Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mumbai International Match Race - 2008

Mumbai International Match Race ‘09 in a nutshell : ROHINI RAU

3 February 2009 No Comment

Sailing started as a leisure activity and soon became an addiction for her. And soon the addiction transformed her life so much that she simply refused to get out of it. Meet Rohini Rau, whose addiction to sailing has fetched her one Asian Championship gold medal, many national titles and also made her the first Indian woman sailor to be ranked in the international chart.

She has the rare distinction of bringing home Tamilnadu’s first gold medal for India in Sailing and along with her sailing partner Pallavi Naik from Goa Yachting Association of being the first girls to win a gold medal for India in Sailing at an International Meet.

Also, she was apart of one of the girl teams in the Mumbai International Match Race ‘09 that concluded last week…and she has sent her detailed report of the entire event; concluded with a report on the ISAF Nations Cup last year - in which their performance got them competing in their first Women’s International Match Racing Association (WIMRA) event.


“I love sailing my Laser Radial… but I guess I love Match racing even more! I had a hard time convincing my Dad to let me spend Christmas and New Years in New York, and miss the Miami OCR to come and take part in the Mumbai International Match Race – 2008 (which got postponed due to the Mumbai terror attacks). But it was well worth it.

I traveled for nearly 21 hours to get to Mumbai on the 20th of January 2009 (New York(JFK) – Dubai – Chennai – Mumbai).

Totally jet lagged I met up with the rest of the team – Pallavi Naik (Goa), Alekhya Sudam (Hyd) and Tulsi Khetwal (Bom) a truly national team…as I am from Chennai.

We were all set to sail the Qualifiers of the Mumbai International Match Race starting on the 23nd of January 2009 at H2O, Chowpatty, Mumbai.

There were a total of 14 teams taking part, including Russian, Finnish and Bahrain Teams. Even though the qualifier was only to choose the Indian teams that would take part in the actual Mumbai International Match Race – 2008.

There were only 2 women teams skippered by Pallavi Naik and Ayesha Lobo. One woman’s team by default would get to participate in the MIMR, to encourage women sailors in our country. That was the plan.

The 14 teams were split into 2 groups of 7. And each group sailed a Round Robin series. The top 3 teams in each group went on to sail another round robin to decide the final 4 who would sail the Final and petit final.

In our group we had 2 time World Champion – Farokh Tarapore, Nithin Mongia, Peter Kochnev (RUS), Azhar Sheik, Ayesha Lobo and Shahid Basheer.

It was a tough group, and we weren’t expecting very much. But much to our delight we managed 3 wins out of 6. After narrowly missing out on being the 3rd team in our group after losing to Peter Kochnev (RUS).

This meant we had a sail off with the team that finished 4th in the other group. This happened to be against the 300+ kg Finnish team Lauri Kaapa, who had requested for a substitute as one of his team members was down with a fever.

In my opinion they should have been sailing with 3 people as they weighed nearly 100 kgs more than we did!

As luck would have it, the wind picked up to about 15- 20 knots that afternoon, but due to damage we sailed the race without the spinnaker. We didn’t give up till the end. It was a tough race. We lost to the Finnish team, but still managed an eighth position overall.

We were thrilled! We not only beat our only female competitor, we beat the other Indian men’s teams qualified to sail the MIMR in our own right. Not just because we were women!”

Results of the Qualifier

1. Mahesh Ramachandran
2. Farokh Tarapore
3. Nithin Mongia
4. Aashim Mongia
5. Peter Kochnev -RUS
6. Ebrahim -BAH
7. Lauri Kaapa -FIN
8. Pallavi Naik (W)
9. M Nadar
10. Shahed Bhasheer
11. T. Helegaonkar
12. Azhar Shaik
13. Mahji
14. Ayesha Lobo (W)


“This Grade 2 event attracted 5 International teams – 2 from Russia, 2 from Finland and 1 from Bahrain.

With a strong Indian contingent of 6 men’s teams and 1 women’s team, the MIMR – 2008 kicked off on the 25th of January 2009 beginning with a huge turn out at the opening ceremony at H2O.

Being the only women’s team in the MIMR had some benefits, but also had its disadvantages. We were one of the lightest teams in the event, even though we had an extra crew member Taramati Matiwade. We were also the team with the least experience.

With 5 women on board, things could get a little difficult. There was a lot of confusion on board, but we sailed to the best of our ability. It was a little disheartening to find that we couldn’t win a single race. Due to various reasons, the wind gods weren’t very kind to us, blowing at 15 – 20 knots.

It was a test of stamina and grit as on the second day of racing we had to sail 6 races back to back. I think it took a toll on all of us. Pallavi had hurt her knee, the rest of us were bruised and quite tired.

All in all, the experience made us realize that we had to work and practice harder to be more competitive in the breeze.

These were tough conditions for the other teams too, ISAF world ranked 15 Arbuzov from Russian who had also won the MIMR -2007, did not have it easy. After losing to Lauri Kaapa (FIN), Farokh Tarapore and Nithin Mongia (IND) .I guess the Match Racing Association of India (MRAI) have been doing something right.

Farokh was glad that he had given Arbuzov a hard time, definitely one of his highlights in this event.

The 12 teams had to sail a complete round robin to determine the top 6 teams who would sail the semi – finals. But it was the Indian star Nitin Mongia who ruled the first day with 100% wins.

By the second day the top 6 teams were chosen to sail the semi final :-

1. Arbuzov
2. Olli Pekka
3. Farokh Tarapore
4. Mahesh Ramachandran
5. Nithin Mongia
6. Lauri Kaapa

Umpire for a day

I had the rare distinction of becoming part of the Jury for the semi – final. I was an umpire for the day with International Jury Piero Occheto (ITA). It was an amazing experience umpiring a Grade 2 semi-final.

I was the yellow boat for all the races, which meant I had to report whatever the yellow boat did during the race, and thus help in making decisions on penalties, etc.

All the time that I had been a mere spectator on Ajay Balram’s (IU) umpire boat finally paid off, as I was familiar with the terms used.

Aware of the responsibility I had to make the right calls, I did whatever I could to the best of my ability. Pierro acknowledged my contribution by saying I would make a good IU (International Umpire) one day.

The match with Farokh and Nithin was indeed an exciting match; there were 2 penalties, one for each boat during the pre –start, that cancelled each other out. But in the end Nithin Mongia and Laura Kaapa (FIN) were knocked out.

The Final

Now on Day 3 it was time for the Final and petit – final. After a long wait on shore, the wind gods, in all its fervor, made the day’s racing a true challenge.

Much to our disappointment, the Indians were out of the Final. Which left the Russian and the Finn’s to fight for the title.

I must admit it was a treat for every spectator who bothered to come out on a hot Saturday afternoon to witness some good Match Racing.

World Champion Farokh Tarapore and the Asian Games silver medalist R. Mahesh raced in the petit – final for 3rd place. The team that scored 2 points won; the same with the Final between Arbuzov (RUS), who was defending his title, and Olli Pekka from Finland.

Both had one win each, which meant each team, had to sail another race, to determine the final positions. This was as exciting as it could get. The T-20 of sailing, sitting on the umpire’s boat, I had the front row seat.

Places changed, no one knew who was going to win until the last moment. There was a fierce tacking match with the 30 kg lighter Farokh Tarapore and R. Mahesh. With 15 – 20 knot breezes, Farokh went on to prove that it is pure technique and skill that wins you matches. Farokh beat Mahesh, in an epic race to finish 3rd overall.

The Final was just as exciting, Olli Pekka was ahead of Arbuzov after the first leg, but ended up having a luffing match near the bottom mark. This cost the Finnish team a great deal, as they cork – screwed dangerously with the spinnaker, nearly losing control.. The bow – man Jonas definitely deserves a special mention, as he handles the entire fore deck single handedly. But even the experience of America’s Cup helm (ITA) Jes Grahm Hansen on board couldn’t help them.

The Russian team, skippered by Arbuzov, showed us why he was ranked 15 in the world, by clinching the title for the 2nd time.

The Mumbai International Match Race – 2008, organized by the Match Racing Association of India was a well run event, in spite of all the problems it faced. Right from the Mumbai Terror attacks, to the recession – leading to lack of sponsorship. A big thank you to West Coast Marine and the Indian Navy and H2O who made this event possible.”

For further details do refer the MRAI website http://www.mrai.in/