At 8 a.m., with sunlight sprawled out along the shores of Anilao beach in Batangas, residents and tourists rise to witness the clear waters glisten and crash against the rocky shores. For many, it is just another weekend to relax by the beach and swim away the pressures of the weekday grind, but for the people of Janao Bay Inn Beach Resort, it is time to set sail.
The Anilao Windsurf Regatta has been going on for about 22 years. The small community of Anilao sailors gather every year to celebrate their love for windsurfing. It is a sport known to Filipinos, though not so popular. Being that Anilao is commonly known as a diving attraction, windsurfing often remains unheard of especially here. Thus, whenever it is time for the year’s regatta, the sailors and windsurf enthusiasts make sure they make noise.
From afar, 1980s synthpop music blares from the stereos propped on the shores of Janao Bay, but inside the beach resort, everyone is calm and quiet. Sails lie still on the grounds of the inn as the sailors wait for an announcement — that is, it is time to race again.
The first round of races begins with the novices and the class C sailors. As the red flag goes up, the young and aspiring sailors start to go offshore and into the water. In another minute, the yellow flag goes up and they put their sails upright. The countdown to the green flag begins and the sailors become one with their equipment. They look straight into the first buoy as the green flag goes up. The Anilao Windsurf Regatta 2019 has officially set sail.
First foil race in the Philippines
The first two rounds of novice and class C races finish, and the beaming sailors drag their sails back to the shore. A new wave of sailors then prepare for a new round — only this time, they also prepare to make history.
The sailors each carry a different kind of surfboard above their heads — one that has a fin-like rig attached to the bottom of the board. This is called a windfoil board, and for the first time ever, it hovers the waters of Anilao for the first foil race in the Philippines.
Windfoiling, just like windsurfing, also uses a sail and a surfboard. What sets it apart from traditional windsurfing is the hydrofoil rig that allows the board to hover about three feet above the water, making it easier to sail faster and without much traction.
“Windfoil is the evolution of windsurf,” former national team sailor Harold Madrigal explains.
In the first round of the first foil race in the country, Madrigal and Geylord “Evang” Coveta, also a former national team athlete and 2012 RS:One world champion, sail neck-and-neck while “I Ran” plays from the shore where everyone squints to catch a glimpse of the tight race.
In the end, Madrigal, despite practicing with the foil board for only two months, places first in the first foil race in the regatta while Coveta, who is also new to the foil board and practiced only three days before the race, places second.
Ocean cleanup intermission
While the windsurf enthusiasts bathe in the sun and watch the games unfurl, chairperson and MC Anna Marco announces that there will be an ocean cleanup orientation held by partner organization Pure Oceans. A few more announcements later, the Pure Oceans booth remains uncrowded.
At the booth, founder Pia Ocampo and SEA Institute interns gather to segregate plastic waste from a cleanup they had conducted the morning before the regatta started. A few minutes in and not one regatta-goer attends the orientation. Efforts, however, do not go to waste as they tally and segregate the trash from the shore and the surface of the water, both by category and by brand.
“In an hour, we were able to get about six kilos of plastic — not much, but the data will help in helping the community also find out how they can manage their plastic waste, and keep it out of the ocean,” Ocampo points out.
Alongside Pure Oceans, SEA Institute president Robert Suntay also makes an appearance at the booth in support to Pure Oceans.
SEA Institute had also partnered up with last year’s regatta and conducted activities for kids that aim to promote marine conservation in the Verde Island Passage, which he refers to, alongside many scientists, as the most biodiverse spot in the world.
A sense of freedom
In the second day of the regatta, the sailors once again weave through the waters and pump their sails to gather more wind. In the end, open class category sailor Vinna Dolor glides past all the other sailors from other classes, including bemedaled athletes. It is a big accomplishment for the 17-year-old sailor, considering she is one of the few women in the male-dominated sport.
Ninna shows off her blistered hands from gripping and pumping the sails, but the pain wears off when she accepts her Open Class Women’s first place award.
The young sailor describes her experience in the water as she sails first to the finish line: “Feeling mo lumilipad ka, tapos ang saya sa feeling ng parang lumulutang ka sa tubig, na nakikisabayan ka sa hangin.” (You feel like you’re flying, and it’s a fun feeling to be floating on the water, being one with the wind.)
This is an experience shared by the tightknit windsurf community in Anilao — “a sense of freedom,” as 16-year-old sailor and foil slalom second runner-up Joaquin Jimenez calls it.
“It’s you, your equipment, and the wind. It’s up to you where you want to go and how fast you want to go,” he expresses.
The Anilao Windsurf Regatta closes with the awarding ceremony where the sailors gather inside the Janao Bay Inn, laughing and cheering with their purple Propan TLC-sponsored clappers as they share inside jokes.
This year’s regatta has proved once again that the community is just getting bigger, as organizer Nicole Alvaro de Arellano says. Next year, she hopes that the event reaches even wider audiences, including the windsurf communities in Boracay and Taal.
As chairperson Anna Marco announces the names of the race winners, she reminds the sailors to “keep on sailing.” Windsurfing often goes unnoticed in the Philippines. Many sailors and regatta participants only hope for more recognition as they train to compete internationally.
Despite challenges, the Anilao windsurf community continue to support each other as they persist with their passion for the water sport, unwavering. Whenever it gets too hard as windsurfing remains overlooked, what the Anilao Windsurf Regatta does is keep it alive, reminding every participant, guest or sailor, to keep on sailing. JB