With an archipelago of 7,641 charming islands and an almost infinite coastline of powdery beaches, one of the most exciting ways to explore the Philippines is by sailing around them in a fun and adventure-laden tournament.
The Philippine Inter-Island Sailing Federation (Phinsaf), the exponent of long-distance sailing in the country, just did this with the recent staging of the 20th Philippine Hobie Challenge which ran from Laiya Beach in San Juan, Batangas to Boracay Island.
Regarded as the country’s premier international extreme sailing event, the annual five-day regatta has been promoting earth-friendly sports through sailing for more than two decades and exploring hidden islands along the way.
The event is a unique way to sharpen sailing skills, create environmental awareness, promote sports tourism, and support communities through outreach programs.
A recipient of the Philippine Sports Tourism Awards in 2016, the Challenge has pioneered the use of the Hobie Cat 16, a 16-foot long, twin-hulled wind-powered sailboat capable of negotiating open seas.
Supported by Seafront Residences by AboitizLand, Rayomarine, GoPro, Blood Red, and the Taal Lake Yacht Club, this year’s edition is a throwback to its original route when the regatta was introduced in 1999.
In the recently-concluded race, the country’s sailing history was rewritten as Portuguese sailor Maria Videoira-Hagedorn emerged as the first woman skipper to rule the event. Along with compatriot Tomas Camelo, the tandem edged 10 other teams from the Philippines, Australia, the United States, and Hong Kong.
An expat executive who hails from Lisbon, Videoira is married to Filipino sailor Joe Hagedorn and has been racing in the annual regatta for more than a decade.
The duo also topped the Leg 1 from Laiya Beach in San Juan, Batangas to Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro, and the Leg 2 which ended in Concepcion, Romblon to establish a formidable lead.
Geoff Rowden and Rosie Phelan of Australia settled at a close second and topped the photo-finish Leg 3 from Concepcion to Bonbon Beach and the Leg 4 which sailed to Sibuyan Island and returned to Bonbon, to narrow the lead.
Rounding up the winning circle is Australian couple Keli and Arli Corlett at third place which has been sailing together for over 35 years and were once Hobie Grand Master World Champions.
Adding fun to the race were yachts which cruised leisurely and enjoyed the sea, sun and sand, the fellowship nights in the islands, and everything in between.