Brunei Darussalam, the "abode of peace" has been my home since January, 1993. In many, many ways, it
is a marvellous place with its lush, green environment and blue skies. It often seems like the land of perpetual summer but here in the tropics, the rain does not just fall, it pours and the word
'deluge' frequently comes to mind. The squalls seem to come out of nowhere. The thunderstorms have to be experienced to be believed with their frequent flashes of lightning and incredibly deafening thunder, as
does the immediacy of heavy rain and the flash flooding which occurs with regularity.
Brunei Darussalam, still a
wealthy sultanate, nestles high on the north-western coast of the island of Borneo. The 0.3million inhabitants are largely Muslim in this country 120 miles long x 80 miles wide.
teach ESL (English as a Second Language) in Sekolah Menengah Berakas, a state secondary school in Brunei. My students and local colleagues mainly speak Malay as a first language, whilst English is the language of
commerce and the target language of the 'dwi-bahasa' or bilingual policy.
My main leisure interest in Brunei has been learning to sail. I knew that I wanted to do this before I
arrived in the country, so becoming a member of the Royal Brunei Yacht Club was my first free time priority. I started to learn to sail by volunteering to crew on the weekly race days, a Fireball here, a
Javelin there, an Osprey, a Laser 2 or wherever a crew was needed.
Then a short sailing course at the club helped consolidate the theory and I began to helm, this time a Laser 1.
As any novice dinghy sailor experiences, there were many thrills and spills, yes, even many totally intentional capsizes when the tropical sun was just too hot to bear. The water, however, was bliss to fall into.
To progress from the Laser 1, I bought my first boat, an old Laser 2 (a two man dinghy), numbered 3671. Shortly after that, there was great excitement with the arrival of a fleet
of ISOs at the club. These are 2 man high spec racing dinghies. With their open transoms and fully battened sails, they are very exhilarating to sail. Trapezing when the wind is up and with the spinnaker flying produces
such an adrenalin rush, it just has to be experienced to be believed. To summarise, learning to sail in Brunei has been just wonderful.
I wrote my first letter to the organisers of the
race in 1994, but it was February, 1997, before I was able to have a long-awaited interview with Chay Blyth, mastermind behind the British Steel Race, 1992-3, and the BT Global Challenge, 1996-7. Not wishing to
take my chances on a phone interview, I opted to travel to Australia for the occasion. After a fitful night's sleep and despite a churningly-nervous stomach, the upshot was that he offered me a berth on the next race,
known as the BT Global Challenge, 2000-2001.
I can happily admit to being quite stunned at the time. My diary tells me, "I was choked. I had been expecting to wait a couple of weeks to
know the outcome of the interview, but to be told there and then was such a shock. I walked around Sydney for the rest of the day thrilled to bits and on cloud nine, both scared and excited while contemplating that
which lay ahead."
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