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Boxing the compass in the China Sea

by Guy Nowell on 14 Apr 2006
The shape of things to come - Cave Canem leaving Hong Kong in light air... Guy Nowell © http://www.guynowell.com
After a good run out of Hong Kong overnight, the China Sea Race fleet is now gasping for air.

Simon Boyde’s Cave Canem, reported losing the breeze at dawn, 'and we have been in windseeking mode ever since. There have been a few patchy puffs, and there was some heavy rain during the night, but at least we are moving again, and in the right direction.'

A quick look at the Purplefinder tracking shows that it was not only the middle of the fleet that found the parking spot as they all approached or were abeam of the Pratas Reef.

Quick Purplefinder User Guide: go to www.purplefinder.com and use ‘rhkyc’ as the login and ‘5dwm4ph5’ as the password – or click on ‘Purplefinder tracking’ on www.chinasearace.com). Right-click on the screen and select ‘History’ and then ‘Fleet’. You can clearly see everyone slow down as they approach Pratas, and then head left en masse – except for those that tacked and went south. Jelik (Frank Pong) was at the front of the first group, and his ‘other’ boat, Boracay, under the helm of Peter Morton took the southerly option.

'Now then', said Tom Scarff on board CSR Chairman Peter Cremers’ Shahtoosh. 'We’re chasing phantoms out here, and we must have boxed the compass a good few times'. Shahtoosh’s breeze passed the sell-by date at 0500 this morning, 'and we’ve not moved more than 20 nm since then. We are looking at a vmg of only one or two knots. There’s new weather to the north of us – we can see it – breeze on the water, while there is just glass calm to the south. We’ve been skating along the edge of it without being able to actually tack into it – very frustrating.'

Jaywalker, Paul Bankowski’s Ker 11.3, never got a chance to wallow in the light stuff: she came home at 0830 this morning, having started taking in water last night. Bankowski said, 'we were having a great time. The breeze went forward built all the way out of Hong Kong. We were 2-sail reaching in over 20 kts of windspeed, and hitting high teens on the clock, right up to an occasional 19 kts through the water. We had just started our watches at 1800 when I went below and found a lot of water in the stern of the boat.

We traced the leak to the lower rudder bearing – it was entirely manageable, the pumps were coping with it , but we were just about 100nm offshore then, and reckoned we were sailing away from rescue range if anything went really badly wrong.

So we turned round at about 20000 hrs and came home at a good 10 kts all the way under just a mainsail.'

Before the start of the race Bankowski said he was putting his faith in 'six crew and two large nuts holding the keel – making a lucky ‘eight’ for the race to Subic.' Not so lucky this time, Paul, but we are glad you and all the Jaywalkers are home in one piece.

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