Rater Stay Day

It was a beautiful day and a great sailing event at the Yangon Sailing Club on Sunday, the 15th of January 2017. Sailors of the classic Rater class sailboats met and sailed around the lake in a procession, which was led by the commodore. This was a first on Lake Inya and was named ‘Rater Stay Day’ by the club’s Captain of Boats, Holger Rolfs. For readers not familiar with Yangon Sailing Club or Raters, the words ‘Rater Stay’ might be confusing, so here’s a brief history and explanation.

The Yangon Sailing Club is situated in the heart of Yangon in Myanmar. The club was founded in 1925 by a group of enthusiasts who enjoyed sailing and socialising. Apart from the Japanese occupation during World War II, the club organised a lot of activities and, by 1940, had about 20 Rater sailboats, plus a number of 15- and 10-footers.

The Raters remained the backbone of the club’s fleet. They were privately owned and equipped but, after 1961, they were bought by the club and chartered to experienced sailors.

The Rater is based on the Linton Hope designed Half-Rater. This first was called Black Cap so the boat was sometimes referred to as the Black Cap Rater. Initially, eight boats based
on the Black Cap design, were procured and shipped from Cochin in India to Yangon.

As Rater sailing became more popular, additional boats were built in Yangon following the lines and construction detail of the original boats. During the war, most of the Raters were sunk in the lake to prevent them from being abused or destroyed by the occupying forces. It was only after the war that these boats were found, raised and returned to their owners. A total of 12 were salvaged — some in very bad condition or even beyond repair. In addition, the clubhouse suffered much damage.

In June 1945, the original members voted “yes” to rebuilding the clubhouse. In September 1945, a formal meeting was held to draft and approve bye-laws. Many of these are still in effect.
Major General Symes was elected as the club’s first commodore and Peter Waine was elected as Captain of Boats. Waine’s immense efforts to build the club’s Rater fleet earned him an
Honorary Life Membership.

When Waine returned to England, and, after a long search, found the original Black Cap. It was in bad shape and needed repairs but, after restoration, he continued to sail it around the
country. Later, he donated the boat to the famous Maritime Museum in Greenwich, where it can still be seen today.

The Yangon Sailing Club has weekly club races and more inclusive regattas. It also has a tradition of participating in international events, especially during the 1950s and early 60s.

There was a strong international showing by Myanmar in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics in Australia and again in the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960. The Myanmar Olympic Sailing Team at both events was led by Commander U Khin Pe Gyi, who was the first Myanmar national to become commodore of the Yangon Sailing Club.

The 2nd SEA Games was hosted by Myanmar with the sailing held in Ngapali Beach. At the time, Myanmar was the first country to bring sailing to the SEA Games and the Rater was one
of the main classes in the competition. Myanmar won two gold medals, one being in the Rater class.

In 2013, Myanmar again hosted the SEA Games and the sailing was held at Ngwe Saung Yacht Club at Ngwe Saung Beach. In honour of Myanmar’s work in bringing sailing to the Games, the president of the Myanmar Yachting Federation, proposed that the Rater class
be used in memory of all who participated in the 2nd SEA Games. This was accepted and new Raters were built by the club’s carpenters and craftsmen, specifically for the 27th edition of the Games. The traditional lines of the Rater were kept but, due to new safety regulations, some changes were made to improve buoyancy as well as the ability to be ‘uprighted’ in the event of a capsize.

The 27th SEA Games were very successful and Myanmar again won gold in the Rater class, with Thailand winning silverand Singapore, bronze.

Raters continue to be sailed during the year and remain the club’s premier class. There are series, monthly challenge cup races, outright cup races and, not to be missed, moonlight sailing races once a month during the full moon. Moonlight sailing is geared more towards families and friends and is more about socialising than racing.

There is a long history, tradition, and love for the Rater in the Yangon Sailing Club which has resulted in what is now called the Rater Stay Day. The name simply means the Raters have to stay: the English come, the English go, the Raters stay.

Commodores come, commodores go, the Raters stay. Members come, members go, the Raters stay. Foreigners come, foreigners go, the Raters stay. Hardly all existing Raters are sailed at the same time, since some boats may be dry-docked or being refurbished or some
sailors might be busy. As a result, the fleet captain, Holger Rolfs, himself a devoted and passionate Rater sailor, organised a day when it would be compulsory for all Raters to sail.

On the day, a skipper’s briefing was held (left) and it was decided to sail the boats in an "orderly manner”, similar to a procession. The commodore, with sail number ‘1’, would lead the fleet, with the other Raters following in sequence (left). A Rater is, of course, driven by wind
and has no brakes like a car. Thus, keeping the line required a fair amount of skill. In the end, some magnificent pictures were taken (see here).

And, just before returning to shore, the boats did a ‘sail past’, a tradition at sailing clubs
everywhere. The commodore’s Rater was moored and all the other Raters sailed past to show their respect.

The event wrapped up with a ‘Bar Sail’ where everybody enjoyed drinks and a BBQ. It was resolved by all to maintain the tradition, held during the month prior to the club’s
Annual General Meeting.

— by Bo Colomby & Captain Holger Rolfs, photos from Michael U Moe Myin

 
       
 
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