Leg 4 Fremantle-Singapore: A Warm Welcome

The international crew on board Oman Sail’s A100 trimaran ‘Majan’ have celebrated their arrival in Singapore on the penultimate leg of the Indian Ocean 5 Capes Race. Majan left Fremantle (Australia) on the 9th April for the 2,700-mile leg to Singapore which has proved to be a ‘mild affair’ compared to the storm-fuelled leg from Cape Town to Fremantle with Majan surviving 70-knot winds in the Southern Ocean. The high-performance A100 trimaran crossed the finish line off Cape Piai, the fourth great Cape of the course, at 14:47 GMT on Sunday (18th April) completing the fourth leg that started from the Fremantle ‘city’ start line in 9 days and 10 hours and a Cape Leeuwin-Cape Piai reference time of 8 days, 15 hours, 12 minutes, then reached Keppel Bay Marina late evening.

As Majan has traced out this inaugural Indian Ocean 5 Capes Race course via the Maldives, Cape Town, Fremantle and now Singapore – the first race to link together the Middle East, Africa, Australia and Asia – the 105-ft multihull has generated a huge amount of interest. Every effort has been made by the crew to share the stopover and promote this new race, ahead of the official edition in spring 2012, with the media, VIPs, school children and local government. The Majan crew have engaged with the locals at every stopover giving talks at the local yacht club, opening up Majan to the public with some enjoying the privilege of sailing on board.

Singapore in particular has close maritime ties with Oman and shortly after Majan departs, a second Oman ship will be arriving. The Jewel of Muscat is a recreation of a 9th century AD 60-ft trading vessel that was hand-built with 70,000 stitches and without one nail on a beach near Oman’s capital Muscat. Launched into the Oman Sea for the first time last November, the ship was named at a special ceremony in Muscat attended by an official delegation from the Republic of Singapore before setting sail on 16th February. The Jewel of Muscat has already stopped in India and will now stop in Sri Lanka and Malaysia before arriving in Singapore in July. As part of Oman’s programme to reignite its maritime eminence, the Sultanate will be giving the Jewel of Muscat to the People of Singapore as a gift to heighten the awareness of the old trading routes between the two countries.

Back on the high speed trimaran, Majan’s crew got off to good, albeit upwind, start to Leg 4 as they headed south to Cape Leeuwin – not easy when you’re next destination lies to the north! Omani crew, Mohammed al Ghailani, wrote: « I always find the first 48 hours at sea very hard. As soon as my body and sleep clock has become accustomed to the timing, I am happy again. When you have your sea legs you have stopped feeling sick. We had an upwind start again, and yes I was very ill! » After Cape Leeuwin the ride got easier as Majan pushed northwards, however, four days into the leg drama struck.

Media crew, Mark Covell, takes up the story: « Mohsin [Al Busaidi] was steering in around 15 knots of breeze and we were sailing downwind off the north-west corner of Australia, under our huge cuban-fibre gennaker, the G1. Suddenly, the halyard snapped about a foot below the top of the mast sending the sail tumbling over the side in the dark. Mohsin, Marc [Lagesse] and Sidney [Gavignet] were on watch at the time. Quick thinking by Mohsin, meant little damage was done as he turned the boat down, slowing us right down, and shouted for Paul to come up on deck. This was quickly followed by a call for ‘all hands on deck’. It took about twenty minutes to haul the sail back on board. »

Thankfully no lasting damage was done and two days later the cry of ‘Land Ahoy’ went out as Majan came within sight of Jawa and Sumatra: « We have sailed in open ocean most of the time since we left Oman so this feels a bit strange for us, » wrote Mohsin. « Now we are having to navigate round obstacles, instead of sailing for days on one heading. No more long and open ocean swells and weather systems. This is flat water, island-hopping, coastal racing! »

Close to land and getting ever closer to the Equator, the wind dissipated in the soaring temperatures but with the bad comes the good: « A multihull can handle very big waves but give Majan flat water and she purrs along like a happy cat stretched out in the sun.

So far, we have made better progress than expected. The forecast has been for very little wind by day and a touch more by night. We did have a hot and painful 4 hour stretch of under 3 knots – but last night we fed off the updraft of a large thunderstorm about 10 miles away. As the hot are was sucked up into the system, it drew air past us giving us a solid 15 knots for most of the night, » reported Ghailani.

Now the Majan crew can relax for a while ahead of their scheduled departure from Singapore on the 27th April on the final leg of the Indian Ocean 5 Capes Race, homeward bound to Oman.

About Cape Piai:

Marking the southernmost point of mainland Asia, Tanjung Piai (or Cape Piai) is located in the Johor district of Malaysia, that opens on the eponymous Strait, and across which the Singapore skyline is visible. The Cape itself, set in the preserved environment of the Johor Regional Park, is surrounded by spectacular mangrove forests and has become a touristic destination. Piai is also the point at which the Johor Strait joins the famous Strait of Malacca, which has made the headlines over the past decade due to piracy. Coordinates: 1°15′ N – 103°30′ E.