Racing, and not racing, in the BIYC

Jamie and I met racing sailboats in Long Island Sound back in 1988, on a J-35 named Peregrine. When we moved to the Seattle area for grad school and to be closer to my family, sailing took a back seat to hiking and camping for a while. Jamie was burned out from sailing professionally and needed a break. Surprisingly, outside a few races, this lasted nearly five years. It’s pretty hard for a sailor to in the Salish Sea and resist the lure! What Puget Sound became for us was the transition ground from racing to cruising.

Although we’re now solidly in the cruising camp, I think anyone who has raced seriously keeps it inside, like a kind of muscle memory. Something inside me hums in appreciation at beautiful, cleanly executed tack.

BIYC racing- Malaysian Navy
Even if it’s not in your muscle memory… how cool does the Royal Malaysian Navy team look?!

Still, I really didn’t think we’d ever be racing our home. When we did finally decide to sign up for the Borneo International Yacht Challenge to race along the Malaysian coast for a week, we expected our participation to be low key. I should have known it would be impossible not to get caught up in the racing fun.

Fun on Relapse!
Let there be no doubt: our #1 goal for the BIYC was to have a good time!

One of the side benefits was how excited the kids were by getting involved. Racing just so completely different than the kind of sailing we do as a cruising boat.

Kids on the rail. HIKE!

Hike kids, hike! Weight out!

We didn’t intend to work Totem hard. She performs well for a cruising boat (we believe speed translates into improved safety and more options), but it’s not what the boat is set up for. Since we really weren’t concerned about our overall standings (hey, a trophy would be nice, but… it wasn’t why we were there), we joined the awesome Edwards family on SY Relapse for the harbor races. They had the room, and together we had a really good time. Again, the order of the day was: FUN! Getting the kids involved was an important part of that.

BIYC racing
Mairen skirts the genoa after a tack

BIYC racing
And… action!

Niall had a serious competitive streak come out. He was bummed that we didn’t want to set up our asymmetric for a 1/4 mile reach after the windward mark on the first start. We pointed out that it would involve requiring us to gybe the massive sail, which we haven’t done before, and probably shouldn’t try for the first time at a mark rounding. In our world, cruising means a single tack or gybe over the course of a multi-day passage! It’s not worth the risk of error that results in things getting broken or people getting hurt.

BIYC racing
Niall wanted to know if we could get a pedastal grinder like this. Um, no.


One of the challenges with a race like this is that it brings together very different types of participants. There are hard core racers, and there are easy-going cruisers. Then, there are cruisers who know a bit about racing. These different points of view sometimes makes for uncomfortable dynamics.

We saw it happen when the racing committee selected an inaccurate lineup of winners based on bad information (they made their own guesses about a motoring time penalty, instead of using data requested from the boats). As a result, the wrong boat was initially called out as the first place finish in the passage leg to Kota Kinabalu. The mis-identified boat was happy to get the record set straight and the small metal plate to the rightful finalist, but had catcalls of ‘cheater!’ and ‘loser’ follow them on their way to the podium to talk to the officials from the boat that thought they likely should have won. Unbelievable! It was embarrassing, really, and made me cringe to be associated with the catcallers as part of the cruising class…. even if they weren’t really cruisers (figures!), but expats in the region.

The race committee would have worked it out. Besides, this wasn’t some big circuit race- there’s really nothing at stake. Why vilify a boat who was caught in an innocent error in a formal reception, in front of a few hundred people- tourism board officials and the press?

The same boat that played poor sport above had also hit SY Sharita at the start, right in front of the race committee and shortly before the gun. This should result in an automatic penalty: when there is a collision, someone is always at fault. Sharita did nothing, because they don’t have racing experience and aren’t familiar with the rules- they just got out of the way, because they’re racing their home.

Poor sports!

Jamie asked offending boat about it later- nicely, mind you. First, they denied it (no denying that crunching sound!). Oh, we were there? (yes!). Oh, that boat was on port tack, they didn’t have rights (well, actually, they were on starboard and they did have rights- and we have lots of photos that clearly show the windward / leeward situation).  Oh, well I didn’t see what happened. (um, yeah). Again, unbelievable. Never fun to be reminded that there are people like that- this was one of the boats in the cruising class that did actually understand the rules, and took advantage of the fact their competitors did not. Ultimately, since there was no physical damage, the race was called off (the wind died), and Sharita actually is a good sport- nothing was ever done. No surprise, the other guys never bothered to apologize to them.

Attitudes like that? Not what we were there for. What is? Well…

Cruisers getting in touch with their racy side.

BIYC 2013
Full Flight and Seventh Heaven

Racers converted to cruisers, grinning through a lot of sail tweaking on light air legs.

BIYC racing
Back on Relapse: mellow good times on the course


We really enjoyed making friends with the Royal Malaysian Navy team, and hope to look them up when we head up the peninsula. Equally fun was cheering on Ulumulu, a racy boat from with stunning colors sailed by Team Sabah: all around, a great group of people!

Team Ulumulu
Team Ulumulu. Say it with me: Oooo-Looo-Muuuu-Looo!

BIYC 2013
Love their colors!

Outlier poor sports aside, the BIYC was just good clean fun. The cruisers we competed with were a great bunch, on and off the weather. Thanks to the event, we had some truly beautiful sailing days. After thousands of miles of motoring- those were like fuel for the cruising soul! We stayed rested, we had fun at the events, we made friends, and generally had a great time while ooching the junior set into another facet of boating.

BIYC racing
Mark helps the Sail Malaysia director’s son take a turn at the wheel

Because really, aren’t good times on the water what it’s all about?

10 Responses to Racing, and not racing, in the BIYC

  1. Phil and Lorraine July 19, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    Love your post! It’s too bad about the poor sportsmanship, but sounds lke you had a good time and great intro for the kids into racing.

    Lorraine
    S/V Changes

    • Behan Gifford July 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

      Thanks Lorraine. All true! It was really fun to see the kids get into racing.

  2. whereisyvette.com July 19, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    Started reading your blog a little while ago, but I really had to chime in on this post just to say WOW, this indeed looks like it was fun!

    By the way, I’ve traveled around the world a decent amount (not sailing, but overland mainly) and in my opinion one of the most important lessons one can learn is there are jerks everywhere. I know people say the lesson SHOULD be that there are wonderful people everywhere, and there certainly are, but I feel like that’s an easy and uplifting lesson to learn whereas not being bothered by bad apples takes a little more practice.

    Just my two cents on that front. 🙂

    • Behan Gifford July 20, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

      Thanks Yvette. It’s true, they’re everywhere. I can occasionally be a bit of a pollyanna, so it irks me to be presented with the baldfaced jerks. Hey, I noticed that in your extensive travels, it seems that somehow you haven’t been to Malaysia yet! There’s a bunk here for you if you make it to our corner of SE Asia before, oh, Decemberish. Love your blog. 🙂

    • whereisyvette.com July 22, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

      Aww, thanks so much for the invite! 🙂 Not sure if I’ll make it down there as most of my vacation time gets snapped up too quickly (sailing in Croatia next week for example- woohoo!), but it’s certainly appreciated.

      If y’all ever make it up here and/or we’re in the same hemisphere, though, give me a shout as I’m always happy to provide stargazing lessons. 😉

    • Behan Gifford July 23, 2013 at 10:58 am #

      Well, sailing in Croatia sure doesn’t suck! Take lots of pictures for us. 🙂 Someday we can swap boaty for stargazing lessons!

  3. The Ceol Mors July 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun and that Niall might have the makings of a real race crew member! If you decide to farm him out I know this boat in Portugal…
    Anyway, sorry about the bad sports. They are legion. They are kids soccer games, at the local 5k, everywhere. Guess we all need a reminder now and then that we are in fact, just better sports about life in general. What better way to be reminded of this than seeing what the other side looks like up close and in Technicolor.

    • Behan Gifford July 20, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

      Cidnie, it’s so true, unfortunately! It did put the good character rest of the people we were with into focus. I may have to hide your comment from Niall, I’m pretty sure he’d jump to crew on a racier boat in a heartbeat.

  4. Mid-Life Cruising! July 19, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    For me, any competition is about having fun … maybe because I’m usually not good at whatever it is I’m competing in .. LOL!

    As a future cruiser and Catalina 30 owner, I couldn’t help notice what appeared to be a Catalina? Also, I love the colorful sails .. especially the pink and white one!

    One more thing I noticed that I thought I’d ask your opinion about … the way one boat carries their dinghy flat against the stern. Maybe a better alternative than davits, which we’re considering?

    • Behan Gifford July 20, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

      Hi Cheryl, yes, that was a Catalina!

      What SY Sharita does with the vertical mount is interesting, but we think it could cause problems with windage and visibility. You see this a lot on powerboats where the setup makes that less of a factor. On the other hand, having the dinghy mounted vertically gets around the bigger problem that it’s potentially a big bucket of heavy water if it gets swamped, which is why we’d never use our davits on an ocean passage. We love using them for nighttime hauling when anchored in port, or as aids to get our outboard from the rails down to the dink in the water, but not for passagemaking- then, the dinghy always goes on the bow. We’ve seen davits ripped off the back of boats after getting swamped. It’s not common, but could be catastrophic, and if you’re going to go cruising offshore, it’s something to think about.

      What kind of dinghy do you have? Will it be hard bottom or inflatable floor? Is there a reason you don’t want to put the dinghy on the bow?

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