Fremantle to Bali Yacht Race
The inaugural Fremantle to Bali Yacht Race set off in 1981 with 33 yachts participating in the race and 16 cruisers taking the slower route. Over the years, the race became more popular with faster and more sophisticated boats participating. But events in the mid-1990s, with the threat of terrorism and declining numbers, the race was put on hold for the next 12 years.
In 2011 the race was revived. For this second spurt, the Fremantle Yacht Club, with the support of the Indonesian Tourism Ministry for Culture and Tourism, was able to attract 23 yachts who raced to Bali and then took the opportunity to explore the islands beyond Bali.
In 2013, I was fortunate enough to be invited by the Western Australia government to participate in the race, joining the 4-man crew of Capers skippered by Bart vd Groen. Capers is a 12.2 meter long yacht built in 1995, bigger and younger than my sloop Kona. An elegant sailboat with complete amenities and modern technology. It was very different boat from my simple but sturdy and reliable Kona.
I was the only Indonesian yachtsman participating in the race. At the farewell ceremony at Fremantle Sailing Club, the Governor of Western Australia, Hon. Malcolm McCusker, gave me a Letter of Friendship to be delivered to the Indonesian people upon arrival in Bali. It was an honor for me to be appointed the goodwill messenger.
The starting gun was fired at noon on May 4th. It was a beautiful sight seeing the sails of 33 yachts billowing in the noon day glimmer of the Fremantle harbor. The crew quickly got busy and over the 10-days together, a friendship was formed.
Three days into the race, we were hit by bad weather and was forced to take shelter south of Dirk Hartog island. We were luckier than others. We heard of a boat being damaged badly and unable to continue, another had lost her mast.
As we pressed on, we took turns at the helm. With such sophisticated equipment on board, sailing was driven more by technology, not so much by feel and instinct. It is about sailing efficiently at high speeds. Speed was the objective and we took risks which I would not have taken had I been sailing alone. Racing requires a different mindset to solo, long-distance sailing. It is about teamwork and trusting the technology on your boat. In that respect it is easier but the challenges are very different, the adrenalin rush is stronger.
Capers finished the race at 12 days, 5 hours, 14 minutes and 45 seconds. Very slow when compared to Super Sled which finished in 5 days 23 hours 30 minutes and 24 seconds! At least we made it to the finish line. Six yachts didn’t.
We were welcomed in Bali with a celebration made memorable by the presence of bag pipers. Over sunset cocktails we shared stories and made promises to meet each other again. The awards ceremony was full of goodwill and good sportsmanship. Prior to the evening celebration, there was a press conference and it was then that I handed the letter from the citizens of Fremantle to the Balinese.
It was an exhilarating experience which gave me my first taste of racing and left me wanting more.