quickly and well.

The late Captain Marty Rijkuris called the Neptune his favorite regatta and it’s easy to understand why. Even President Director Mike Wiluan of the Nongsa Point Marina & Resort, who has a true fondness for the regatta and its participants, was on hand for the final awards ceremony and expressed his appreciation that the regatta was back on driving money into the local economy.

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Scott McCook, a sailor, who took part in earlier regattas, wrote, “The Nongsa Neptune Regatta rekindles the spirit of adventure. Looking on a nice flat chart, you get no sense of what it’s really like; to sail into the Cauldron; and to be entertained by standing waves, swiftly flowing tides, and treacherous currents with whirlpools bigger than swimming pools. Let night fall and see a star-studded sky, and then step ashore as if you were one of the great explorers!”

The regatta sails throughout the Riau Islands of Indonesia. Day one saw the fleet leave Nongsa Point Marina and start in the vicinity of the Turi Beach jetty for a 45nm passage race to Benan Island. Day two was a 30nm passage race from south of Benan Island to Sikeling (Neptune) Island. Day three is the Equator Race, which starts and finishes south of Sikeling Island and is divided into two parts. A southbound leg that finishes at 0'00.000 and then after a U-turn at the equator a northbound leg that finishes back at Neptune Island. In between, boats can take as much time as they like to perform initiations!

Day four saw a 40nm passage race from Sikeling to Mubut Darat. The final day’s racing was a 30nm passage race Mubut Darat back to the Turi Beach jetty of Nongsa, so approximately 145nm in total.

The islands south of Batam & Bintan are wonderful sailing grounds. With volcanic peaks rising in the distance on the larger islands, a multitude of tropical islands smaller in sizes and shapes leading to the jump off point for the equator, Pulau Sikeling aka Neptune Island, offering protected anchorages and stunning white coral beaches. Passage Races through tropical beauty, clear green waters, sailing past breath-taking panoramas, combined with a sprint race over the equator, makes for the Nongsa Neptune Regatta a yachting event unmatched in the sailing calendar.

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Jeff Harris who was the Chairman of the Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta for many years participated in the Neptune on his catamaran, Serendipity and had this to say about the regatta: “The Neptune is an incredibly friendly event with a tremendous amount of camaraderie. With the basic living - everyone eating outside together every night - people really bond. The location is spectacular, beautiful islands, clean water, the coral, you really have time to appreciate the environment especially on Sikeling Island. And the navigation is quite challenging.”

Racing

Racing on the first day was canceled due to lack of wind as almost every boat had to start its engine to reach the finish line. But there was racing for the remaining four race days (Benan to Sikeling, Race to Equator, Sikeling to Mubut & Mubut to Nongsa) interspersed with a lovely lay day on Blanding Island.

Because of the large distances covered the boats were continually spread out over the course and very rarely sailed together in any form of a pack, so very little nip-and-tuck racing.

The overall winner of the seven-boat monohull class was Max Palleschi’s Prime Factor who squeaked out a one-point victory over second-place finishers Jens Wallevik’s Epicurean & Chris Schuler’s Imperia, while Guy Scott’s Ratu Henry, Simon Piff’s First Light, Jasper Knoben’s Windflirt (the smallest vessel in the fleet, an Achilles 24) & Olly James’ Abenaki rounded out the class in that order.

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The winner of the three-boat multihull class was Scott McCook's Kublai Khan followed by Jeff Harris’ Serendipity and Richard Paik’s Paw Paw.

Gary Matthews’ Katrianne and Jeremy Chase’s Sea Monster also joined the fleet, but did not compete in the racing as did Paul Corrigan’s Andiamo, Stephan February’s Andiamo II, Derek Sharples’ SDF & Nico Derksen’s Suntosa II (a powerboat) bringing the total of boats in the event to 19.

On the third night out, there was an unfortunate situation with a man overboard on First Light. A regatta participant went to the stern of the ship to relieve himself and unfortunately slipped and fell into the blackness of the deep dark sea. Unable to grab the rescue buoy thrown to him, Claire Canning alerted Peter Fletcher, who at great personal risk, jumped into the vastness of the ocean and grabbed a hold of the drifting reflector buoy in the vicinity of the struggling sailor. That acted as a marker until Chris Hennessy & Chris Schuler of Imperia and Alessandro Lodovelli from Serendipity on the rescue rib could locate the man overboard and pull him and Fletch to safety.

Fletch, who had crossed the equator for the 52nd time earlier in the day, and the crew members from Imperia and Serendipity were the heroes of this rescue because it very quickly could have ended very badly.

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The regatta couldn’t have gone ahead with the help of three key support vessels: David McKeown’s Rona (1895), Shane Granger’s HV Vega (1892) & Graham Lind’s Sea Dreamer. The main sponsors who allowed the regatta to take place were Muddy Murphy’s Holding & Asianfast Marine Industries.

If you would like to participate in or sponsor a future Nongsa Neptune Regatta please contact Prakash Reddy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

(Ed note: If you can, check out The New Adventures of Kublaikhan for a wonderful description of the regatta.)

Regatta with a mission

More than just a great sailing event, The Nongsa Neptune is now, also, The Regatta with a Mission. Over the years, participants and organizers have become aware that just sailing into these small communities with their obviously expensive yachts, ogling the locals and perhaps buying a soda before taking off again, isn’t enough.” says skipper Shane Granger, whose 130-year-old historical vessel Vega accompanied the regatta, delivering free educational & medical supplies to Blanding Island.

“Now, when the regatta arrives, good things happen for the community: students and teachers receive badly needed educational supplies; island health workers and the midwife also receive support and there are even free life changing reading glasses for the elderly”, said Granger.

“This year’s regatta made a positive impact on the lives of almost 200 people. That’s a lot considering the population of Blanding Island is less than 350. For one seamstress, the free, custom fit. reading glasses meant she was able to work again, after being unable to thread a needle for almost three years.”

But, the social impact from Neptune does not end with the regatta. Every dollar donated to Vega by regatta participants goes to purchase pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for delivery later this year to small island communities in Eastern Indonesia, and is being matched – dollar for dollar - by Nongsa Point Marina & Resort.

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