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China Cup International Regatta 2012 – the view astern

by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia on 31 Oct 2012
CCIR 2012 - Weary Sea Warriors wind up the China Cup with a spot of cultural beer drinking Guy Nowell © http://www.guynowell.com
The brown smog squatting heavily on the hills behind Longcheer didn’t look so good, but the breeze felt fantastic. 20kts and some as we poked our nose out from the marina, and that’s the way it stayed. The RO probably didn’t want another boat-breaker of a day (and probably nor did any of the owners) so where the programme said ‘geometric or islands course’, it was geometric.

The starting sequence was changed from Sunday – Beneteau 40.7s away first, then IRC 1 and 2 together, and IRC 3 at the very back of the draw. This was a ploy to keep the sharks out of the paddling pool, or the biggest IRC boats away from the smallest ones. Speaking from experience, it is pretty scary to be rolled over on the start line by a boat more than twice your own length. Actually, we spoke to a crew member from the big boat and suggested politely that on Sunday they had failed to respond to a luffing call (fat chance!). We were quickly told that we had made no luffing movement, and were quickly referred to a Rule number which I now forget.

So, it has to be asked, is it a realistic suggestion that a J/109 should deliberately barge into the side of an 83’ cruiser? – after all, it’s big (the cruiser), it has lots of momentum and it has less manoeuvrability than the 35-footer. Or might it not have been a more considerate thing for the big boat to have kept clear of the smaller boats in the first place? Buffalo girls, and all that. Of course, rules are rules, and we’re not trying to sidestep them, but where there are big boats and (relatively) little boats starting together, a bit of common sense might sometimes over ride a stand on ‘rights’.

Moving swiftly on – two sausages, and yesterday Whisky Jack blew out her heavier spinnaker, so the choice was between the flimsy stuff and soak down, or Code 0 and go for the angles. The latter seemed to be the better call. Let’s just say that the execution wasn’t bad, but there were some stomach-churning mark roundings with boats in close quarters. In the strong breeze, everyone had their hands full from bow to helm, and knew it. Thankfully, there were no excessively large boats rounding with us.

Second race of the day, triangle and a sausage, better for the code 0 which was pressed into service again. The gybe mark was ‘interesting’ and so was the leeward mark, and different fleets going in opposite directions in the same patch of water all added to the fun. One thing we learned this weekend – when there are an awful lot of boats in a small patch of water, there are no clear lanes in the middle, and banging the corner suddenly becomes a much better idea.

Another thing we learned – in good breeze it’s very hard for a J/109 to hang on to an Archambault 40. Congratulations to Sea Wolf who took out the IRC 3 division with eight bullets form eight races. It was a bit of a mixed bag of results for the rest of us, but Whiskey Jack did indeed come home second overall in her division. Reason to be Cheerful Part 1.

Reason to be Cheerful Part 2 was the ride home to Hong Kong on Monday evening – but first we had to get past the Immigration dept. The desks were still there on the quayside, but they were unmanned. Bits & Pieces and Outrageous presented their passports around midday, and we joined in as soon as racing was finished, but it turned out that there were NO immigration arrangements at the venue, and helpful chaps were rushing backwards and forwards to the nearest immigration office (some 30min away by car) with batches of passports. At least it wasn’t raining.

Eventual departure time – after 1700hrs. A punchy trip to ‘the corner’ under engine and main in 25kts of breeze gave way to a glorious run in the dark with the wind on the port quarter. Novice night sailors were introduced to the joys of identifying navigation lights and trying to work out which way something is going (today we have an Answer Sheet – it’s called AIS). Gradually the sea calmed as we approached Hong Kong, and then it was time to gybe and head up Port Shelter and into Pak Sha Wan. The breeze carried all the way – there was still 18kts blowing us in through the entrance to Hebe Haven at just after 2200hrs. Welcome to Hong Kong!

The China Cup International Regatta has come a fair way since its inception in 2007, but one can’t help thinking that it could have come a great deal further if organisers had listened to the substantial amount of very good advice that it has received over the years.

Many competitors strongly dislike the 45-min separation between Longcheer and Da Mei Sha. I know because they told me. To fix that means either moving the regatta or building hotels at Longcheer, both solutions being a fairly major undertaking. On Monday, Whisky Jack declined to attend the prizegiving party (and collect the spoils due to sea warriors) because it would have meant going to Da Mei Sha for a party that started at 1900hrs – by which time we were almost half way back to Hong Kong by sea. Waiting until after the party and then returning to Longcheer and then getting embroiled in immigration would have taken something close to forever.

Immigration has been a bugbear since the event started. Agreed, the bureaucratic shortcomings of a government department are not the ‘fault’ of the regatta, but inevitably make a very poor impression on arriving international sailors. Hainan, Vietnam and the Philippines can all process a boat load of arriving sailors faster than Longcheer. Fact.

For some reason the CCIR’s enduring obsession with their Beneteau 40.7 shows no sign of waning. Read the press releases and stories emanating from the CCIR website and you’d be excused for thinking that the B40.7s are the only boats in the regatta – in fact there 61 more out there, spread over the IRC 1, 2, 3, HKPN 1, 2, FarEast 26 and Soto 27 divisions. Congratulations to Peninsula Signal 8 (Jamie McWilliam), Lighthorse (Shawn Kang), Sea Wolf (Yan Yueye), Windseeker, Shanghe, Constant Wind (Stanley Chan) and Team Goldrooster (Agustin Eujanian) for prevailing in what were challenging conditions all through the regatta.

It is was noticeable that once again the majority of Grand Prix boats in the region were absent, many of them having sailed the Hong Kong-Hainan Race and then continued south towards the Raja Muda and King’s Cup. A couple of years ago CCIR asked AsianYachting.com if they (the regatta) could please be included in the point-score list for the AY Grand Prix. The answer – 'when you’ve got a Grand Prix division.'

This time next year the RHKYC will be busy hosting the Flying 15 World Championships, and will therefore not be available to provide race management for CCIR. So the 2013 China Cup will be ‘under new management’, at least as far as the racing is concerned. Having provided full-service race management for six years now – ROs, AROs, scorers, Committee Boat, support boats, buoy wranglers, ground tackle, flags, and everything the PRO needs from radios to anemometers – it’s going to be a tough act for someone to follow.

Once again, Weary Sea Warrior signing off. Next event: Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta, starts 16 November. See you in Port Klang at the RSYC.
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