Once you have traversed the dubious Cauldron you'll come across Neptunes Knuckles. These really look like knuckles merging out of the sea. Fishead island lies in the vicinity of Riau (top right quadrant on map). The Cauldron is the area just north of Benan. If you look at the shape of the Islands in Teban group and just south of that, they have been shaped by the ravages of tide as the Java Sea comes up from the south, is re-directed by this group to the north west and then collides with the South China Sea currents comng down from the northeast. That's the Cauldron.
Neptune Island lies just south of Pulau Buaja, but to get there you have to pass through The Gap (P. Buaja and the island immediately east of it). In the first few years we did Neptune on The Dash we passed through here at dark. But that was before Day One, Leg One got a stop off at Fishead.
Picking your way through.
This is where the '16 Race to 0' 00" will get interesting. With Kaze in '15 we headed as far south as we have ever been between Benan and Teban. We did this as the tide was running NW due to the island configuration. It was strong enough to push us north and through the Pom Pom gate.
During the first event to feature the trimaran fleet, one of the leading Dashes headed very far south towards Benan but got trapped in an unfavourable current and ended up more than an hour arears of the fleet! So the currents through here are tricky. When we did it on Kaze we had more wind and more power so didn't get stuck in the bad tides... But it will be the "make or break" area.
This is a nice little section just a couple of miles from the finish line. Enter here, play the currents right and you can make up a lot of places or time - vice versa too... So keep an eye out. In 2013 on The Dash we entered The Gap in second spot and in pitch black got into the lead... So don't give up anywhere, the Neptune Regatta holds many surprises.
This is a real treat! For 364 days of the year, the island is uninhabited - you will leave fresh footprints there. The trimaran fleet parks up on the beach on the west of the jetty. This is right in front of the cook house! Put your good anchoring techniques into play as we were visited by a big southerly last year - all 4 hours of it.
The camp site and abolution block is on the northern side of the island - like a 2 minute walk away. The only place with a Telco footprint is the telco tree, stand here and you will be able to get a line out to the rest of the world. Apart fom that, the rest of your time down here will be sans Facebook! Bliss!!
Race to 0' 00"
The short course races might be scrapped in favour of a tourist trophy around the islands, which might be nicer anyway. But the real reason for the short courses is to fill in a day for the racing fleet while the cruising fleet catch up.
The Line lies just 8nm's south of Neptune Island. The south bound race starts just off the island and is a pure run down. We've had most success by heading east after the start. This gets you into some bettre air that filters down from The Gap. After that you will have to gybe and head SW to the Committee Boat on station at the Equator.
Once you arrive, you can spend as long as you like on the Equator to perform the necessary rituals for sailing across the Equator. You'll have to decide what kind of strategy you want to play out. Sometimes it pays to wait a little and watch the weather before pushing off north again.
Your Southbound time will be added to your Northbound time and the shortest time will win. In 2015 we pretty much did a quick turnaround figuring the wind would drop. But those who started well after us romped it home as an afternoon blow came right by. So get yourself a good weather predictor.
Heading north again
After a great day off with a visit to the fishing village.
In 2015 we started at Neptune Island and headed for Pulau Keras for an overnight at anchor and then onto Nongsa the following day. It's a format that proved popular with all. Previous to that, we used to sail the Neptune - Nongsa leg in one hit. For a fast boat like RAW it was ok as we'd reach Nongsa Marina just before evening. That meant the slower boats wouldn't appear until midnight or beyond.
So having a big raft up at Keras and starting again in the morning was a good thing and looks like the same for 2016.
From Neptune up, your strategy will be completely depenent on the tide. Coming through the Gap again we've short tacked our way up the shoreline of Buaja as we managed to find a favourable current closer to shore. Once out of the Gap we think it favours to head NE as much as possible. This is purely in recognition that the breeze will fill in from the NE as the day progresses
Sail wardrobe, it's upwind all day. That means working sails all the way. After the overnight at Pulau Keras, we've found a channel that has a favourable north bound current. Just after the start head NW on starboard tack and then lay over onto port under the next island up. If the tide is running it sucks up along Batam's shore. If its running, its like hitting an elevator. We found this via Nico on Singaloc in the second Neptune and so far we've used it every year thus far to go effect.
The hardest part of the beat back will be Selat Riau and the last leg from about Lobam Island north gets tough as this is where you'll probably meet the southbound current. That makes it a hard slog.
In 2015 on Kaze (RAW 30) we managed to get ahead after the start and sailed a high route towards Bintan Island. Once out of line of sight of the next boat we changed to the Screecher and added a few knots of boat speed. Having a screecher that has upwind ability is a big bonus and 2015 was the first year we retrurned to Nongsa in daylight! We managed to hold onto 12 - 14 knots boat speed using the Screecher, havinhg worked our way onto the Bintan side of the channel meant we could choose the perfect angle for the Screecher to balze away.
Back past 'the stick' bear off a little and head for the line. About 3 miles out, change to the Spinnaker as the breeze will shift behind you.
Once back in the marina it's party time err after a good nights sleep and a coule of windward/leewards just for good measure.
One thing for sure, racing the windward/leewards off Nongsa is a really nice way to wrap up a great week of sailing.
It's amazing how much supplies can be stashed on the Dash. The French contingent "kaze II" managed to feed 10 pax on the jetty after the race. That included wine and cheese! Outs the race boats to shame. Almost a year on, we heard Jaza Two still has Evian onboard from the Neptune. That's great provisioning because none of the tri' fleet complained of going hungry or thirsty!
The Neptune is a great event. It's a logistic nightmare for the organisers but a great event for everyone else. Riau is just the top of the Indonesian Archipelago we pass about 60 islands on our way down so can you imagine having 16,440 more islands to 'discover'.
We have been routed on the same track as per 2015. There is talk that the 'race boats' will go over the north coast of Bintan Island and then down the eastern seaboard before finishing at Fishead. But we'll have to wait and see how many 'race boats' actually sign on.
If you haven't done a Neptune this is a great opportunity to get across the Equator and through some really nice waters.
The Neptune agreat adventure. It requires a little bit of planning, some navigation and a the great need to get away from it all. There is an increasing number of young families taking part.
It's the kind of adventure racing that is fast becoming more popular the world over besides, we all bought our boats to ge somewhere.
Following on from the Neptune will be the Round Bintan Challenge. This is a 100nm race around the next island. You choose which way you go around so that's where the Challenge comes in. But after having practiced the currents during the Neptune, no one should have any problems getting around Bintan.
We're planning on getting RAW One into Nongsa by the end of Decmber so we can practice a little. That is after we sail her 500nm down from the Phuket Kings Cup in December....
From Fishead down to Neptune, for 2016 we're into 'unchartered' waters as the race schedule has been re-routed just to make things more interesting. This removes the former Pom Pom gate that was to the west of Fishead Island. Now we'll be able to sail south, directly towards Neptune... Much more scenic!..
Click map for a larger version.
The Dash. A Corsair Dash 750 through the Cauldron.
Kaze peaking at 21 knots in Fishead Channel.
Fishead Island clubhouse now joined by a long house.
'Kaze' screecher on the last leg past "the stick".
Riau Waters, Indonesia. Clear as!
Clean up time, Nongsa Point Marina.
Everyone's a winner babe!