LANGKAWI, 15 January. – There is always a hype at regattas in Malaysia when the name Jeremy Koo turns up on the skippers’ list. At this stage there is no need to list his accolades but it suffices to say that Koo is one of the country’s most experienced yachtsmen and the only Malaysia to have participated in the America’s Cup.
Koo is on a mission – to train younger Malaysians in the sport of sailing, and to, “Not come out last in the 14th Royal Langkawi International Regatta (RLIR) 2016.”
“We’re up against tough competition such as Alive, Oi!, Millenium Racing and Jelik, so I’m just being realistic,” says Koo. While these racing yachts are fast and have experienced teams, Ulumulu has 15 young and very enthusiastic crew passionate about sailing.
This all-Malaysian team is in the early stages of their sailing experience and in a new boat, they are still learning the ropes together. However, Team Ulumulu may just be the stepping stone to bigger, faster vessels for many if they do well.
“I see it as my duty to expose these young people to a higher level in the sport of sailing,” says Troy Yaw, the owner of this TP52.
Yaw was introduced to the sport of yachting about 13 years ago when he was involved in the building of a marina in East Malaysia. The marina organised a regatta and he took part. After taking a break for almost a decade, he purchased Ulumulu three years ago when he realised that competitive racing is something that Malaysians can naturally excel in.
“There are so many Malaysian kids that easily take to the water because their lives have always revolved around the ocean but they do not seem to go beyond the dinghy. The younger generation here has passion for sailing and they see this as a serious sport. They are quick to catch on and develop their skills but it is an expensive sport and unless there is support from the authorities or sponsors, these kids cannot go far,” says Yaw.
Although a second-hand boat, Ulumulu is new to this crew and they are exploring it together, having raced in the Raja Muda International Regatta, and regattas in Koh Samui and Boracay. This will be their first RLIR.
“Even the equipment is second hand, the boat needs work and we’ve only had two days to practice here but we’re all improving and learning together because this is really a big step up from the dinghy boats they are used to,” says Koo.
Spirits are high though as the young crew seems somewhat fearless, making Koo’s job of training them just that much easier. Teamwork is essential in a fast racing yacht and apart from sailing skills Koo is determined to instill confidence in the team. “They need to believe in themselves because it’s also a trait they can use in other aspects of their lives,” says Koo.
Having been in Langkawi since 1 January, Koo has been assessing the weather conditions, realising that the winds seem to taper off in the afternoons but the mornings will be the best time to race Ulumulu as the boat can go up to 28 knots in high winds. “But here, in these conditions, maybe 12 knots,” says Koo. The purchase of two new sails however may help them improve in light winds.
Then Troy explains the name – Ulumulu, “In Malay, the word “ulu” is usually taken to mean backwater or outdated but it actually means distant, faraway, somewhat untouched. Mulu is of course, the famous caves in the city of Miri where I live and to me those caves are the most serene and pristine sight ever.”