Team Angel, from left to right, Omar Agoes (bowman), Joel Tay (mast), Justin Koh (mast), Rafaela Borstnar (center) and Daojia Ng (DJ) (trimmer), and Vladimir Borstnar (helm).

Team Angel, from left to right, Omar Agoes (bowman), Justin Koh (mast), Joel Tay (mast), Rafaela Borstnar (center) and Daojia Ng (DJ) (trimmer), and Vladimir Borstnar (helm).

From the ecstasy of finishing second in a World Championship fleet race, to the uncertainty of having a typhoon cancel an entire day of racing, to coming in at a dismal 22nd in the fourth race of the regatta, Vladimir Borstnar’s Team Angel, six passionate sailors from Singapore, endured a roller coaster 2016 J24 One Design World Championship.

However, pitted against the world’s best keelboat sailors, they held their own to ride the waves and challenging conditions to finish fourth in a fleet of 41 boats at Wakayama, Japan from 19 – 23 September 2016. This is their story:

For the love of sailing

Skippered by Vladimir Borstnar, the team of Omar Agoes (bowman), Joel Tay (mast), Justin Koh (mast), Rafaela Borstnar (center) and Daojia Ng (DJ) (trimmer), are brought together by the passion for the sport of sailing. Holding day jobs in the banking, education and marine industries, they have raced all around the world, bringing a professionalism into their art of sailing.

“Love for sailing and our competitive spirit brought the team together,” declared Vladimir. “We know what other will do before he does it, and a helping hand is ready without asking; this is what great team is all about.”

The J24, dubbed the most popular keelboat in the world, was the boat of choice sailed by the team for many years. Their major international achievement was finishing third at the Asia Pacific J24 Regatta in 2009. In Vladimir’s words, this boat is “easy to sail” but “getting that extra 5% of speed requires experience and hard work”.

“There is no relax time for any of the crew until the finish gun,” explained the skipper. “Satisfaction to sail this boat well and fast, is ultimate reward for the team.”

And it was this team work that was called upon when the seas got rough against the best in the world.

Of weight problems

The journey was not easy. They had to overcome many challenges along the way. The first of which – their weight. It was a problem Team Angel grappled with for two years, from the time they decided to race in this regatta right up to the weigh in.

The Singaporeans opted to sail the J24, typically sailed with a five-men crew, with six sailors to bring their combined weight closer to the limit of 400 kg. While having a heavier crew weight generally means a more stable boat, deciding on additional crew would easily exceed the weight limit. They monitored the bathroom scales closely for two years. Mastman Joel Tay lost 10 kg over eight months. And when they still exceeded the limit when they reached Japan, they dehydrated themselves the night before the weight in.

“For two years we all obsessed about our body weight and for a night, we experienced the life of a supermodel, without the long legs, beauty, and fame,” joked bowman Omar Agoes.

They weighed in at 394.7kg.

A decent start

Coming into the regatta, the team targeted a top 10 finish, with some even daring to dream of a podium finish. That would improve on their 18th-place finish at Malmo, Sweden in 2010. They had gotten off to a solid start to average seventh overall after Day 1 saw three races completed.

The skipper took a photo of the results and told the team, “This is the best we will ever get on world level, guys!”

Little did they know they were in for a roller coaster ride.

The second day was totally washed away by the typhoon that swept through Wakayama. With little or no wind recorded, organisers cancelled all races that day. The subsequent day, however, brought new struggles for the Singaporean team. Poor starts among the aggressive racers in light wind conditions meant that the team played catch-up for much of the races. They choked and were unable to get the speed needed to accelerate at the start.

A 22nd-place finish in the fourth race was hard to swallow before a 13th-place finish left their hopes of a top-five finish in shambles. Lying 13th overall with two more days of racing combined with unpredictable weather, things did not look good for Team Angel.

A wind of luck

Participating in this regatta were many sailing big names, the biggest of which – Will Welles, the 2014 champion. Daniel Frost too, the eventual winner, had sailed with his team for seven years and participated at all major regattas. Many of them came two weeks prior to the regatta to prepare for the competition and fine tune their boats.

Up against these experienced sailors, the team from Singapore stayed away from the competitive start line on day 4. They kept close to the committee race boat to stay out of the big gun’s way. Surprisingly, this strategy worked well with Team Angel finding themselves in second place at the upwind mark and finished the race in in that same position to propel them to eighth from that one near-perfect race.

The wind disappeared and after just one race on Day 4, just 10 points separated 4th and 13th place. A solid showing on the final day of competition could mean any team ending up on the top-five podium while poor execution or a bad race could result in them plummeting out of the top 10.

A nail-biting finish

On the final day, the team endured a nervous wait as the winds took its time to fill the racing venue. When it finally came, Singapore stuck to their strategy and ended up coming in fourth in the seventh race of the competition.

That was good enough to climb to fourth overall and they needed another good result in the final race of the day to maintain their podium finish. The team exceeded expectations and raced strongly to finish second once again at the World Championship, securing fourth-place overall in the world.

“No doubt this was best feeling for our team, we finished better than expected and got respect from all competitors,” said Vladimir. “It was somehow crazy, sailing ahead of top competitors from the likes of the USA.”

Omar shared his experience, “It is interesting to note that from all the previous three World championships; this was the one which we trained the least.  However it was a most challenging world championship as finding time to train, money and resources was to burden our camping from the start.”

Congratulations to Team Angel for finishing fourth at this J24 World Championship! Read their personal account here.

Interested in sailing the keelboat? Get on the water at Marina Bay over the weekend! Click here to book your slot.

©2016 Singapore Sailing Federation
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