by RHKYC Media
Rolex China Sea Race 50th Anniversary edition kicks off at 1210hrs on Wednesday 4th April in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong. Defending Champion Neil Pryde has competed in so many Rolex China Sea Races that he’s lost count. In fact, Pryde has an outstanding China Sea Race history; he first participated in 1968 and has only missed two or three Races in the meantime.
Neil Pryde and the crew of HiFi celebrating at the Rolex China Sea Race 2010 finish line
He says 'the Rolex China Sea Race has always been a special event for me and all competitors very much appreciate the support of Rolex who make all of this possible. Firstly, it is one of the most challenging events in the world.
Competitors leave Hong Kong in relatively strong winds but as you get near the coast of the Philippines, winds lighten and become variable and the real challenge is getting into the finish in the best possible shape; part of this is luck because you need to arrive at the right time of the day. Aside from all of this, it is always a great ocean race when you start in a cooler climate and end up in a place like the Philippines that is warm and sunny and extremely hospitable.'
Pryde’s boat, Hi Fi is a Welbourn 52 built by McConaghy Boats China in 2007. 'The boat was actually a reconstruction of the old Hi Fi which was a Farr 52. We cut up the old Farr 52 hull and put the new Hi Fi hull designed by Welbourn under the existing rig and equipment and we have then consistently modified her to bring the boat to the state it is today.'
Hi Fi has been extremely successful offshore, with her track record including: Line Honours for the 2008 and 2010 editions of the Rolex China Sea Race and Overall Winner of the 2010 edition. She has also won the 2008 and 2011 editions of Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club’s VinaCapital Hong Kong to Vietnam Race.
Impressively, Hi Fi has also walked away with the winner’s trophy at King’s Cup, Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta, Singapore Straits Regatta, Sawadee.com Samui Regatta, China Coast Regatta and most other events around Asia. A very successful boat indeed and surely one keep an eye on.
Hi Fi normally carries a crew of nine for windward/leeward racing, but for this special 50th anniversary edition of the China Sea Race, she is carrying a crew of 12. 'Within the crew, we have a lot of experience with the mix of young and old but there is certainly a lot of experience with key players in the 50+ range. Kevin ‘Kos’ Costin, Ian Davis and myself certainly qualify as veterans. We have one woman on the boat, Majbritt Lang. She is a sailmaker and is a very important part of the team.' adds Neil.
The biggest challenge for Hi Fi is always the weather; 'we really need to be on top of this both in reading the wind strengths and directions as well as the timing of weather changes'.
Whilst Pryde acknowledges that every participant is competing for the overall prizes, he sees the TP52s as his toughest competition - they are Sam Chan’s Hong Kong based FreeFire and Jelik V which will be crewed by a visiting all-Filipino team headed up by Ernesto 'Judes' Echauz. Ernesto won the 2010 Rolex China Sea Race IRC Racing Division B with his boat, Subic Centennial.
That said, Pryde acknowledges that 'when you have changing weather conditions, the smaller boats in the fleet tend to be tough to beat so I am guessing we will have a struggle with EFG Bank Mandrake.'
As a Race veteran, Pryde is particularly looking forward to this Golden Anniversary of the Rolex China Sea Race - '50 years is quite a record and I would very much like to win the Race. We won it in 2010 as well as taking Line Honours and I would like to repeat this. We will certainly be trying!'